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Offering a very competent and frugal engine, a platform-type chassis with a central tube and a build quality unrivalled in the segment, the Beetle quickly gained plenty of supporters. This in turn led Volkswagen to implement an annual improvement process that adapted the car to the needs of each country.
Proposed by Adolf Hitler in the 1930s as the means of transport for Nazi Germany, the design of the Volkswagen (people’s car) was tasked to Ferdinand Porsche. The instructions to Porsche was quite strict. The car should be very basic but capable of carrying two adults and three children. It should also maintain a speed of 100 km/h whilst using seven litres or less of fuel per 100 km. Parts were also to be inexpensive and easily replaceable and the engine should be air-cooled.
With the end of World War II, the Volkswagen project was resumed with Allied permission, and the Wolfsburg plant returned to production under the leadership of Major Ivan Hirst of the British army. Later, Heinz Nordhoff, the former head of Opel, was made responsible for increasing the production of the model. Nordhoff is still credited with the tremendous popularity of the “Beetle” as a mass product today.
Sold new in the Netherlands, the 1952 grey “Beetle” Type 11 Export in Museu do Caramulo maintains its original details down to the very last detail. This includes the red paint on the rims and bumpers which were specific to the Dutch market. Typical for the period, the rear window is split and the B-pillars are fitted with manual indicators. Being an export version, this Beetle has a higher level of trim detail compared to the standard model.
Mechanically, the Volkswagen Type 11 Export uses a 1.1 litre four-cylinder boxer engine. Typically air-cooled, it develops 24 horsepower at 3300 revolutions per minute. Fed by a small Solex 26 VFJ carburetor, the cast-iron block with its light-alloy head transmitted torque to the rear wheels through a four-speed manual gearbox—without synchronization. The double crank arm suspension with transverse spring bars and stabilisers at the front was attached to the platform-type chassis, while a swinging axle system and longitudinal suspension arms with transverse spring bars were used at the rear.
Well-built and with enviable levels of robustness, the Volkswagen Type 11 Export offered minimum luxury on the interior. A simple speedometer and a clock moulded in body-coloured sheet metal were built into the dashboard. It was such simplicity that made the Beetle so affordable the world over.