VW Enthusiast’s Guide

Enthusiast Guides

The Ultimate Guide for Classic Volkswagen Enthusiasts

Innovative. Iconic. Indisputably Dependable.

Responsible for one of the most iconic cars to ever hit the road, it’s no exaggeration to say Volkswagen has made an extraordinary mark on the world of motoring.

Volkswagen’s cars are renowned for their distinctive designs, nimble driving performance and high-quality builds. It all started with Volkswagen’s first car, the Beetle. That quirky little car was a slow burner, but once it captured hearts around the world, it catapulted Volkswagen to global leader status.

Whether you loved or hated the Beetle, there are many other iconic Volkswagens that helped the German automaker establish a loyal following. From the stylish and practical Golf, to the sporty Karmann Ghia, and of course the cool campervan – which Volkswagen stole your heart?

To celebrate this classic car brand, we’ve put together the ultimate guide for Volkswagen car enthusiasts just like you. So, buckle up for more about Volkswagen’s history, from its origin in Germany to becoming one of the biggest car companies in the world.

The history of Volkswagen

In 1930s Germany, car ownership was rare. It was early days for car manufacturing. But when the German Labour Front founded Volkswagen at the request of the government, things were about to change – for Germany, and the rest of the world.

The journey begins in 1934. Explore our brief history of the Volkswagen car group with our timeline of the automaker’s most significant moments.


In a bid to get the country moving, the German Labour Front hires Austrian automotive engineer Ferdinand Porsche:. Tthe same Ferdinand Porsche who would go on to found Porsche AG.

His mission was to design a “people’s car” that was affordable and big enough to carry two adults and three children. Hence, Volkswagen was born – which literally translates to “people’s car” in English.


Volkswagen became an official state-owned company. First coined the “Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH” (Company for the Preparation of the German Volkswagen Ltd), it became “Volkswagenwerk GmbH” in 1938.

The KdF-Wagen prototypes begin: the car is initially named the ‘Kraft-durch-Freude)-Wagen, or ‘strength-through-joy car’; helpfully shortened to KdF. This is the car which would later be known as the “Beetle”, for its distinctive shape.


Inspired by Ford’s River Rouge car plant in Detroit, Volkswagen’s main factory is built in the town of KdF-Stadt, now better known as Wolfsburg. 

In early 1939, the KdF-Wagen Volkswagen Type 1 is ready and launched to the public. But mass production is soon hampered by the Second World War. Later that same year, the factory begins manufacturing military vehicles and other armaments using forced labour.

KdF-Stadt or Wolfsburg the home of Volkswagen
Wolfsburg in the 1960s. Image © picture-alliance / KPA/Andres

The end of World War Two sees Volkswagen’s KdF-Stadt factory fall under British control. Shortly thereafter, the British Army orders 20,000 Type 1 Volkswagens. In 1949, the company is taken under the control of the West German government and the state of Lower Saxony.


VW think small poster ad, VW enthusiasts guide, VW history
VW think small poster ad, copyright Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB)


Volkswagen prepares to take over the US. Following the establishment of Volkswagen of America in 1955, advertising agency Doyle Dan Bernbach (DDB) is hired to help the brand make a splash in the States.

The agency launches a series of simple, humorous adverts which inspired millions of Americans to invest in a Volkswagen Type 1 (the “Beetle”). History is made.

Volkswagen & DDB’s “Think Small” campaign is widely written about to this day. It was even voted the best advertising campaign of the 20th century by AdAge.com.


The 1 millionth Beetle was produced in 1955. VW enthusiast guide
The 1 millionth Beetle was produced in 1955. Image © picture-alliance / dpa, Photo: Gerd Herold

Over the years, the unique shape of the Volkswagen Type 1 had inspired many nicknames. These included the Beetle – of course – as well as the Bug, Käfer, Vocho, Coccinelle, Fusca, or Maggiolino.

But in 1967 Volkswagen adopts the nickname as the model’s formal name. The Volkswagen Beetle is (officially) born.


Another icon arrives – the Volkswagen Golf. In the 1970s, consumers are looking for more practical, reliable, and modern cars. The Golf fits the bill and becomes a runaway success.


Original early classic Volkswagen Golf, VW enthusiasts guide
An early VW Golf, spotted in Germany in 2014. These popular models are still run today.


Volkswagen introduces the first generation of the Polo, a small hatchback. Another practical car which remains one of the best-selling small cars on the market today.

