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Thursday, April 07, 2016

Wolfsburg - The Volkswagen Capital of the World

Lulu - Wanda - JP covet a VW bus
That tram took us on a tour of the factory

In 1966 - I bought my first car - a 1956 Volkswagen Beetle Convertible. In 1969 - my first brand new car was a navy blue VW Beetle sedan. Both were build at the factory in Wolfsburg - Germany. Today it is the largest automobile factory in the world.

VW has been in the news lately for getting caught cheating on the EPA emissions tests. Simply - they designed a way that the cars would fudge the results when they were plugged into the computer testing to see how dirty the cars made the air. Mostly - the cheating was done on diesel cars entering the USA. They were bragging about “clean diesel technology.”

Wolfsburg is one of the newest towns in Europe. It was built in 1938 as a company town to produce the “people’s car” - the affectionate and efficient Beetle. The community - plant - museum - factory - and VW World - all sit along the Aller River. Cars can be shipped by water - rail - and air - all over the world. Of course they have plants in the USA - Mexico - Brazil - and many other places. One can still order a car - and pick it up here in Wolfsburg - drive it around Europe - and send it home to the USA.

Yesterday - we caught the 8:30 morning ICE bullet train from the main train station here in Berlin. It was pretty crowded but we all found seats for the hour plus trip to Wolfsburg. When we arrived in town - Lulu asked me what were we going to do - like I arranged something. We went to the info desk at the train station - they said take the footbridge across the river to VW World. Admission was 15 euros - 12 euros for us old people.

The VW campus had several modern glass buildings - a car museum - a sales pickup building - a building for each brand they make - VW - Skoda - Lamborgini - etc. They even have a Sports Arena. Wolfsburg was the German soccer champ in 2009. A unique building was the car stack. It is a building about 20 stories high - like a tall stack of vinyl records. An elevator goes up the middle - and in 30 seconds can deliver any of 400 cars to the bottom and slide it out like a slice of pizza. You can also ride to the top in a car and be slotted there for 5 euros.

Another building has a museum of VW’s and other historic cars. It is about 6 floors high - we started at top and worked our way down. It was like a history of my life - many of the cars that we owned or wished we owned.

Next was a tour of the largest auto plant in the world. They have their own electric plant there. Since 1938 - this has been the center of the world of Hitler’s “people’s car.”  More VW Beetles were made here than any other car passing out Ford’s Model T. Later - the Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit surpassed the Beetle as the top selling auto in time. Only the Honda 50 Cub scooter has sold more vehicles of one model.

After that - it was shopping time for the ladies. I decided to walk a mile out to another VW museum. I finally arrived at the door at 4:30. The lady at the desk said that the museum closed in 30 minutes. When I said I came from Florida to see it - see let me go in - without paying the 6 euros. In that 1/2 hour - I enjoyed the 150 VW’s there - all in perfect drivable condition. What a wonderful non-profit museum. It was all the sweeter knowing I helped them keep their non-profit status.

Wolfsburg was founded in 1938 - just to built the Beetle. It is the richest city in Germany - $128,000 a year per capita. It was in the British zone of West Germany. the Brits named it Wolfsburg after a castle. Little did they know that Hitler's nickname was Wolf - as in Wolf's Lair. Unlike the old coal towns of PA - the company has been very good to the people of Wolfsburg.

On the way back - I stopped at a small food stand. I got a medium pizza and a large beer for 5 euros! After that large meal - I took the bus back to the station to meet my fellow travelers. Our train arrived 15 minutes late - we hopped on - we were wisked to Berlin - easily making up that time. The trains are super fast - super quiet - clean - and people barely speak on them. It is 143 miles from Wolfsburg to Berlin - and one does not have to be a math major to figure out our speed if we got there in an hour.

VW plant on the Aller River in Wolfsburg

This is what I expected Hitler's Bunker to
look like. It is the premium VW Owner's Club
in VW World

The VW XL1 is available for $150,000. It is a
hybrid electric/diesel. It gets 100km per liter -
about 280 miles per gallon. 

This is the first car - an 1885 Benz

One of the first beetles in black

My friend Bud Smulligan owns a Borg-Ward

England's answer to the Beetle - a front drive Mini
Cooper with 10 inch tires and sideways engine

I had a dune buggy mounted on a VW chassis

The VW Thing on a VW chassis

This 1959 Caddy - what they think
all Americans drive

I loved the VW Micro Bus. But with 36 HP
it could only go 50 MPH

Two plastic cars - the East German Trabant
and the Chevrolet Corvette

The VW factory on the River Aller

The split window Beetle - I had one
as a convertible. Bought it for $100 in 1966

My $100 convertible did not look like this.
My $100 model was so rusty - I could run along
as I drove. It was also an excellent toilet. 

During WWII - they made this amphibian car 

During the war - this was their answer to
the Jeep

I loved this camper VW

These go for about $30,000 restored.

The VW air-cooled engine - mounted behind
the rear wheels

My first VW was a 1956 - me second one was a 1969
that I bought new and took to Woodstock

The second VW Museum - a nonprofit. I walked
1 mile from the train station to see it.
It is in an old clothing factory.

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