Volkswagen’s ad campaign from the 1960s, the funny, refreshingly frank one from ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach with the clear black-and-white photography and snappy copy in the lower quarter of the page is what everyone thinks of when they think of vintage VW advertising. And that makes sense: that campaign was revolutionary. But, it wasn’t the only ad campaign VW used for the Beetle. In the 1950s, VW used a much more conventional-for-the-era sort of advertising, one that used lavish illustrations, most quite fanciful, to show the car. And the Beetle they showed, while quite lovely, was really not what you’d be driving home from the dealership. To modern eyes, it’s strange to see cars sold with a sort of Jessica Rabbit-ized version of themselves.
These lovely illustrations were done by the very talented Bernd Reuters, who did automotive ad illustrations for a lot of German carmakers, like Opel and Adler and Wanderer. Bernd, I suspect, had a lot of ideas about what automotive beauty was, and if the Beetle didn’t really meet his standards, well, Bernd would just massage those lines until it did.
The result was a lower, wider, more bulbous and, well, sensual Beetle, with curves and lines that really weren’t part of the real thing, as you can see up there.
I wonder if anyone who looked through these old brochures would look at the hypercurvy, voluptuous Beetles and then, say, happen to see a little line diagram like the one up there and wonder why all the window shapes were sort of off and why the fenders and roofline and everything seemed so, well, tame in the diagram.
Some skilled customizer should build a physical Beetle based on these illustrations. I’d love to see that!