I drive a classic Mini, two in fact, although not at the same time. The modern family car has two fathers, depending on your choice. If you prefer a capacious 4×4, then Spen King, the father of the Range Rover, is your man. If you prefer something like a Focus, Astra or Golf, then the inspiration behind your car is Sir Alec Arnold Constantine Issigonis, designer of the Mini and the 1100/1300 series.
The modern car owes nothing to the noisy, rear-engined, rear-drive, air-cooled Volkswagen Beetle. For all its sales success, it was an automotive cul de sac, a technical dead end as redundant as the steam locomotive.
I despise the Volkswagen Beetle and that motor caravan thing that people who know nothing about classic cars buy as a fashion accessory, with a loathing that mere words cannot express. Yes, it was well built, but I argue the Beetle only succeeded because of circumstance. The Volkswagen Beetle was developed pre-war and it mechanicals were developed and proven through the war years in the Kubelwagen staff car.
The reason why the Beetle was so reliable was that the Engineers had plenty of time to sort out the mechanicals before the car entered post-war mass production. An end of line 1982 Austin Allegro was probably a reliable car, but it was not a great car. Post-war Germany was awash with allied servicemen, many American, who discovered the Beetle as cheap reliable car and it was through this that the car gained it entry into the lucrative American market and cult status.
If France had been the defeated nation, the Americans would have cottoned on to the Citroen 2CV and, if it had been Britain, then it would have been the Morris Minor. As it was American airmen stationed in Britain discovered the MG sports car and that opened up the US market for that particular brand.
The MG, like the Beetle, happened to be the right car in the right place at the right time. The idea that the Beetle design and its production facilities could have been transplanted to Britain and it would have been equally successful is laughable.
The crudity of the design was apparent to all and no British firm attempted to copy it. To suggest they were wrong not to do so is to insult the intelligence of some highly-talented Engineers. Britain did eventually produce a people’s car in the form of the Mini, but it did not catch on in the American market, just as other European contemporaries did not, such as the Citroen 2CV, Fiat 500 and Renault 4.
The Volkswagen Beetle did not succeed because it was a work of engineering genius, it succeeded because of circumstance.
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