With the outbreak of World War Two, Volkswagens were manufactured for military use and fitted with larger (1131-cc) engines.
At the end of the war, passenger-car, production began almost immediately with most of the first models produced going to British forces. It was only in 1950, after control of the company was handed back to West German management did domestic sales begin to pick up.
Early VW models had a split-oval rear window, with a thick pillar between the tiny panes, making reversing the car a real challenge.
American cars had abandoned running boards before World War II, but VWs kept them—though they weren't the kind that anyone could stand on.
Early post-war examples of the VW were pretty rudimentary in design, with a number of anomalies, which added to the car's charm but not necessarily its safety levels.
The most outstanding was that the " Beetle's " petrol tank placed under the hood, which had to be raised with each fill-up.
Petrol gauges did not become a feature until the early Sixties, causing a fair amount of uncertainty and anxiety among drivers.
Volkswagen played their part in alleviating the uncertainty, if not partially, by installing a separate reserve tank, which held an extra gallon or so- to be used only in the cae of emergency.
Despite its quirks and shortcomings, demand for the VW Beetle never waned during the Fifties.
To maintain the impetus VW embarked on a seemingly never-ending succession of improvements—some significant were added through the Fifties and Sixties, meaning that Beetle enthusiasts could readily trace the car's evolution.
Some of the more significant advances included the launch of a convertible version in 1949, produced for Volkswagen by the Karmann coachbuilding firm who would later design the Karmann Ghia coupe and convertible.
A synchronised gearbox (except for first gear) began to be fitted, from 1952 models onwards, while the original split back window was replaced by a single oval pane the next year.
Dual combination tail/stop lights were installed that same year, replacing the former single fender lamp. The often-problematic turn-signal switch was moved from the dashboard to alongside the steering wheel.
A more substantial (1192-cc) engine replaced the original 1131-cc unit for 1954, boosting output from 30 to 36 horsepower, levels that would not be increased until 1961. For the first time that year, the Beetle could be started by a key, instead of the earlier pushbutton starter which was notoriously problematic.
Throughout the remainder of the Fifties, the Volkswagen Beetle retained its status as the best-selling sedan in Europe and remained top of the list for many years to come.
Despite its troubled beginnings, the Beetle had earned and retained its place in history.