It’s hard to overstate just what a huge influence the VW Beetle had on Germans after the war. Having waited a full decade for it, once it became available to the public at large, it became the ultimate consumer item. And demand grossly outstripped supply, for many years. In fact, during the first few years of production, essentially all of them were allocated to non-private users: governmental agencies of all sorts, critical commercial users, taxis, and other priority buyers. Germany’s supply of functioning vehicles after the war was almost completely depleted, so rationing of VWs was as essential as it was for food stuffs.
But as they filtered down into the hands of private users, or folks used their work cars for weekend outings and such, VWs brought immense freedom and joy to those that had access to them. Like these very happy looking nuns.
a VW Cabrio Police Cruiser
a Hebmueller two-seat convertible
I wonder which is more valuable now, a split window Bug or a split window Vette?
It depends how old the Bug is. A ’39 KDF or one of the early post war models would almost certainly be significantly ore expensive.
Air cooled VW prices have exploded lately. Quite remarkable. But they are the most successful car ever built, and a major piece of history. They’re following on the coat tails of the air-cooled Porsches,
A ’45 model that was one of two tried out by the army here in Oz was sold for well over $200K AUD, and that was about 4-5 years ago.
It’s well documented why the poor ’63 Stingray was afflicted with a split rear window, but I had to wonder why the utilitarian Beetle would have been born a fashion victim. Then I remembered.
Where you struck by the amount of VWs on American roads when you immigrated from Austria?. VW Was The best selling import , just beaten in 59 buy of all things, the Morris Minor.
Yes. It hadn’t really occurred to me that they would be that common. And there were a good number of other fairly obscure imports around too, especially in university town of Iowa City.
Are you sure about the Minor? I knew the Renault Dauphine was #2 in 1958, but hadn’t realized it fell that far in ’59.
I wish I could find a good source of import sales stats.
Maybe you have Canadian sales in mind? The stats I’ve seen from the late ’50s/early ’60s is that just about half of all cars imported into the US were VWs, with the Minor never doing better than a distant fourth in class behind the bug, the Dauphine and the English Fords.
I thought nuns were supposed to shun worldly goods for a higher calling? They look a little too happy to me…
When I was in Catholic school in the late ’60s the nuns tooled around in a loaded Caprice wagon. A donation from a parishioner who happened to own a Chevrolet dealership.
At my Catholic grade school in the early sixties the nuns shared a ‘59 Chevy Belair 4 door sedan. Black, of course, the only options being Powerglide and power steering.
Early ’80s here, the nuns drove a ’77-79 light blue Impala sedan. There were a few Christian Brothers who arrived in a K-car wagon (and thankfully didn’t live down to their order’s reputation; one was the hippiest teacher I ever had and the other two are completely unmemorable and would’ve been no more or less so if they had wedding rings and NEA cards).
The way it went at the Catholic church my family attended was Monsignor Green drove a black 68 Eldorado, Father McDonald had a black MG 1100 sedan, Father Boyle had what I think was a 64ish Olds Dynamic 88 also black. The Nuns had a 66 Chevy II wagon. It was light metallic blue. I stopped attending that church in 1970.
I lived across from the Catholic Church we attended, so the rectory (for the priests) and convent house (for the nuns) were our neighbors.
The nuns drove a plain Jane Chevy Nova, which parishioners “bought” for them by pooling their S&H Green Stamps!
One of the priests, however, was from a well-to-do meatpacking family, the members of which gave him the use of a nice Olds or Cadillac. Another young, very handsome priest (the girls called him “Father What-a-Waste”) drove a black RX-7; again, I think his family furnished him with his car.
I went to Catholic school from K-12. In 1970, as a junior, we got a new young priest the my high school named Father Byrnes. Father Byrnes showed up and drove a 1969 Dodge Charger 440 RT in gold making his car the newest in the lot before my 68 Cougar. I remember a nighttime car rally where my navigator and I were waiting for the light to turn on La Jolla Blvd when this car shot up the street. My navigator asked who that was and I said Father Byrnes who put zoom zoom in use before Mazda. By 1980 he left the priest hood to become secular and get married.
I wonder if your Father Byrnes ended up in my Queens NYC parish in the mid 70s. We had a Father Byrnes who very much fits your description. Sports car, tried to be the “cool” priest. Ran the youth program. The kids called him Father Elvis.
Sorry to say he ended up on the “naughty” list published recently for some inappropriate behavior back in the 70s…
this set has a pic of Hebmueller coachbuilt vw. my first time ever hearing of this variant. yeah. unlikely to EVER see one at a real public curbside. that said, it would be nice to have your discussion of this unusual vehicle posted at some time. perhaps one will appear at a high zoot car show?
