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Love Bug!

CALL me a charlatan but I was never a big fan of the old Beetle. Shocking I know and to this day I still can't pinpoint the reason why I took an ugly against it.

MAYBE it was too noisy, too smelly or was it the fact that it attracted hippy types?

It could very well be that it seemed to have been around for a life time and as a kid growing up in 70s Ireland, one yearned for anything new and exciting.

It was so staid, the only way to differentiate between models was by the badge on it's arse which read 1200, 1300, 1500, 1302 or 1303.

Now, exciting it may have not been but a car will live or die by it's reputation and the Beetle proved to be practically bulletproof.

So much so that over 21 million were sold during it's global production run from 1938-2003 – with some even assembled here in Ireland.


I kid you not. Back in 1950 the Beetle arrived in Dublin docks packed in crates and known in the trade as CKDs (completely knocked down).

The cars were assembled at a former tram depot on the Shelbourne Road in D4 which to this day is still a VW dealership (Ballsbridge Motors).

It was the first time the car had been produced outside Germany and that very right hand drive model takes pride of place in the VW museum in Wolfsburg.

But let's not get too melancholy – the Paddies like the rest of the motoring world fell in love with the original concept of what the Beetle is all about.

The idea was simple – make an affordable car that is big enough for two adults and three children and capable of travelling at 100kph (the speed limit on the autobahn in 1933).

The task was given to Ferdinand Porsche who came up with the now iconic rear wheel drive, air cooled, four cylinder boxer engine which generated 25hp, had top speed of 71mph and returned 35 mpg.

It would cost around the same price as a motorbike and could be bought with a loan from the Third Reich under one Adolf Hitler.

Engineering-wise it was decades ahead of its rivals and was the first mass produced car to feature torsion bars and stabilisers giving independent suspension to all four wheels.

The dream ended in 1979 when the Golf exploded onto the scene although production continued in Mexico, albeit much reduced.

It was reincarnated in 1997 to luke warm reviews but gradually gathered momentum. The latest version although given a more aggressive look is a lot tamer than its CV would suggest. The drive dynamic is a bit confusing as she has all the hallmarks of a hot hatch yet has the ride of a compact executive.

Yes, it may be packing 160bhp (road tax €330) but but you really have to look hard for it. In order to reach the kind of poke she’s capable of the driver has to push it to the limit before the Beetle comes to the fore.

More a cruiser than a bruiser the interior bolsters that argument with wall to wall leather, piano black, high gloss dash all trimmed in brushed aluminium. It’s loaded with technology too with cruise control, hill hold, multi-function display and touch screen audio, all as standard.

But all that luxury will be lost on rear seat passengers who’ll find leg and headroom a bit cramped. Still it’s an infinitely more luxurious place than the old bug I recall.

It may have taken 74 years but I’ve finally fallen in love with the “People’s Car”, but with a starting price of €19,995, it may still prove too rich for ordinary folks.