From Humble Beginnings
The arrival of Volkswagen in the United States wasn’t the grand-slam welcome that would foretell its future success. In 1949, the Volkswagen Type 1 (later known as The Beetle) came ashore — and just two were sold. By 1959 that had changed as the Beetle, and VW, cemented its place in American culture.
A Platform to Love
“Coachbuilders” is a term used for people who design and manufacture the bodies of cars. For years, car fans have been producing various styles to fit on the chassis and platform of the VW Type 1.
DID YOU KNOW: One of these coachbuilt cars has been lost to history. The missing Type 1-based sedan prototype, known as the Volkswagen Sun Valley, was designed in 1960 by Pietro Frua. Unlike earlier coachbuilders, Frua intended his prototype to offer a blend of style and practicality with increased passenger room and luggage capacity. Most other builders leaned towards a sportier variant. The Concours founder started his search back in 2008 and now has brought it back! He is hopeful that a fellow VW enthusiast will offer information about the long-missing Sun Valley prototype and the missing will finally be found.
Riding for Rights
In the 1950s and 1960s, many African American residents of St. John’s Island, South Carolina, got a free ride to work or school in nearby Charleston with a local United Methodist minister and civil rights activist. During the commute, passengers also received an education on voter registration and rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The 1968 VW bus sported the motto “Love is Progress, Hate is Expensive” on the rear panel; you can see it yourself as part of the permanent exhibit Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom: The Era of Segregation 1876-1968 at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington, D.C.
The Type 1 model got the moniker “Beetle” in 1969, and later that same year the VW would get another famous boost, thanks to its appearance as a vehicle that came to life in a famous movie. In fact, the 1963 white Type 1 with a racing-style 53 on the hood and doors became the most popular VW in film history, even starring decades later in a 2005 reboot. In 2018, one of the cars used in the movies sold at auction for $128,700.