It’s really interesting to see all those real life photos. Most of the cars are devoid of any bright metal save for the bumpers and door handles, and there are a few that don´t have even that. I suppose those are the earliest, and only a few look like a deluxe model. Logic would have it that was the way Germany had them in the late 40s or early 50s.
Well, my VW still makes me happy after all these years 🙂
Although I could try to be even happier if I had that Porsche 356 in that one photo… 🙂 🙂 🙂
Lovely photos. I believe the picture 3rd from the bottom has the earliest Beetle, with the flatter hubcaps. The Hebmüller, above it, would be worth a fortune, now.
Incidentally, the convent near where I live runs a fleet of Volvos, complete with crests on the doors. Rather good, I think.
Love the beach image… seats? We got seats. These slide right out and easy put back in.
And launch out the back window when you get hit from behind (at least on full rear backlite models)
Yeah, the seat tracks on the pre’67 (?) versions were pretty weak.
We didnt get any untill 54 or 55 and Ive driven a single tailpipe 55 quite slow and the lights were just a joke but they did sell quite well even out here, its a surprise the Minor outsold them in the US it would have here anyway and Minors seem to be survivors in bigger numbers now VWs are selling for telephone numbers now though extremely collectable in almost any condition.
My cousin had a light green ’65 bought new. I still remember the smell of the upholstery. It was the first car my oldest brother ever drove with a manual transmission. He said it was very easy to master.
I still miss my ’60 & ’63 Beetles. The first was bought for $100 and the second for $75. I understand they would worth $20k plus today.
Should I start hoarding the current generation of Fiat 500’s. I’ll be long gone before these Mex-Italians appreciate!!😝😝😝
Love the elegant camping outfit in the beach scene. Tea by the Sea.
Here’s the post about my parent’s first (and only) new car purchase, a 1959 Beetle that delivered me home from hospital after Mom delivered me:
I’ve attached one of the photos (featuring Mom) from the article – I found a number of these when going through an old photo album after my Mom passed.
Whoopsie – it was a ’58, not a ’59.
Wonderful pics. In style and the personal appearance of the people and the sepia-type color, they’re highly reminiscent of family ones from the ’20’s and ’30’s – until That Man forced them out and killed the remainder – though sans cars. My grandfather and grandmother never owned a car, in Germany or Oz either. Their son ended up with a VW, but that was a van and more from over-production of offspring than interest in the product. His sister, the nun, joined an order that did have Bugs, and there’s photos somewhere of them grinning in similarly absurdist outfits under the ’50’s Aussie sun, piling aboard for a trip to the beach.
It’s easy to forget that for a (relatively) inexpensive machine, the Bugs were a sophisticated device then, and quite fast.
Not sure I’d quite use the term “freedom and joy” as it has a bit an earlier echo with the VeeWee, but I get your drift!
Nice vintage photos, thanx .
My memory is suspect these days but I dimly recall the aluminum side trims coming on the DeLuxe 1951 models along with hydraulic brakes .
It’s bizarre how age suddenly makes certain cars desirable. I was given a standard 1300 Beetle a few years ago, a well loved family car affectionately known as the Millenium Falcon (doncha lurve British irony), on the condition that I restore it. So I did and we set of immediately to visit long lost relatives in N. Wales. It’s easy to get lost in N.Wales, we did it a lot. My recollections are of a dangerously underpowered vehicle with lethal habits especially in the rain. I ran it for a few years before it went to number 2 son who eventually sold it on to a young hippy who ran it at least another 5 years. You can’t kill ’em, that’s the trouble.
Great photos of a bygone era. I enjoyed viewing them. As for “fast” for the VW, i remember that until some time in the 1960’s they maximum speed was 72 MPH and the acceleration was also poor. But, they were fuel efficient. No need for power windows either. Just reach over from the driver’s seat and you could roll down the passenger window.
When did they start making cabriolets after the war? I note the police version has the prewar-style angled quarter windows, not the curved ones seen here.
My father was in the US Army from 1950-1953, and stationed in Germany part of that (likely towards the end); he drove REO trucks and VW Beetles over there (never mentioned driving a Jeep. His first 2nd car in 1966 was a ’59 Beetle, but it was totalled by teenage neighbor kids living at the end of our street, when parked in front of our home. He replaced it with a new ’68 Renault R10.
Never owned aircooled VW, but I’ve owned nothing but watercooled VWs including my current ’00 Golf for the last 40 years.