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Volkswagen Museum

Broadcast date : 21st May 2006

Itís known as the VW Auto Pavilion, a Place of Cars and Legends. And few legends are more famous than the Volkswagen story of the past half century.

The VW legend goes back to the early 1930s when Ferdinand Porsche had a dream of building a car for the people.

One of the great ironies of the Volkswagen story is that a car conceived to further the political ambitions of Adolf Hitler became the most-loved car in the world.
This was thanks to movies like Herbie The Love Bug, and the carís indestructibility that enabled this zebra-striped example to be driven from Noord Kap in Norway to the tip of the Southern Cape in South Africa.

And there were some special badged models along the way with rather special bodies.

The Karmann Ghia was a Beetle with an Italian-styled body built by famous coach-builders Karmann near Hanover. 

Karmann also built the cabriolet version of the Beetle, and this pristine 1958 example is extremely collectible today, worth upwards of R100 000.
By the 1960s, VW was well aware that its basic 1930s design was outmoded and introduced the Type 3, this one being a fast-back 1600 version.

But the Beetle wouldnít die and when the final one was built in Uitenhage, South Africa in 1978, some 20 million had been built worldwide.
Today VW is partnered by the Audi group. In South Africa. The four-ringed symbol had its roots in the DKW, built by Auto Union, another German company that goes way back to pre World War II days.

The Deeks, as they were known, were noisy, smoky two-strokes, but just as well built as the Beetle. It wasnít until the late 1960s that the Audi nameplate gained a foot-hold here with modern sophisticated models.

But to trace Audiís heritage here in SA you need to look at the DKW tourer of 1938, which had a body made of wood and coated fabric.

Anyone who ever heard the shrieking, wailing, popping Audi Quattro rally car will remember it forever. It was driven by the great multiple champion Sarel van der Merwe. Other VW-Audi legends are the Golf, still winning rallies today, while the VW Passat Synchro was less successful but still spectacular, driven by Nic de Waal.

Fast forwarding to the future is the VW Nardo W12, a recent star at the pavilion.
The Nardo W12 was so beautifully built that it could easily be produced as a road-going supercar. From a humble builder of peopleís cars, VW has come a long way, thanks largely to its motorsport programme instituted in the late 1970s.

The Volkswagen Vario was a design study shown in Frankfurt way back in 1991. It has a vario-roof folding-steel top that has only recently gone into production. 

Other futuristic design elements include slim-line headlights and multi-dome taillights, since copied by other manufacturers.

The original Porsche dates from the early 1930s. But civilian Beetle production only commenced soon after World War II in 1945. So this 1949 Beetle is one of the oldest in the world.

And itís amazing that the carís appearance changed so little over half a century of production, with the last Beetle rolling off the Mexican production line just a few years ago.

Famously, both Ford and the English firm of Morris turned down post-war offers to build the car in 1946, saying it was out-moded and too unsophisticated.

22 million Beetles and many more modern Golfs and Audis later, VW would be justified in saying that those stuffy industry experts were just a little off the mark.

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