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News from 50 years ago, 1972 – the Beetle overtakes the Tin Lizzie at last

This fourth news item in our series ‘News from Years Ago’ was published in the 9 March 1972 issue of Autocar. Henry Ford’s proud record of producing 15,007,033 of his Model T had finally been broken: on 17 February 1972, Volkswagen drove the 15,007,034th Beetle off the Wolfsburg assembly line. Ford took only 19 years, from 1908 to 1927, to achieve their record; Volkswagen had taken 27 years from 1945 to pass the Tin Lizzie. the Beetle, however, was still in production.

The VW had been designed in 1934 by Ferdinand Porsche, but production was never achieved before World War II. It was not until after the war that a small group of British officers succeeded in getting the factory, severely war-damaged, into production, to make 1,785 cars in that first year. In 1971, VW produced 1,292,000 Beetles in 16 countries.

The Ford Model T changed during its 19 years, but not much. VW, however, stated that 5,150 parts had been modified and improved since 1945. Both cars owed their success to their common virtues of simplicity and reliability.

Our headline image from Autocar shows an original design study by Dr. Porsche, dated 1934, and above it an image of an early pre-war Volkswagen.

Image courtesy of The Richard Roberts Archive:

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