Volkswagen of America isn’t just a car builder; it is also a car collector. At present, the company has more than 30 rare, classic or otherwise unique VW products it preserves in Tennessee, Virginia, and elsewhere. For our first throwback Thursday, no other model could serve as a more apt kickoff than one from the beginning of the brand: a 1946 Volkswagen Beetle Type 11.
When it was built, the Volkswagen factory in Wolfsburg was under management of the British Army; it had offered the tooling and plans for the Beetle to other nations following World War II, but found no takers. The design was very much as Ferdinand Porsche had imagined for the “people’s car” more than a decade earlier.
Inside and out, the Beetle was deceptively simple; its air-cooled engine produced only 24 horsepower, but was cheap to maintain in a post-war economy, while mounting it behind the rear axle maximized passenger and cargo space. In that year, the Wolfsburg plant built about 10,000 Beetles, a small start to what would become an automotive icon.
Today, chassis no. 1062386 sits in the Volkswagen Academy at the Chattanooga factory, along with several other historical models, where it greets workers training to build the company’s next generation of vehicles. A long-time treasure of the company, it’s nicknamed “Simi” since it was parked in the Simi Valley studio where it served as the inspiration for designers Freeman Thomas and J Mays during their work on the original Volkswagen Concept 1 in 1994 – which would become the New Beetle.