Volkswagen celebrates its history in Autoworld…

Traditionally, in February and March, the Brussels based Autoworld Museum organizes a special for Volkswagen historical exhibition, culminating in a Beetle love parade on St. Valentine’s day.

However, the parade will not take place in 2021 for obvious reasons, but the exhibition organized in collaboration with Volkswagen is very special indeed!

The exhibition is dubbed “Volkswagen Milestones” and reflects the historical zeitgeist of the car of “Everyone and everbody” on the basis of the three important models in the history of the brand: the Beetle from the 50s – 60s, the Golf from the 70s to the early 80s and last but not least, the “Electrical Age”, with the new ID.3.

When I saw the cars on the exhibition, via a magnificent photo portfolio shot by Yves Noël, I couldn’t help reflecting back to my early days of motoring. Because, of course, I started out myself behind the wheel of a Beetle. I had bought, as a student, this ’55 (I believe) Beetle De Luxe Export from the famous and iconic television, arts and performance critic and column writer Johan Anthierens, who had learned the craft of journalism from my father, then Chief Editor of the illustrated weekly magazine “De Post”. He had hired Johan to write the Television column in “De Post”. Johan Anthierens bought a new car, and he sold his Beetle to me for the modest sum of 500 Belgian Frank, which is the equivalent of…some 12,5 Euros.

This Beetle is the exact same car as figures here on Yves Noël’s magnificent shots, with – if I recall well, the indestructible 30 HP 1200 cc version of the famous boxer in the back. Indestructible, well, almost. At higher mileages the third cylinder suffered unavoidably rather more from lean mixture than the others, and compression losses in this cylinder due to worn exhaust valves were often de result. This situation was however not bad with this one.

This beetle, with dark green livery, had soon its hubcaps removed and its wheels painted silver, and looked the part! We drove four years with it with the greatest joy throughout Europe, from Copenhagen to Bordeaux, over Routes Nationales and Autobahnen, and our greatest admiration for Porsche and its designs was born then.

Then, I stumbled on another bargain Beetle, the exact self same car as the black one here on the photo. It still had the 30 PS (manual choke) engine, but an “American type” steering wheel, with a big chromed claxon ring, and, progress, the bigger rear window.

Performance was basically the same as the first one, but I adorned the dual exhaust with slightly bigger diameter tail-end pipes, and this gave a deeper, throaty exhaust note, very similar to a 356 Porsche.

Boy, did I love driving this Beetle with zest… I drove it for another 3 years, until I got engaged to my present wife. Her father changed cars, and so I became as a “welcoming present” suddenly the happy and proud owner of the famous big Volkswagen 411 L, donned in dark British Racing Green paint, which suited it very well. That was my (big) Volkswagen during the Golf era, being also the last creation by VW within the air cooled boxer engine at the rear philosophy. A very comfortable and fast car, which would have merited an even greater success than it had. But other times were coming, also for the “bigger” VW’s. Not only the Passats were soon to come, but in those days also another beauty which was born on the drawing tables in Neckarsulm, the VW K70. This car fitted better in the Golf era, where thermal efficiency, economy, light construction and excellent road manners together with style became the norm.

The Golf era started in 1974, and these cars changed the perceptions about what a small car could do. Winners, I found, were the Golf GTD, which could cruise along all day at 140 km/h and consume still only 6 litres/100 km or thereabouts, with its 1,5 litre Diesel being a pleasant and eagerly revving machine. Then, there was the ultimate Golf, the GTI. Originally 110 PS, but what zest and panache. Also the styling details are absolutely iconic, to say nothing about its handling and performance.

There were also the three spoked steering wheel, the chequered seats, the wheels, the paint scheme, the throaty exhaust note…

Of course, there is also VW’s electric future on display, and indeed the ID.3 is a very convincing car. Just read our test report in these columns. We have just left hospital last week after two major operations, but around easter we are able to take the wheel again. The new VW hybrids are cars we are looking forward to. We will ask Joke Boon, Press Events Coordinator and VW Press and PR Director Jean Marc Ponteville to have a look in their calendar… and thank Joke Boon here for all the Autoworld photo’s she sent me!

Just some practical info: Autoworld – Jubelpark 11 – 1000 Brussels. Open every day, also Monday, from 10 AM to 17 PM (Saturdays and Sundays until 18 PM)

Admission: €12/adult – €10/senior – €9/student – €5/child (6-12 yr) free for children below 6 yr. Tickets bought online cost 1 Euro less.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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