Beetles of that era came in two body styles -- hard-top and cabriolet -- and with one powertrain option: air-cooled, rear-engine, three-speed manual transmission. The flipper turn signals had finally given way to more conventional lights, but there was still no gas gauge. Like other drivers I relied on the emergency tank, silently praying that I had remembered to fill it every time I made a changeover.
That black Beetle served me nearly flawlessly until I passed it on to my brother and graduated much less successfully to a 544S Volvo. Little did I suspect that the Beetle would remain alive as long as I have. The original rear-engined Beetle, produced from 1938 to 2003, is the longest-running and most manufactured automobile in history. Its immediate successor, the 1999 New Beetle, is less historically significant but equally iconoclastic. Recently, I got a chance to drive the latest edition of this automotive epic, the 2012 Beetle, and it made me think about all its incarnations over the last three quarters of a century.
Chevy Citation, Renault Alliance, Plymouth Volare: All destined for the scrap heap and every one of them a critics pick. What were they thinking?
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