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GALLERY: Volkswagen Beetle

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The original 25 hp Beetle was designed for a top speed around 100 km/h (62 mph), which would be a viable cruising speed on the Reichsautobahn system. As Autobahn speeds increased in the postwar years, its output was boosted to 36, then 40 hp, the configuration that lasted through 1966 and became the "classic" Volkswagen motor. The Beetle gave rise to multiple variants: mainly the 1950 Type 2 'Bus', the 1955 Karmann Ghia, as well as the 1961 Type 3 'Ponton' and the 1968 Type 4 (411/412) family cars, ultimately forming the basis of an entirely rear-engined VW product range. The Beetle thus marked a significant trend, led by Volkswagen, and then by Fiat and Renault, whereby the rear-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout increased from 2. 6 percent of continental Western Europe's car production in 1946 to 26. 6 percent in 1956. In 1959 even General Motors launched an air-cooled, rear-engined car, the Chevrolet Corvair — which even shared the Beetle's flat engine and swing axle architecture.

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