1981 Volkswagen Polo, VW enthusiasts guide
A 1981 VW Polo. Photo by Roman Belogorodov

Another big year for Volkswagen. The automaker launches the fourth generation Golf, which goes on to become one of the best-selling cars in Europe.

They also introduce the New Beetle. A modern take on the class VW Beetle, it becomes a popular choice among car enthusiasts for its retro look.


H3: 2015

“Dieselgate” – otherwise known as the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. It comes to light that VW had installed software on many of its diesel vehicles that cheated the emissions test. 

Millions of VW vehicles worldwide are affected, and the company pays billions of dollars in fines and compensation. It is a dark time for the company. But they hold their hands up, apologise and manage to come out the other side.

VW Beetle, Volkswagen enthusiasts guide
Gorgeous Beetle specimens can be found the world-over, like this one spotted in Mexico by photographer Dan Gold.


Volkswagen moves with the times. The group begins to invest significantly in electric vehicle technology and launches the ID. family of electric vehicles, a major shift for the brand.


After 80 years of continuous manufacture, it’s time to say bye to the Beetle as Volkswagen halts production of this iconic car.


The focus on electric technology continues. By the end of 2022, Volkswagen hasd installed more than 15,000 high-power charging points around the world in a bid to be “among the trailblazers in electric mobility”.

Volkswagen at the movies

You know you’ve hit the big time when you make it to the big screen – and Volkswagen is as much a veteran in the movie industry as it is the motoring industry. VW cars have appeared in countless films over the years. 

It’s the Volkswagen Beetle which is the true movie star – though their iconic camper has also made regular appearances. Here are our top five favourite VW movie moments!

The Love Bug (1968)

Remember “Herbie”, the legendary Beetle bearing the number 53? He’s arguably one of the most famous cars on film. Herbie made his debut in this classic Disney movie where he becomes a racing car with a mind – and personality – of his own. 

The film was a huge success and Herbie went on to star in four further Disney productions, including the most recent 2005 film with Lindsay Lohan, “Herbie: Fully Loaded”.

Herbie Fully Loaded premiere, 2005 - VW enthusiasts guide
Herbies at the Herbie: Fully Loaded premiere in 2005
Steve McQueen in the Meyers Manx dune buggy for The Thomas Crown Affair - VW Enthusiasts Guide
Steve McQueen did all his own driving in the Meters Manx dune buggy

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

In the original version of this thriller, Steve McQueen takes Faye Dunaway on an unforgettable movie car chase in a custom-built Volkswagen-based dune buggy. McQueen even helped design the one-of-a-kind Meyers Manx dune buggy with a Volkswagen Beetle chassis.

The dune buggy was sold at auction in 2019 for $456,000.

Footloose (1984, 2011)

Both versions of this musical feature the exact same yellow 1972 Formula Vee special edition VW Beetle. The story follows teenager Ren (played by Kevin Bacon in the original and Kenny Wormald in the remake) as he drives around town in his iconic Beetle singing along to rock ‘n’ roll.

Kevin Bacon Footloose Beetle - VW Enthusiasts Guide
Kevin Bacon as Ren in his yellow VW Beetle. Was the 26-year-old actor a convincing teenager?
Volkwsagen Type 2 microbus - VW enthusiasts guide
A Type 2 VW microbus of the same kind used in the film – only this one was photographed in Germany

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

This feelgood film follows a misfit family travelling across America in an iconic yellow VW Campervan. The run-down VW Type 2 Microbus – which has seen better days – embodies the family’s spirit of resilience as they attempt to get their daughter to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

This Tarantino tribute to Hollywood in the late 1960s is full of classic cars. In fact, picture car coordinator Steve Butcher said he helped locate over 2,000 vintage vehicles for the movie.

But there’s one particular Volkswagen car that caught our eye in this Oscar winning movie. Brad Pitt’s character Cliff Booth drives a car as cool as you’d expect – a blue 1968 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia. In 2020, the Ghia was auctioned off for $50,000.

Brad Pitt in the blue Karmann Ghia used for filming Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - VW Enthusiast Guide
Brad Pitt in the blue Karmann Ghia used for filming Once Upon a Time in Hollywood – not quite doing his own driving here…

Five fascinating VW facts

If you’re a Volkswagen veteran, you’ll already know the brand pretty well. But with a history that spans eight decades, there’s sure to be a few Volkswagen facts that surprise even the most ardent fan.

