Home » Amazing Adventures In Car Badges: The Times That Volkswagen Took Their Own Name Off Their Cars

Amazing Adventures In Car Badges: The Times That Volkswagen Took Their Own Name Off Their Cars

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You know what is deceptively interesting? Badges. Car badges, specifically. Car badging is its own very specific and peculiar art, and while in modern times it’s largely been standardized to just camaker name/model name, there have been times where badges were seen as ways to call out esoteric technical details about your car, perhaps under the illusion that the people behind you actually care how many camshafts your engine has. So I think this will be an irregular series where we focus on some fascinating, two-fisted tales of car badging, or attempt to unlock the arcane logic and culture behind car badges. To start us off, I want to bring to your attention a really strange car badging event, one of the exceedingly rare times a carmaker has deliberately removed their own name from a car that they were actively building and selling and, seemingly, were not ashamed of. Volkswagen did this, not once but twice. I’ll explain.

First, a quick bit of history: based on some earlier research I’ve done, the first car to ever use the standard badging convention as we generally understand it today (badging that includes carmaker company name and model name) first appeared on the Peugeot Bebe in 1913:

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Peugeotbebe

Sure, the order is wrong as we grammatically understand car names (carmaker comes first, then model, unlike here) but it’s basically the kind of badging you’d expect. Badging didn’t really catch on in any consistent way until around the 1950s, possibly because adding all those letters was a good reason to add more chrome to a car.

Volkswagen had been pretty lackadaisical about badging the Beetle for most of the first half of its life. Beetles had round VW logos at the tops of their hoods, just before the windshield, but VW never had a badge that actually said VOLKSWAGEN until 1967. And when they finally did add it, they treated it with the same gravity they talked about all the other new features on the ’67 Beetle:

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Now here’s where it gets weird. You’d think after making such a big deal out of finally badging a car, you’d stick with it. But, in 1968, the very next year, if you ordered a Beetle with the then-new semi-automatic transmission, you would have received a car with no VOLKSWAGEN badge at all, but instead this badge on the hood:

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That’s a cool-looking badge, sure, with that vibrant and cavalier script for Stickshift, contrasting with the more regular AUTOMATIC. But, now the car didn’t say the manufacturer name on it at all, with only the VW logos on the hubcaps and hood to identify it.

Of course, if there ever was a car that did not need identifying, it was the Beetle. Which may be a factor in why this seems to be the only car this particular badging situation has happened to.

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Now, even this is only a partial de-company-badging, because the Automatic Stickshift badge was only on cars ordered with that odd transmission, and even then the badge on the engine lid only lasted two years, 1968 and 1969, with the decklid badge returning to VOLKSWAGEN in 1970, for all Beetle variations.

But this only lasted five years, because once again, in 1975, VW decided to take their own name off their best-known car. And, once again, it was because of a technical innovation that I suppose they were very proud of. The VOLKSWAGEN badge came off, to be replaced with this:

Fuelinjection

Yes, FUEL INJECTION! The idea that VW had eliminated the carburetor and replaced it with a Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection system was more important to VW than having their own name on the car. In fact, from this point on until the Beetle stopped being sold in America, this was the badge that the car (well, cars, Beetle and Super Beetle and Super Beetle-based convertibles) wore until the very end. Even weirder, is that VW had dropped the top-of-hood round VW badge in 1973, and in 1975 many Beetles came with the sport wheels you see there, so the only external VW badging was small and molded into those tiny black wheel hub covers. Really, for all practical purposes, US-spec Beetles from 1975 to 1979/1980 had no obvious VW branding on them at all!

That’s weird, right? I think so. Taking your own company’s badging off your car? It’s strange! Sure, we get you’re proud of injecting your fuel, but pretty much every other automaker just made little extra FI badges or EFI or something like that – they didn’t take their whole damn name off the car.

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Again, though, if there was ever a car that could still be identified with nearly universal accuracy without a badge, it’s the VW Beetle. So, maybe it was a better use of the space to crow about the fuel injection.

It’s still funny to me, though.

Relatedbar

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Here Are All (Well, Most Of) The American Cars With Illuminated Badges, Which Should Have Been More Of A Thing

It’s Time To Address A VW Beetle Horsepower Mystery That’s Been Bothering Me For Decades

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PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
8 months ago

The thing that messes with my head every time is that people even want to label the outside of their vehicle with “Fuel Injection” or similar.

Other than the mechanic, nobody else cares this much about how the gas gets into the cylinder.

I don’t even care how much displacement or how many cylinders your car has, so your 5.0 and V8 badges are also a complete waste.

I really don’t understand why automakers bother with this kind of garbage. Just put it on the window sticker. After that, I don’t get it.

KC Murphy
KC Murphy
8 months ago

I think it’s more for innovation bragging rights and status than anything else. In the 70’s, Fuel Injection still wasn’t very common in US markets, so there was a bit of wow-factor there, possibly the same technological mystique as the multi-fuel logos when E85 became a thing. Audi had “Fuel Injection” emblems on the trunk until the mid-1980s.

As for the displacement… sure, a lot of us really don’t care. But I suppose if I were the kind of person who defined my personality and manliness on owning a Turbo Zoom V8, I’d also want to make sure the plebeians driving next to me in their base model car knew for sure that I was better than them. I’m sure in my younger and more immature years, I felt some smug satisfaction parking my Prelude Si next to the less-appointed DX model at the grocery store.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
8 months ago

Okay I really enjoy all the fact base and user stories. I get this is site is still young. But just tell me after you get staffed and set up we can expect some silly stories like DT AND JT 24hours in a minivan? I kind of miss those. Maybe some hijinks showing a road trip live as opposed to a story from a year ago? I get it takes time just wondering if that is in the future?

Oldskool
Oldskool
8 months ago

Considering automakers sometimes refuse to install a less-than-$10 part to prevent a known safety hazard. Might as well not bother with badges. (Let’s load up the car with more shit to go wrong instead.) 🙂 Also in the efforts to increase mpg, maybe removing badges helps just a teensy little bit with Cd.

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