VW Beetle Cars - Part 1
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This guide covers six classic Volkswagen Beetle models produced between 1949 and 1966. Included are the characteristic Split and Oval window models and Cabriolets by Hebmuller and Karmann. Volkswagen produced its on-millionth Beetle in 1955, its five-millionth in 1961 and its ten-millionth in 1965. The VW Beetle had become the most popular and recognizable car in the world.
1949 Hebmuller Cabriolet
Designated the Type 14, the Hebmuller cabriolet followed the lines of Colonel Charles Radclyffe's convertible of 1946 (Radclyffe was responsible for light industry in the British zone of Germany, and VW had come under his overall control). Introduced alongside the Export saloon in 1949 as a two-seater cabriolet, the Hebmuller's trademark was its sloping rear deck and disappearing (almost) soft top, which clearly enhanced the fundamental shape and character of the Beetle. Sadly, only around 750 Hebmuller cabriolets were produced as the company suffered a serious fire at their works in 1949 from which it did not fully recover. Only around 60 examples of the Hebmuller are known to exist today.
1951 Export Beetle ( Split-Window )
Production of the Export or deluxe saloon began on 2 June 1949 and the model was officially launched to the public on 1 July. Although the factory continued to offer the standard model for many years. The Export saloon was the result of Nordhoff's desire to improve the model, realising that success was dependent on volume sales in the export markets, something that would have been impossible to achieve with the agricultural cars of previous years. Over the standard car, the Export Beetle enjoyed an incredible attention to detail, its facelift eventually securing it a place at the top of the best seller charts around the world.
1953 Beetle ( Oval-Window )
The split-window, that had been a prominent feature of the Beetle since the pre-war prototypes, was replaced in March 1953 by a larger oval window in the interests of safety. The oval version increased rear visibility by nearly 25 percent. It lasted until 1957, when the heavily revised "big-window" model was introduced. For "Oval" cars, the bodywork remained the same as the earlier model, as did the rear lights and registration light.
1954 Karmann Cabriolet
Volkswagen did not envisage that demand for the expensive Beetle cabriolet, launched to the public on 1st July 1949, would be particularly heavy, so the whole project was farmed out to specialist coachbuilders. The Karmann conversion ( Type 15 ), produced at Osnabruck provided stiff competition for the Hebmuller convertible since the car was a full four-seater. With strengthened chassis, the model was heavier than the saloon by 265lb (120kg). Its nose followed standard lines but as the folded soft-top masked the engine air intakes there were louvres for this purpose in the engine cover. 331,847 Karmann cabriolets were produced in 31 years of production.
1959 Karmann Cabriolet
Cabriolets produced after July 1957 used a much larger back window than the earlier models, (still made of glass) and horizontal rather than vertical louvres on the engine lid. Until 1951, semaphore indicators on cabriolets were fitted to the front quarter panels, but when ventilation flaps were fitted that year, the semaphore arms were relocated. From August 1960 these were replaced altogether by the more modern front quarter panel, the badge, as on all pre-1961 cars is rectangular and reads "Karmann Kabriolet".
1966 Beetle 1500CC
Only a year after the 1300 Beetle was introduced in 1965, the 1500 Beetle was announced. Offering improved performance, it used a 1493cc engine, with the same dimensions as the Type 2 vehicles, to give 44bhp DIN at 4000rpm (or 53bhp SAE), with improved torque. Other improvements to the 1500 model included the fitment of front disc brakes, whilst at the rear suspension revisions improved road behaviour, particularly the problem of oversteer. The six-volt electrical system remained as did the classic dashboard with separate fuel gauge and decorative alloy mouldings. The "Fifteen", as it is affectionately known, rates as one of the best Beetles ever made and these cars are consequently sought-after by enthusiasts.