Volkswagen began life in the late 1930s out of a necessity to provide a growing population with the means to travel. Cars in the early 20th Century were affordable only to the very wealthy. However, the Ford Model T was the first vehicle to democratize automobile ownership for middle-class Americans. Europe had yet to offer a similar sense of mobility. During the early 1930’s the only mode of mechanized personal transport available to most Germans was a motorcycle. However, by 1937 the German Labour Front established the foundations for what would go on to become the world’s biggest automotive manufacturer. The People’s Car would democratize car ownership for the ordinary German, thus ending an era where only one in every 50 German actually owned a car. However, it must be noted that Volkswagen’s democratization of personal vehicle ownership was in stark contrast to those who were involved in establishing the company.
The German state of the 1930s decided to fund the development of the now-iconic Volkswagen Beetle. In 1938 the VW Beetle retailed for 990 Reichsmark ($396) which adjusted for inflation is around $7,000 in today’s money. However, a certain event in the 1940s put an end to this idealistic people’s car crusade. Only a handful of cars had been produced. After the war, with Germany defeated, Volkswagen fell into the hands of the British Army. With the assistance of German engineers production re-started to initially supply the British Army who had ordered 20,000 units. At one point in post-war Germany, Volkswagen offered the entire company to Henry II Ford, free of charge. Ford representatives looked around the still war-torn manufacturing site and said thanks but no thanks.
The rest, as they say really is history. Volkswagen went on to become the heart of Germany’s post-war economic boom. The Beetle’s popularity declined by the 1960s but its job had been done. Volkswagen simply created more iconic vehicles. And the original people’s car went on to become highly collectible, be it in actual cars or even Volkswagen scale model cars.
The Volkswagen Type 2 is another such VW icon. So-called because it was the second car to be made after the Beetle. First introduced in 1950 it soon gained popularity and by the 1960’s it truly became the people’s car, more so than the Beetle. It was made available in different body-styles from a panel van, flatbed, and a cargo van. It became especially popular with hemp smoking hippies… why? we will never know.
Indeed, the brand is even more affordable in miniature form. Volkswagen diecast model cars have a staple diet among fans and collectors for decades. From the original Beetle to the Camper Van and even the venerable Passat.