Seven-figure celebrations

Almost snuffed out by the war, Volkswagen recovered to become a major player. Bill Boddy was invited to one milestone event

After World War II some folk thought I had connections with the enemy because I was so enthusiastic about the VW Beetle, which being air-cooled could not boil or freeze and was well made, and one of which served me very well.

My wife and I were invited to the occasion of the VW milestone of the millionth one being produced, which took place in Germany in 1955. We were fl own from England to Germany in a Convair 240 and with other visitors were driven to the town of Wolfsburg, in a convoy of VW minibuses, to the VW factory where we saw the ‘eine million’ Volkswagen come off the assembly line, and Heinz Nordhoff himself gave a speech and fixed a chassis plate to the gold-plated millionth car. Then we were given lunch in the vast staff canteen, and after lunch there was a tour of the factory. This three-quarter mile long building was highly impressive, with overhead observation corridors (which Hitler had ordered), where 1280 vehicles, including some 190 or 200 microbuses and transporters, were made daily. After the tour there was a press conference, Nordhoff explaining that no car was made that was not already sold. He told us that in 1949 they only had 40 distributors in Germany, whereas to date they had 1000 in Germany and 2800 abroad. After the address dinner was served in a huge hall normally used for car testing, and then the convoy took us to a Hotel Waterloo in Hanover.

Next morning we had a short shopping spell, then we were taken to the newly completed VW factory, outside Hanover, where it was hoped that they could by 1956 be building 300 VW transporters a day. Back to Wolfsburg for lunch, where each guest was presented with a model VW car, and then we walked to the stadium, built especially for the festival performances, having well-concealed fi re engines underneath the wooden construction. Some 160,000 people occupied it, including the workers and their very well-behaved children. Performances were provided by VW agents from 11 different nations, including a team of Highland dancers, a band from the Irish Guards and scantily-clad dancers from South America.

On our police-escorted journey to the airport I only saw a couple of Austins and one early MG, otherwise VWs predominated. Again we flew with KLM via a night’s stop in Amsterdam and on the next day back to London, from where I drove home in my Editorial VW.