Book Review— Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle
Thinking Small: The Long, Strange Trip of the Volkswagen Beetle (Ballantine Books, 512 pages, $26), by Andrea Hiott
If you ever owned a Volkswagen Bug — or if you are interested in the automotive world — you’ll want to read this entertaining book.
Not only is this book a fascinating account of the iconic auto’s 73-year history, but it also looks at the cultural events that unfolded during the same period and influenced that history. For example, Volkswagen’s early years cannot be discussed without considering the rise of Nazi Germany, since Adolf Hitler was the person who envisioned building such a vehicle for the masses.
The history of the VW Beetle is, in part, the tale of the men who designed and manufactured it, beginning with designer Ferdinand Porsche. These pivotal personalities also include Ivan Hirst, who kept the Beetle assembly plant alive in the postwar years, and Heinrich Nordhof, the man who built the modern Volkswagen company.
But it’s also the story of Wolfsburg, the location of VW’s assembly plant and main office. This was the city where Germany’s “economic miracle” started after the war ended.
And in writing about the Beetle and its impact when it finally reached American shores, Hiott also looks at Doyle Dane Bernbach, the advertising agency created by Ned Doyle, Maxwell Dane and Bill Bernbach. This was the firm that created the early VW Beetle ads.
Those who love the Beetle also realize there were some down years when the car lost its luster and all but disappeared from auto showrooms. That period is also addressed in a fleeting manner before the book closes with a little about the resurrection of the Beetle and the fact that this year marks the release of a new, redesigned and bigger version of the VW Bug.