Detroit, 11 January 2005 Volkswagen has shown a concept based on the ever-popular Beetle at the Detroit (NAIAS) Motor Show. Based on the concept of both a Ragtop and Speedster. Its most visible characteristic is a drastically lowered roof line with a large ragtop, and already the response has been positive enough to suggest the concept will see production and the world's best known automotive icon will continue onwards in yet another incarnation. This article looks at the new Ragster and the history of the Beetle, from Dr Ferdinand Porsche's early prototypes, through to its proliferation to every corner of the planet and a production of more than 20 million vehicles.

The development team based the Ragster on a reinforced convertible Beetle, shortening the A-pillars by about 90 millimeters and creating a set u-shaped roof fixing for the Ragtop's frame.

The fenders, bumpers, headlights, tail lights and 19" aluminum rims are all newly designed as is the interior with racing car bucket seats, sports car type steering wheel with integrated engine start button (right side) and ragtop control (left side), centre console and the extremely "clean"cargo area.

Volkswagen did not say that the car would be produced, but it did say that the vehicle could be easily optioned with any of the optional engines available in its older brother Beetle - from a traditional petrol engine to a high-torque TDI.

History of the Volkswagen Beetle

It is one of the design icons of the 20th century, probably the best-known automobile in history. Originally designed by Ferdinand Porsche, the Volkswagen Type 1 was first seen in prototype form in 1935 and went into production just prior to World War 2.

Production continued until the final batch of Beetles was produced in Mexico in 2003, with a total of more than 21 million vehicles produced and a world record for production of the same vehicle - a title it took from the Model T Ford in 1972.

The final production figure was an incredible 21,529,464 over 68 years.

Though the 21 million figure might come under threat when China's automotive industry hits full swing, the 68 year production period will almost certainly remain a world record for eternity.

Along the way it went through several life phases, initially touted as the people's car ("Volks" wagen) by an evangelistic Hitler, and it is certainly one of Hitler's most visible legacies to the world, alongside autobahns.

It spent its early life as primarily a military vehicle, a role to which it was well suited as its simple air-cooled, horizontally-opposed four cylinder motor was almost unstoppable, making it particularly useful in the German army's desert campaigns of WW2. During the war, it was built in large quantities as an amphibious vehicle and was also produced with caterpillar treads.

The reborn modern New Beetle was first shown as a concept car in 1994 at the Detroit Motor Show and the massive public response saw the Beetle become a showroom favourite once more - more than 800,000 people now drive the new Beetles.

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