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The keys to the museum's 1972 Beetle being handed over to Smithsonian Institution representatives John H. White, Jr., and Don H. Berkebile by Tony Weaver, Community Relations Manager of Volkswagen of America.

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The keys to the museum's 1972 Beetle being handed over to Smithsonian Institution representatives John H. White, Jr., and Don H. Berkebile by Tony Weaver, Community Relations Manager of Volkswagen of America.
Del Ankers Photographers, in the files of the National Museum of American History , Negative #: 72-14068

IN CONTEXT

This object appears in the following sections:


Technology
Smithsonian Automobile Collection — Car collection, 1970-present

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Volkswagen Beetle
Catalog #: 333,682, Accession #: 304,750
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection
In 1972, the Smithsonian collected the 15-millionth Volkswagen Beetle. According to the letter curator Don Berkebile sent to Volkswagen of America, the Beetle was a significant addition to the collection. He wrote, "Surely the Beetle is the mid-twentieth century equivalent of the famous and beloved Model T Ford, and it has proven once again that an economical car can provide dependable transportation." The museum's Volkswagon was unused and had only 16 miles on the odometer when donated. It is a Model 1131 Super Beetle. S. Dillon Ripley, Secretary of the Smithsonian, wrote at the time of the car's acquisition, "though it is a foreign car, it surely is a big factor in today's transportation scene, and therefore fits into our collection." Despite these claims, which were remarkably like the message the company's PR department was disseminating at the time, Volkswagen sales in the U.S. had fallen 16.2 percent in the three years before the museum collected the car.
Physical Description
This is the 15-millionth Volkswagen Beetle manufactured, bearing serial number 1,122,500,715. It has a four-cylinder, horizontally-opposed, overhead-valve, four-stroke engine, located in the rear of the car. Beetles of this type got about 25 miles per gallon and had 11.1-gallon gas tanks.
Details
Date Made:
1972
Locations:
International
Credit:
Gift of Volkswagen of America, Inc.
History
American firms dominated the U.S. car market from the 1910s through the 1960s. In 1955, the Big Three domestic manufacturers sold 95 percent of the nation's new cars. In that year, about half the cars sold in the country were made by General Motors alone. Still, this dominance masked the beginnings of a change-the rise of the foreign car. Volkswagen (VW) was the first major foreign car maker to get a foothold in the U. S. market. The Beetle began life in Nazi Germany, as the brainchild of Adolf Hitler, who wanted to build a low-priced popular car as a propoganda tool. Despite its unpleasant associations with fascism, millions of people bought VW Beetles after World War II. By 1972, approximately four million "Bugs" had been sold in the United States. By that time, however, Volkswagen was increasingly being surpassed by Japanese car makers: in 1973, U.S. consumers bought more Japanese cars than they did West German makes.

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