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1969 “volkswagen beach bomb” prototype

1969 "volkswagen beach bomb" prototype

1969 “volkswagen beach bomb” prototype

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Volkswagen

Volkswagen (German: [ˈfɔlksˌvaːɡn̩] (audio speaker iconlisten);[Note 1] shortened to VW [faʊˈveː] (audio speaker iconlisten)) is a German motor vehicle manufacturer headquartered in Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony, Germany. Founded in 1937 by the German Labour Front, known for their iconic Beetle, it is the flagship brand of the Volkswagen Group, the largest car maker by worldwide sales in 2016 and 2017. The group’s biggest market is in China, which delivers 40% of its sales and profits. The German term Volk translates to “people”, thus Volkswagen translates to “people’s car”.

History

1932–1940: People’s Car project

Volkswagen was established in 1937 by the German Labour Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront) in Berlin. In the early 1930s, cars were a luxury – most Germans could afford nothing more elaborate than a motorcycle and only one German out of 50 owned a car. Seeking a potential new market, some car makers began independent “people’s car” projects – the Mercedes 170H, BMW 3/15, Adler AutoBahn, Steyr 55, and Hanomag 1.3L, among others.

The growing trend was not nascent; Béla Barényi, a pioneering automotive engineer, is credited as already having conceived the basic design during the mid-1920s. Josef Ganz developed the Standard Superior (going as far as advertising it as the “German Volkswagen”). In Germany, the company Hanomag mass-produced the 2/10 PS “Kommissbrot”, a small, cheap rear-engined car, from 1925 to 1928. Also, in Czechoslovakia, the Hans Ledwinka’s penned Tatra T77, a very popular car amongst the German elite, was becoming smaller and more affordable at each revision.

1933

Ferdinand Porsche, a well-known designer for high-end vehicles and race cars, had been trying for years to get a manufacturer interested in a small car suitable for a family. He built a car named the “Volksauto” from the ground up in 1933, using many popular ideas and several of his own, putting together a car with an air-cooled rear engine, torsion bar suspension, and a “beetle” shape, the front bonnet rounded for better aerodynamics (necessary as it had a small engine).

In 1934, with many of the above projects still in development or early stages of production, Adolf Hitler became involved, ordering the production of a basic vehicle capable of transporting two adults and three children at 100 km/h (62 mph). He wanted a car every German family would be able to afford. The “People’s Car” would be available through a savings plan at RM990 (US$396 in 1938)—about the price of a small motorcycle (the average income being around RM32 a week).

1969 "volkswagen beach bomb" prototype
1969 “volkswagen beach bomb” prototype

Around 336,000 people

It soon became apparent that private industry could not turn out a car for only RM990. Thus, Hitler chose to sponsor an all-new, state-owned factory using Ferdinand Porsche’s design (with some of Hitler’s design suggestions, including an air-cooled engine so nothing could freeze). The intention was that German families could buy the car through a savings scheme (Fünf Mark die Woche musst du sparen, willst du im eigenen Wagen fahren” – “Five Marks a week you must set aside, if in your own car you wish to ride“), which around 336,000 people eventually paid into. However, the project was not commercially viable, and only government support was able to keep it afloat.

Prototypes of the car called the “KdF-Wagen” (German: Kraft durch Freude – “Strength through Joy”) appeared from 1938 onwards (the first cars had been produced in Stuttgart). The car already had its distinctive round shape and air-cooled, flat-four, rear-mounted engine. The VW car was just one of many KdF programs, which included things such as tours and outings. The prefix Volks— (“People’s”) was not just applied to cars, but also to other products in Germany; the “Volksempfänger” radio receiver for instance. On 28 May 1937, Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH (“Company for the Preparation of the German Volkswagen Ltd.”), or Gezuvor for short, was established by the Deutsche Arbeitsfront in Berlin. More than a year later, on 16 September 1938, it was renamed to Volkswagenwerk GmbH.

1920s

Erwin Komenda, the longstanding Auto Union chief designer, part of Ferdinand Porsche’s hand-picked team, developed the car body of the prototype, which was recognisably the Beetle known today. It was one of the first cars designed with the aid of a wind tunnel—a method used for German aircraft design since the early 1920s. The car designs were put through rigorous tests and achieved a record-breaking million miles of testing before being deemed finished.

The construction of the new factory started in May 1938 in the new town of “Stadt des KdF-Wagens” (renamed Wolfsburg after the war), which had been purpose-built for the factory workers. This factory had only produced a handful of cars by the time war started in 1939. None were actually delivered to any holder of the completed saving stamp books, though one Type 1 Cabriolet was presented to Hitler on 20 April 1944 (his 55th birthday).

Hot Wheels

One of the most valuable Volkswagens ever produced is also one of the tiniest – a pink ‘Beach Bomb’ Hot Wheels prototype. And this 1:64 scale model has held its value ever since it was produced in 1969 when Volkswagen and Hot Wheels first collaborated.

Only two of these prototypes were built and had a narrow body and surf boards hanging out of the back window.

