Volkswagen Beetle says final goodbye at Mille Miglia

The end is finally nigh for the 'maggiolino'

Volkswagen at the 2019 Mille Miglia
Volkswagen at the 2019 Mille Miglia / Image Credit: Volkswagen
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It feels like the Volkswagen Beetle has been on the edge of death for eons; we drove the Beetle Final Edition last November, after all. But this summer the bell really does toll, and Volkswagen's celebrating right now on the roads of Italy. The carmaker entered two vintage Beetles into this year's Mille Miglia, both of them reproductions of Beetles that competed in 1954 and 1956. They will be among the 430 entrants in the timed, 1,000-mile run from Brescia to Rome and back, many of which are superficially far more impressive than the Volkswagens. That side of the story hasn't changed in 60 years.

Volkswagen reconstructed gentleman racer Paul-Ernst Strähle's 1948 Pretzel Beetle that he raced in the 1954 Mille Miglia. This isn't one of the Pretzel Beetle prototypes we recently wrote about, but one of the production models on sale until 1953. Painted Reseda Green, the body comes from a 1951 Pretzel Beetle, the running gear from a Porsche 356, the flat-four engine in back producing 58 horsepower just as it did in Strähle's car. What the original coupe lacked in grunt it made up for in reliability, Strähle driving his creation to first place in the 1,300-cc class and third in the 1,500-cc class.

The second entry reproduces a 1956 Ovali Beetle. This is the third Mille Miglia for the Diamond Green bug, Volkswagen Classic having recreated it for outings in 2011 and 2012. The running gear again comes from a Porsche, this time a 74-hp flat-four.

This year will mark 81 total years of production for the Volkswagen Beetle, 63 for the original maggiolino - Italian for the cockchafer beetle, otherwise known as a May bug or doodlebug. With more than 21.5 million units of the original built on six continents — outdoing the Ford Model T by about seven million units — no car saw wider mass production on a single platform than the vintage Beetle. With another 22 years of production for the New Beetle, we can't imagine this is the last we've heard of what truly became the people's car.

Volkswagen Beetle Information

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