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Volkswagen - History (4)







The factory was still very provisional, however, soon enough 1000 cars per month were being produced. Now, under the Beetle's metal bodywork, was a civilian, lower-slung version. Even the french military was soon being supplied, and after a longer period of improvisation, salaries were, once again, being payed regularly. After the very harsh winter of 1946/47 the factory was handed over to the German, Heinrich Nordhoff, the British military stayed in the background. They, and the new general manager may be considered another reason for the success of the Beetle.

Nordhoff came from the Opel truck plant which was then located in the Soviet-occupied zone. He found, for an automobile factory, a great deal of improvisation, however, in the beginning, did not attempt to make his mark as a man with far-reaching ideas. He settled himself modestly somewhere in the factory building and through the strength of his authority, succeeded in improving the productivity. After all, in the beginning, the spray-painting was still partly done outside! Indeed, most of the money for investments still had to be raised. Most of the employees would only be won over step by step.

Nordhoff had gathered a great deal of experience during his diverse activities at Opel (GM), and earlier, also at BMW, where he even worked on the assembly line. Porsche may have conceived the factory in 1937 and visited the USA, indeed, Nordhoff had learned about production methods as a common employee. Talking about Americans: the British were still trying to find a buyer for the plant. Henry Ford II (the grandson) refused. If he had only known that VW would one day, push him from being number three in the world production ranking list! …

Nordhoff joined the company at a favourable time, e.g., in the year of the currency reform and the introduction of the German Mark. The American Marshall-plan helped Europe to recover and made cheaper loans possible. Up to the end of 1948, almost 20,000 vehicles were produced and even at this time, a quarter of these were exported to neighbouring European countries. The production was increased immensely, until mid 1949 alone, one and a half times as many of cars were produced as before.

The model variation emphasized export as being an important sales factor. The 'Standard' model attracted the customers, the 'Export' version enticed them to spend a bit more money. A certain amount of prestige, in the form of chrome-plating was offered, in contrast to the "gray mouse" which was at least DM 700 cheaper. There were some differences under the bodywork as well. E.g., until 1953, the 'Standard' had a cable-operated foot brake. The serial changes appeared in all models, regardless of which version it was. Approx. 7 years after the restart of the Beetle production, basically all the parts had been altered.

In Wolfsburg, 1950 - 1956 were the years of the Transporter, after that it carried on in Hannover. After all, there were now already two VW-models (not counting the Karman-convertible). 1953 brought the Karman-Ghia-Coupe, which due to the Italian influence, was a completely different eye-catcher, and from 1957 onwards, was available as an even more expensive convertible version. Despite a series of prototypes, the Type-3 was available only after 1961.

As far as the Beetle fans were concerned, the years 1953/54 marked the first real leap taken in the development process. The famous pretzel (split) rear window disappeared. The engine was only now, given a true 1200 cm³, with 22 kW (30 Hp) of performance. The mountings were more elastic and, at least in the export version, had, except for the first gear, a fully synchronised gearbox. It was now faster and due to the slightly increased compression ratio, also used less regular petrol. In the interior, the dashboard and steering wheel, among other things, were also modified. 03/10


Part 5





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