But these couldn’t stay upright when rolled. Thus, these never made it for sale officially and were only accessible to employees.

Eventually, the model was redesigned for production and was sold with a sticker sheet of flowers to decorate the vehicle, epitomizing the 1970s ‘flower power’ era.

These new models were painted in purple, green, red, light blue and gold. There were only a few pinks in the redesigned model range. However, the pink prototypes became the rarest of these models.

1969 "volkswagen beach bomb" prototype
1969 “volkswagen beach bomb” prototype

$150,000

These pink, rear-loading Beach Bombs ultimately came to be in the possession of Bruce Pascal – a collector who owns a 7000-piece Hot Wheels collection in Maryland. Pascal sold one of them to another friend and collector but the one in the best condition has stayed with him, and is worth $150,000 today. This is well over the cost of most new luxury vehicles and more than 50 times the cost of the models that made it to stores. “This model was a huge win for my collection,” Pascal said.

The rare pink Volkswagen Beach Bomb bus stays in a dark, plexiglass case in order to prevent it from sun damage.

The owner displays it in his personal museum in Maryland where he gives private tours to other Hot Wheels enthusiasts. “I want other people to experience the Beach Bomb,” he said.

Hot Wheels is putting out 42 Volkswagen models this year but none of those would be worth what the ‘Beach Bomb’ is.

1969

There’s one Volkswagen made in 1969 that has more than held its value. The famous Pink, Rear-Loading Beach Bomb Hot Wheels car is still the most valuable Hot Wheels ever produced, and it keeps going up in value because so few of them exist (two, to be exact).

These days, Hot Wheels remain a subject of endless amusement to kids of all ages, but there’s only one King of Hot Wheels, and that’s Bruce Pascal. In 2016, Pascal said the Pink Beach Bomb was worth $150,000. Today it’s probably closer to $175,000.

VW

The Pink Beach Bomb was Mattel’s first attempt at designing a Volkswagen Microbus. The problem, for the toy maker, was that by putting the surfboards into the bus through the rear window, the weight balance didn’t work out, so Mattel redesigned the VW van with thicker, heavier sides and put the surfboards on the side as well. After all, the whole point of these toys was for kids to “vroom” them around, and if they fell over all the time, kids wouldn’t approve.

Pascal has been featured here on Car and Driver multiple times, given that he owns around 4000 Hot Wheels toys and has another 3000 pieces of Hot Wheels memorabilia. In 2016, Pascal’s collection was worth around $1 million, and in 2018, NBC News said it was worth $1.8 million. Now, VW is highlighting the pink Beach Bomb as a way to let the world know that, even in 2020, over 40 VW Hot Wheels models were or are being released.

1968

When Pascal got serious about collecting Hot Wheels many years ago, he made it his mission to find those pink Beach Bombs.

“I already had heard about [the Beach Bomb] in purple, green, red, light blue, and gold. I even had heard about an unpainted model,” Pascal said in a statement. “But pink was extremely hard to find. Most Hot Wheels models were marketed to young boys, who the brand assumed didn’t want to play with pink. They created just a few pink [Beach Bomb] models to market to their female audience.”

Bruce Pascal was seven years old when Hot Wheels first hit stores in 1968.

“It’s hard to explain the craze today, but Hot Wheels was huge. All of my friends were saving up to buy all the Hot Wheels they could,” he said. Hot Wheels soon became the number one toy for boys, and Pascal spent his childhood racing and collecting the die-cast cars.

1969 "volkswagen beach bomb" prototype
1969 “volkswagen beach bomb” prototype

1999

When he grew up, Pascal put his Hot Wheels in a cigar box at his mother’s house, where they collected dust for almost 30 years. His passion for classic cars continued into adulthood, but his Hot Wheels collection remained out-of-sight until he rediscovered it in 1999.

“That excited feeling I had as a boy was rekindled instantly,” said Pascal. “My friend offered to pay me $200 for the cigar box. I declined and held onto them, but it was his offer that made me start researching the value of Hot Wheels and pursuing collecting as an adult.”

Pascal began searching for Hot Wheels everywhere. He called other collectors, took out newspaper ads and even used a 1969 telephone book of Mattel employees to see if any former workers had rare toys they would be willing to part with for a price. He collected everything he could, including Hot Wheels memorabilia like blueprints, original drawings, sales brochures and wood models.

1970s

His collection of Hot Wheels models was growing by the thousands, but Pascal was still not satisfied. Why? He had his eye on the most valuable Volkswagen ever produced — the pink Volkswagen Beach Bomb prototype.

When Volkswagen and Hot Wheels first collaborated to make the model, it had a narrow body and surf boards hanging out of the back window. It was unable to stay upright when it rolled, so Hot Wheels redesigned the model, making the sides more weighted and moving the surfboards to the sides of the vehicle.

These redesigned models made it to production and were sold with a sticker sheet of flowers to decorate the vehicle, epitomizing the 1970s “flower power” era. However, it’s the original prototypes with the surfboards out the back window that are extremely rare, as only Hot Wheels employees had access to them.

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