Volkswagen is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the first Beetle rolling off the assembly line in Wolfsburg.
The car's history, of course, pre-dates 1945 and involves a certain mustache aficionado the company would rather not mention. That being said, Hitler's "People's Car" - officially known as the KdF-Wagen - was barely a blip on the radar as only 630 models were built by the end of the war.
Since the Wolfsburg plant was focused on wartime armaments production, the U.S. military occupied the site in April 1945. The plant was eventually transferred to the British Military Government in June of that year.
One month later, Senior Resident Officer Major Ivan Hirst received an order for 20,000 Volkswagen Type 1s. The first model rolled off the assembly line shortly after Christmas in 1945 and Volkswagen contends it was a "highly improvised undertaking." Due to material shortages and the side effects of the war, Volkswagen was only able to build 55 vehicles by the end of 1945. Production was also limited to roughly 1,000 units a month for the next two years.
Despite the initial problems, Volkswagen credits the British for converting the factory to civilian manufacturing, instilling a focus on quality and setting up a dealership network. The Brits were also instrumental in setting up an export market.
Volkswagenwerk GmbH was eventually transferred back into German hands in October 1949 and the Beetle would go on to become a hit as over 21 million were sold.