In 1935 a newly elected Adolf Hitler met with Ferdinand Porsche; however, unlike the countless meetings Hitler would take in the decade to follow this one was not sinister in nature. In fact, Hitler and Porsche would leave that meeting with aspirations of building a “people’s car” or volkswagen. Though like many industries in Europe and America, Germany’s automotive industry would be put on hold to support the war effort. As a result, Hitler’s “people’s car” would have to wait for mass production until the war’s end in 1945.
What was now known as the Beetle, having shed its Type 1 moniker, held true to the vision of Porsche and designer Erwin Komenda in 1945 and in the decades to come. A styling that many would initially scoff at yet go on to become the best-selling car of all time.
Officially designated as the Volkswagen Type 2 in its early stages it better became known in the States by its colloquial name, “the Volkswagen bus.” The rear-engine bus would first roll of the assembly line in 1949 available in two styles: Kombi and Commercial. After its release the Type 2 variants became vast with a number of third-party conversions helping to aid in its popularity.
While the Type 2 appears to share a general aesthetic and name with the Type 1 Beetle it is not associated in any official capacity beyond that. Nevertheless, it would go on to join its Beetle brethren in culture significance around the world and in particular the United States in the 1960s.
In 1936 Hitler forever changed the Olympic games by televising portions live for the first time in their history. This live airing would also change the course of television helping pave the way for TV to become a source of influence in the decades to come. Fast-forward 14 years, John Kennedy takes on a pole-leading Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential debates. This would be the first live debate reaching nearly 70 million people and all, but erasing the lead for the charismatic Kennedy. The impact of television on the viewer was here to stay.
As the “baby boomer” generation began reaching maturity the market began having to adapt to fit the wants and needs of the increased youth born post war. Volkswagen capitalized on the changing tides with an innovative ad campaign. Their playful and oft self-deprecating themes from their ad buys would go on to become known as one of the best campaigns of all times. Though more importantly the magazine and TV spots would have such an impact on the consumers that they made the Beetle the bestselling import of the decade and helped propel the bus to a stardom of its own within the “peace and love” generation. What began as a revolutionary ad campaign would spawn the cars that would become the symbol of a revolution.