Own a slice of the Beetle's... uh, British history

Beetle blueprint story (draft)Volkswagen

Love it or hate it, we all think of the good old Volkswagen Beetle as a product that's unmistakably German - perhaps one of the country's most recognisable exports.

It might come as a bit of a surprise to most, then, that its fate was once in the hands of none other than a British man, named Ivan.
The Beetle was originally designed as part of the Nazi regime - providing affordable transport to Germany's masses. Until, that is, war broke out. After a temporary spell as an aeroplane factory, the Beetle plant was eventually captured by some American troops in 1945 - and it's here that us Brits got involved.

According to VW UK, the plan was originally to set up a British Army Repair depot in the bomb-damaged factory but - after being appointed to run the operation - Charles Radclyffe and Major Ivan Hirst (pictured above in the driver's seat) spotted some potential in the Wolfsburg factory.

Recruiting some of the existing workers, the pair managed to build two Beetles from the wreckage using the one remaining metal press. The plan was initially to use the Beetles simply within the British army, but Radclyffe later signed the factory over to the new German Government - cementing the Beetle's future.

It's a slice of this history that's up for auction on Monday: The Beetle's blueprints. The German originals were destroyed in the initial bombing, so the ones for sale are thought to have been drawn up by Radclyffe's group themselves: Going off nothing more than the parts that sat in the factory.

Under the hammer at Bonhams's auction at Brooklands, Surrey, the plans are up with an estimate of £4,000 - and Bonhams are hopeful that Volkswagen themselves might be interested.

"We are hoping the current manufacturers of Volkswagen may be interested," head of automobilia Toby Wilson told The Times, "but I'm sure there will be many people who are interested, including motoring enthusiasts as well as people who see this as some kind of iconic artwork."

So, there you have it - how the Brits saved the Beetle. Should we be proud of that achievement? Absolutely. Will we come to love it as much as the Mini? ...probably not.
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