The People’s Car: A Global History of the Volkswagen Beetle

Richard J. Evans writes:

When I first went to Germany, in the early 1970s, the roads were swarming with squat, misshapen little beasts, bustling about the city streets or rattling along the autobahns with noisy, air-cooled engines, curved roofs tapering down to the rear bumper and, in older models, tiny oval back windows, so small that I wondered how the driver could see anything at all in his rear-view mirror. Their ugliness, however, was as nothing compared with the horror of a ride in one: sitting in the back seat, as I often had to when being driven around with a group of friends, I became claustrophobic from the low roof, while the loud rattling and whirring of the engine behind me quickly brought on a headache, made worse during the winter months by the repulsive smell of the heating system. Taking corners at speed – or such speed as the vehicle could muster – was a nightmare, as the car rocked and rolled and churned up my stomach.

(LRB 12 September 2013)

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