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Although the Beetle first appeared in 1932, the first recognisable prototypes were built four years later in 1936.

The Beetle's familiar air-cooled flat-four engine was designed not by Ferdinand Porsche but by another Austrian, Franz Reimspeiss. Although well over 20 million have been built to date, he received the equivalent of less than twenty dollars for his trouble.

The first production Beetle proper was built after the end of World War Two in 1945 - thanks largely to the intervention of the occupying Allied forces. A British army Major, Ivan Hurst, was placed in charge of the Wolfsburg factory.

The company name Volkswagen is simply German for "People's Car". The name change came about soon after the War's end in 1945.

Before 1955, Volkswagens were built according to calendar year. In August of that year, however, a model-year system rather like that favoured by the American market was introduced - so a 1960 car could well have been built during the latter part of 1959.

The last Wolfsburg-built Beetle left the factory in July 1974, leaving it free to concentrate on the then-new Golf hatchback. Production continued at Emden, Germany, until the beginning of 1978 and continued in Mexico.

Current figures show that around 20.9 million Beetles have been built to date - far more than the 15,007,003 Ford managed with the Model T.

The last two German-made Beetle shells now reside in VW's Milton-Keynes parts store, still protected in wax.

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