1931-1945 Volkswagen Beetle

By: the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide  | 

The Volkswagen Beetle was born from a desire to put the Third Reich on wheels. Here, Ferdinand Porsche observes a 1930s Beetle prototype. See more Volkswagen Beetle pictures.
2007 Publications International, Ltd

The 1931-1945 Volkswagen Beetle represented the first generation of the enduring little car whose history is rife with irony, intrigue, and surprise.

Interrupted by World War II, the 1931-1945 Volkswagen Beetle designs never saw high-volume commercial production. But they did lead directly to the reliable, low-cost cars that one day would ply roads the world over. This article tells the story of the 1931-1945 Volkswagen Beetle.


The Model T Ford was the first "people's car," but a brilliant engineer named Ferdinand Porsche dreamed of one for the German people. So did Adolf Hitler, who saw a Volkswagen as a way to secure himself as Germany's absolute ruler.

With Der Fuhrer's patronage, Porsche designed a simple yet sophisticated machine with a distinctive beetle-like shape. Porsche's design was heavily influenced by other European designs of small cars. But just as production got rolling, Hitler began World War II and the little car's future was very much in doubt.