1. The Golf was originally known as the Rabbit in the US

When Volkswagen launched the Mark 1 Golf in the US in 1974, it was known as the Rabbit. While no definitive answer has ever been found as to why they did this, Haynes surmises it’s because the Golf sounded “too upscale for an economy car” and the Rabbit better reflected the “small and nimble” character of the car.

The name was changed back to Golf in the early 1980s due to declining sales. Personally we think they made the right call.

 2. The Volkswagen Group owns many other brands

There’s more to Volkswagen than just VW. You probably know the group owns a few different car brands, but did you know they actually own ten?

The VW Group owns Volkswagen, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, ŠKODA, SEAT, CUPRA, Audi, Lamborghini, Bentley, Porsche, and Ducati.

3. The Beetle was once the world’s best-selling car

In production for over 80 years, over 21 million Volkswagen Beetles have been sold worldwide. The car was produced in Germany, Mexico, Brazil and several other countries.

Despite this amazing accomplishment, it’s the Golf which is VW’s most successful car overall – for 14 consecutive years, the Golf was actually Europe’s best-selling car. It was only knocked off the top spot in 2023 by Peugeot’s 2018 subcompact, moving to fifth place.

4. Volkswagen cars are named after types of winds

Ever wondered what vehicle names like the Golf, the Passat, and the Scirocco mean? Many of Volkswagen’s vehicles are said to be named after oceanic currents and types of winds. The Golf is said to be named after the Gulf Stream, the Passat is a German word for “trade wind”, and the Scirocco is named after a Mediterranean wind.

5. The VW Campervan has been in production for over 70 years

First produced in 1950, VW Campervans are more popular than ever. In fact, here at Heritage they’re the most popular classic Volkswagen we insure!

Featured in numerous movies, TV shows and music videos, the Campervan became a symbol of freedom and adventure – from the hippie counterculture of the 1960s to a vehicle of choice for digital nomads in the 21st century.

Modern & classic camper and motorhome insurance

Heritage cover hundreds of campers and motorhomes, whether VW or built by someone else! If you’re one of the lucky owners of a T-series, a bay window bus or any other camper or motorhome, why not give us a try for your insurance?


Volkswagen car clubs and events

Keen to immerse yourself even more in the world of Volkswagen? Join millions of likeminded fans and get involved in a VW owners club or event near you.

We can’t guarantee this is a complete list, so if you don’t see your club on here please ping us a message and we will add it! Just send us an email at marketing@heritagecarinsurance.co.uk 

  • Volkswagen Owners’ Club of Great Britain: Established in 1963, this VW club is open to enthusiasts of all types of Volkswagen vehicles – both classic and modern. They run social groups across the country and can help with VW buying advice.
  • Historic Volkswagen Club: As the name suggests, this VW classic car club is dedicated to vintage Volkswagens only – specifically cars built before 1979. They offer advice on the restoration and preservation of classic Volkswagens.
  • VW Festival: This family friendly event is packed full of all things Volkswagen, alongside live entertainment, food and fun.
  • Volkswagen Northwest Car Show: This annual event bills itself as “the largest gathering of Volkswagens in the North of England”. Attendees can enjoy specialist trade stands, car club displays and VWs for sale.
  • Camper Jam: Expect chilled vibes all round at this annual event celebrating Volkswagen Campervans. There’ll be plenty of vehicles on display, as well as live music. 
  • Volks Weald: co-hosted by Air-Style Magazine, Under the Arches and V Works, this ‘old skool weekender’ in the South East promises family-friendly chilled out fun for VW fans, with live music of course. 

Lastly, if you ever find yourself in the home of Volkswagen – Germany – be sure to check out Volkswagen Classic. Volkswagen Classic take to the road at various events like motor shows and car meetings, showcasing VW’s most iconic classic cars.


We speak with classic VW enthusiasts all the time to help them find the best classic Volkswagen insurance for them. Become a part of this community, and read our owner stories for the Beetle, Karmann Ghia and more on our Customer Stories hub.

Are you the proud owner of a classic Volkswagen?

For over 55 years, Heritage has been providing specialist insurance to VW owners like you. We’d love to help you give your VW the cover it needs, and we offer great benefits like free agreed value, European driving cover for continental jaunts, and club member discounts. 

If you’re interested in finding out more about how we can help protect your precious Volkswagen, get in touch today for more information and a free quote.