The Beetle is back

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The astonishing response to the Beetle as it emerged from war-time Germany may have tempted VW to come up with another beetle-shaped production.

I recall the party put on in 1955 to celebrate the one-millionth Beetle to come off its mile long assembly line. It was an epitome of Teutonic efficiency. The world’s VW agents and the press were invited.

We left Heathrow in a chartered KLM Corvair 240 and flew at 238mph to Hanover, where Microbuses took us and 1000 other visitors to Wolfsburg. That afternoon, head man Heinz Nordhoff fixed the chassis number to the VW’s millionth, gold-plated saloon. The workers clustered round and cheered, and the visitors responded, VW badges in buttonholes as I waved my VW key aloft…

After lunch Nordhoff held the press conference. He called for better German roads to accommodate motoring ten years ahead, saying he saw this not of from the back seat of a limousine but by driving a VW 40,000 miles a year. When one journalist said he had been disappointed not to see a Karmann Ghia, Nordhoff said it was an oversight but one would be sent for from Osnabruck, 180 miles away, through the night for him to see on the morrow…

Next day came the festival side of the affair. A stadium seating 160,000 people had been built with fire engines tactfully stationed, where each national VW agent provided entertainment representing his country. Our well received show was a performance by the band of the Irish Guards. Through the hot afternoon the festival spirit prevailed. The programme varied, as the various nations came on stage. We had Zulu dancing, Camino bands, scantily-clad girls a wonderful occasion, with no VW publicity evident apart from the organisation down to the last detail.

We went home. At Heathrow I said goodbye to Mr Graydon, of VW in London, and drove in my Beetle home to Hampshire. I loved that car and later bought another, which my daughters commandeered, filled with luggage and possibly boy-friends, and thrashed around Europe. I had reminded them to top-up the battery in hot climes, but they didn’t and it expired – the only trouble this hard-used Beetle gave them. I can’t say I want to drive a Beetle today, but impressions of that Eine Million celebration linger.

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