- Used Books
- Staff Picks
- Gifts & Gift Cards
- Sell Books
- Stores & Events
- Let's Talk Books
Special Offers see all
More at Powell's
Recently Viewed clear list
Used Trade Paper
Ships in 1 to 3 days
More copies of this ISBN
Bug: The Strange Mutations of the World's Most Famous Automobileby Phil Patton
Synopses & Reviews
A VW ad in the 60s described the Beetle and the Coke bottle as the two best-known shapes in the world. It is hard to imagine any other object whose bio-graphy includes as vital players Adolf Hitler, Henry Ford, Charles Manson, Walt Disney, and Woody Allen. As much a character as a car, a hero and an antihero, the Bug has had a Zelig-like knack for appearing again and again on the main stage of history. The car that was first built as a tool of Nazi propaganda was, in the postwar years, transformed by American salesmanship into a counterculture icon, then finally into a product of global marketing.
In his first year as German chancellor, Adolf Hitler described publicly his desire for a real car for the German people, mass-produced and affordable to everyone. By 1938, the vast new factory at Wolfsburg was turning out the Beetle, called the "KdF-wagen," designed by the great race-car engineer Ferdinand Porsche and his team and financed by the German Labor Front, the Third Reich's labor union. "It should look like a beetle," Hitler apparently advised him. During the war, supplied with labor from concentration camps, the factory manufactured ordnance and tanks. After the war, under British control, it turned out 1,000 cars a month, but they were noisy and lacked heat, and many Germans were eager to put the car behind them.
In America, the few Beetles on the road were those shipped over by GI's. The U.S. auto industry saw no need for a small inexpensive car when there were so many large inexpensive used ones on the market. But in 1959, when VW hired the innovative ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach to build a campaign, the car's greatest liability was diffused: a Jewish firm wouldsell Hitler's car. Small was beautiful. Souped-up racing Beetles were cool enough for Steve McQueen to drive. Herbie the Love Bug made Walt Disney hip.
In the 1980s, the Bug lost its popularity to the better-engineered and -designed cars from Japan. To reinvigorate the American market, VW in 1998 unveiled the New Beetle, a car far removed from its German roots — created in a Southern California design studio and built in Mexico. VW's senior executives made pilgrimages to the brand pavilions of DisneyWorld and Niketown and returned to Germany to build Autostadt, a theme park and museum near the site of the old slave-labor factory in Wolfsburg. The Bug's transformation into a global product was complete.
"Bug" is the fascinating story of the automobile that became as famous as Mickey Mouse, not just as a means of transportation but as a critical artifact in the cultural history of the century.
The remarkable journey of the Volkswagen Beetle--the world's most famous car--is chronicled. In telling the Bug's story, Patton uses the car as a lens to bring the whole cultural and political history of the century into focus, from Nazism to the sixties counterculture, the Cold War and today's global manufacturing. 20 illustrations.
A peppy, perspicacious history of the Volkswagen--with brio and dash, Patton charts the long strange trip of the little bug that became a grand cultural totem.- Kirkus Reviews
New in paperback. A unique and quirky history of the car that has become a cultural symbol - Herbie the Love Bug, the Beetle, or simply, the Bug.
"Herbie." "Punchbuggy." "Beetle." The world's most recognizable automobile goes by many noms de plume. But did you know that the "Love Bug" was originally conceived as Hitler's "car of the people," or that it was the Manson "family"'s car of choice?Tapping into Americans' continuing obsession with the VW Bug, Phil Patton has written a kaleidoscopic history of the car from the 1950s to the 2000s. He describes the genius marketing strategy used in America to rid the car of its Fascist associations (VW hired a Jewish marketing team), and explains why designers are obsessed with its shape (the Bug, like the Pantheon, fits the Greek "golden ellipse" ideal of dimension). Patton posits that the Bug was the first car to cause Americans to "wrap themselves in a brand as an extension of their ideology," and turn up their noses at the huge, showy cars produced in Detroit. Amazingly, it worked, and, based on the Beetle's continuing status as an American cultural icon, it still does. As Jonathan Yardley asserted in the Washington Post Book Review: "The original Bug was more than a car, it was an experience."
About the Author
Phil Patton writes regularly for the New York Times, has taught at the Columbia School of Journalism, and served as commentator for CBS News, the History Channel, and several public television series.
What Our Readers Are Saying
Other books you might like
Transportation » Automotive » General
Transportation » Automotive » Profiles
Transportation » Automotive » Volkswagen