Once again, the legendary and iconic Volkswagen Beetle is exhausted. I repeat, because, depending on how you qualify, it will be the third or fourth time that this has happened: it first ended in Germany in 1978, then in Brazil in 1986, where restarted in 1993 and ended again in Brazil in 1996, then in Mexico in 2003.
Really, it was the true end of the original air-cooled Beetle. Volkswagen ended yesterday in Mexico the production of the Beetle-based retro golf. I would like to recall this fact by mentioning the underestimated role of the Beetle: as a medicine entering the world of strange cars.
Dead: Volkswagen Beetle
Volkswagen, a company that has essentially stripped its most iconic model, the VW Beetle, …
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Although I am sad to note that, for the first time in 81 years, Volkswagen will not be offering a beetle-shaped car in the world, I can not feel too interrupted because, as I said, the end has already arrived. .
I mourned for the Ladybug 16 years ago and, although I was thrilled when VW announced a retro style car inspired by the Ladybug in the late '90s, I did not feel like it. I never had the illusion that it was a real heir to the original Beetle.
The reason is that the original Beetle, born from a strange avant-garde automobile thought bubble of the 1930s and megalomaniac dreams of a real monster, was an unconventional car. It was strange, especially in the context of when and where I grew up, in the 1970s and 1980s in America.
The Ladybug was not necessarily so strange when it was designed in the 1930s. Then, this advanced thought was part of a tradition that dates back to the Rumpler Tropfenwagen and was developed by Tatra, Mercedes-Benz, Standard and many others. The Ladybug is the only one of this streamlined rear-engine crew not to survive, but to succeed, extravagantly and improbably.
It's so crucial that I'm trying to make it clear: the success of the Ladybug was an anomaly. Rationally, it probably should not have happened. When the Beetle began to be imported to America in the 1950s, it alone represented a nearly dead design philosophy.
And when he was successful in America, he did it against all that was on the roads: big avant-garde and oversized monsters, gigantic mobile lounges that focused on comfort and status on almost everything. The modest Beetle is conceptually, aesthetically, mechanically, and even crazier, has never really changed over the decades.
All this brings us to the most important part: me, child, in the 1970s in North Carolina. The roads in my average city were mainly defined by Ford LTD, Country Squires and Mavericks, a large number of GM designed barges, large Mopar boats, AMCs, and finally a decent contingent of Volkswagen Beetles.
Of course, there was a pinch of other interesting things: MGBs, Datsuns, Hondas, Toyotas, the occasional Porsche or Jaguar, may be a Peugeot 504, but not that much. Places like California had their Fiats and other bizarre balls, but I grew up in a sea made up mostly of fat domestic and some beetles.
This basically meant that there was only one type of car regularly seen who was doing everything that was different from all the other cars: the Beetle. The engine was in the back, not in the front, there was no radiator because it was using air instead of water to cool, it Looked like a nice cartoon instead of a grinning beast – and when you're small With the hawk-like grille of a Ford LTD, the friendly bent snout of a Beetle seduced perfectly.
My father had a '68 Beetle, so I had an example to take a closer look at, and the more I looked, the more weird. The battery was in a fun place. The washer was connected to the spare tire. When I rolled under the car, the cylinders were directed in different directions from those of most cars, and the whole belly of the thing had changed.
Before the Internet, it was much harder to find information about things. I was fascinated by this car as odd as banal that was apparently doing everything I wanted, but I had no easy way to find out more. I could not just search for "other weird cars" and see what was happening: I had to hunt.
The comparative oddity of the Ladybug sent me into what would be a lifetime quest to search for stranger cars. I went to the library and I devoured every car book I could find, looking for tiny, grainy images of things I had not recognized.
When I got sick of all the American Classics books and the billionth image of a Bel Air from 1957, I had the idea of consulting travel books and seeing what I could be found in random pictures of street scenes in Paris, Prague or Milan. .
I remember the day when I saw for the first time a picture of a Renault 4CV in a street scene, from the back. The bonnet of the engine, strongly pierced, attracted my eye like a magnet, and I could feel the relationship with the Ladybug. That was rear engine! Tiny, weird! But what is hell was he?
Remember there is no Google, there are no adults who whistle or know. There was just a small picture and a pair of very wide eyes.
I stayed in search of photos of Fiat 500 and Simcas and Citroëns and Trabants, then, in a coffee book about Prague, I saw a tiny Tatra 603 parked in a street scene. It is possible that I lost consciousness by ecstatic curiosity on the carpet of the Greensboro Public Library that day; I do not remember.
What I do know is that it's because of the Ladybug, with its perfect and strange combination of cartoons inspired drawings and strange techniques (compared to the American standard), that I realized that the Car world was so much richer and weird. that an occasional glance at a car park covered by an impala sedan would reveal.
And I'm pretty sure I was not alone. During much of America in the 1970s and 1980s, the Beetles (and other air-cooled utility vehicles) were the only ambassadors of Weird Automobiles. I met a lot of people who drive strange cars like old Fiat 600s or Renault Dauphines and they often tell me that when people came to ask them what their car was, people often guessed it was 'a kind of Volkswagen.
And that makes sense, when you know that for many people, the Volkswagen were the only strange cars they'd ever come across, so everything that was small, strange and without a grille seemed to be part of this family.
So, even though the Beetle Volkswagen has just stopped building, it's incredibly traditional, but from a mechanical point of view, I want to take a moment to remember the predecessor who was not.
The original Beetle, the unlikely success, this adopted son of America who was loved but still odd, was a gift for many future gears like me.
It was a beacon, a call to a certain type of car lover to look deeper, in search of the unknown, a reminder that although one could absolutely appreciate the beautiful lines of Rivera's boat tail or the sound of a giant V8, there were things out there, in the still-hidden world, that would make Gremlin look boring.
It was the Beetle that first threw me into this obsessive way of automotive exploration, and the rewards were spectacular, leading to the career I love now. I feel that I have a debt to this inanimate thing, which may explain why I will never get rid of my old "73 Bug".
The world is different now. There are so many ways for children to get acquainted with interesting things all over the world. If a child is interested in something, he can bathe in an avalanche of information about all kinds of things.
But when I was a kid, it all started with my father's funny little red car.