Volkswagen – The Strength through Joy Car.

My relationship with the older Volkswagen’s such as the Beetle and Campervan has been complicated. I have never actually owned one and I have never actually liked the things. Noisy and sometimes smelly they epitomise to me all that is nasty in car design.
Poor handling, ineffective braking, a body designed to rust and a pedigree including Hitler! As functional day to day transport you can keep them.

I do like looking at them though which may sound a bit strange until you consider that I have never actually either liked or owned a beetle either but like looking at them from a distance.

They have a distinctive shape and an appealing pedigree combined with nostalgic chrome and those 1960’s paint jobs which Ford and Toyota can only dream of in these days of austerity and smooth functional design. That’s the car not the coleopteran of course.

Designed by Ferdinand Porsche the Volkswagen was envisaged as affordable transport for the German people under Fascism in the mid 1930’s.  The specification seemingly required that the vehicle be capable of transporting two adults and three children at 100 km/h (62 mph). Prototypes were built and tested and by the late 1930’s the car went into production.

On May 26, 1938 Adolf Hitler spoke to the workers at the Volkswagen factory in Fallersleben and I quote:
 “I believe there is only one name that can be given to this car, a name I shall give to it on this very evening. It shall bear the name of that organization that strives to instil both joy and strength in the masses. The name shall be “Strength through Joy Car!” (Kraft durch Freude-Wagen)”

Quite a snappy name really.


About Duncan Harley

Author, photographer and feature writer.
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