After WW2, Ford Motor Company was offered the entire Volkswagen plant for free but declined thinking the Volkswagen Beetle “wasn’t worth a damn.” Volkswagen went on to sell 21,000,000 Beetles
“In occupied Germany, the Allies followed the Morgenthau plan to remove all German war potential by complete or partial pastoralisation. As part of this, in the Industrial plans for Germany, the rules for which industry Germany was to be allowed to retain were set out. German car production was set at a maximum of 10% of the 1936 car production numbers.
The Volkswagen factory at Wolfsburg was handed over by the Americans to British control in 1945, The re-opening of the factory is largely accredited to British Army officer Major Ivan Hirst. Hirst was ordered to take control of the heavily bombed factory. His first task was to remove an unexploded bomb which had fallen through the roof and lodged itself between some pieces of irreplaceable production equipment; if the bomb had exploded, the Beetle’s fate would have been sealed. The factory was to be dismantled and shipped to Britain. Thankfully for Volkswagen, no British car manufacturer was interested in the factory.
The factory survived by producing cars for the British Army instead. Allied dismantling policy changed in late 1946 to mid 1947, although heavy industry continued to be dismantled until 1951. In March 1947 Herbert Hoover helped change policy by stating;
“”There is the illusion that the New Germany left after the annexations can be reduced to a ‘pastoral state’. It cannot be done unless we exterminate or move 25,000,000 people out of it.””
Opinion in the United States was not flattering, perhaps because of the characteristic differences between the American and European car markets. Henry Ford II once described the car as ‘a little box. The Ford company was offered the entire VW works after the war for free.
Ford’s right-hand man Ernest Breech was asked what he thought, and told Henry II, “”What we’re being offered here, Mr. Ford, isn’t worth a damn!”” With that, the Ford Motor Company lost out on the chance to build the world’s most popular car since his grandfather’s own Model-T.
During the 1950s, the car was modified progressively: the obvious visual changes mostly concerned the windows. In March 1953, the small oval two-piece rear window was replaced by a slightly larger single-piece window. More dramatically, in August 1957 a much larger full width rear window replaced the oval one.
1964 saw the introduction of a widened cover for the light over the rear licence plate. Towards the end of 1964, the height of the side windows and windscreen grew slightly, giving the cabin a less pinched look: this coincided with the introduction of a very slightly curved (“”panoramic””) windscreen, though the curve was barely noticeable.
The same body appeared during 1966, with a 1300 cc engine in place of the 1200 cc engine: it was only in the 1973 model Super Beetle that the beetle acquired an obviously curved windscreen. The flat windscreen remained on the standard beetle.
There were also changes under the bonnet. In 1954, by adding 2mm to the bore, Volkswagen increased the engine capacity from 1,131 to 1,192. This coincided with upgrades to various key components including a redesign of the crankshaft. The result was a power uplift from 33 bhp to a claimed 40 bhp and an improvement in the engine’s free revving abilities without compromising the torque characteristics at lower engine speeds. At the same time, compression ratios were progressively raised as, little by little, the octane ratings of available basic fuel was raised in major markets during the 1950s and 1960s.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, advertising campaigns and a reputation for reliability and sturdiness helped production figures to surpass the levels of the previous record holder, the Ford Model T. Beetle No. 15,007,034 broke the record on 17 February 1972.”