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Bug: The Strange Mutations of the World's Most Famous Car [Hardcover]

Phil Patton
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

17 Mar 2003
The in-depth history of a mass produced, affordable car that began in 1930's Germany and took over the world to became an icon The BUG story is of Nazi propaganda, brilliant innovations in automotive design, and of its strange and startling transformations into cultural icons as varied as Ken Kesey's magic bus, 'Herbie' in Disney's The Love Bug, and Charlie Manson's dune buggy...The Volkswagen was a project dear to Adolph Hitler's heart, and in his first public appearance as Chancellor, he promised a 'real car for the German people', a mass-produced car that would be as affordable as a motorcycle. But after the war, the Bug moved beyond Germany with a revolutionary advertising campaign and a huge potential market, becoming a phenomenal success. Phil Patton tells the fascinating story of how the Bug was designed and developed in the 1930s by the legendary German automotive designer, Ferdinand Porsche, and how it became an icon, wholly removed from its Nazi past. And in 1998, executives from Germany unveiled the New Beetle, whose only assembly plant is in Mexico. Patton shows how a whole new strategy was devised for the company - selling cars is show business.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster International; 1st Edition edition (17 Mar 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743202422
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743202428
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16.4 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,514,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Kirkus Reviews" A peppy, perspicacious cultural history of the Volkswagen...With brio and dash, Patton (Dreamland, 1998, etc.) charts the long strange trip of the little bug that became a grand cultural totem.

About the Author

Phil Patton is the author of DREAMLAND: TRAVELS INSIDE THE SECRET WORLD OF ROSWELL and AREA 51 (Villard), and is a regular writer for the New York Times 'Public Eye' and 'Design Notebook' columns. He is a contributing editor at Esquire, Wired, and ID, and a consulting curator of The Museum of Modern Art's exhibition, 'Different Roads: Automobiles for the New Century'.

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First Sentence
at the end of the twentieth century the largest city on the planet is Mexico City, an immense sprawl of some 30 million inhabitants. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect People's Car; well, maybe not.... 18 July 2008
Format:Paperback
Author Phil Patton has done an excellent job describing how the VW mirrored the various time periods of it's existence. From Adolph Hitler's intent to create a car for the German Volk; the heir apparent to Henry Ford's Model T, to it's "status" as a fashion statement by Leftist college educated Americans in the 1950s and early 1960s who were making a statement against Detroit's agenda of "bigger is better", to the Bug's becoming the icon of the nihilistic drug fueled hippies of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and finally to it's demise because it was product that had been obsolete for decades. In reality, it very much was a pathetic excuse of a car, and that Volkwagen survived so long building this one vehicle defies logic. The irony now is the the Volkwagen company of 2008 has adopted the Alfred Sloan philosophy of a "car for every purse and purpose", ie witness the wide range of models marketed via the VW, Audi, Skoda, SEAT, Bentley, Lamborghini, Porsche, and Bugatti marques. History, though, is cyclical. If the Democrats under Obama win the White House, maybe that will be an indication that Americans once again will snap up a joke of a vehicle, one that symbolizes an age of diminished expections. Maybe India's Ta Ta Motors will step up the plate !!
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Amazon.com: 2.8 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent cultural history 30 Aug 2003
By Brian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I disagree with other reviewers who seemed most appalled with Patton's willingness to connect the Beetle with Hitler. Patton does acknowledge that the idea of a "people's car" had roots that preceded Hitler. But Hitler pushed the concept as part of his plan for economic power in Germany. This fact does not give Hitler "credit" for something wonderful and magical. It's just a car, folks. To suggest (or, as Beetle fans often do, insist) that Hilter had nothing to do with it is simply naive. Yes, Hitler was a madman and yes, ironically, he had something to do with creating the most beloved automobile of the century.
That said, most of the book concerns itself with more interesting ideas about the connections between technology and human culture. This is not your standard "VW history," but rather a wide-reaching history of the importance of automobiles and the way people connect and fail to connect with certain models. The author is not afraid to try to find connections between ideas and words in interesting ways. If you're looking for straightforward technical prose, look elsewhere. Patton is an intelligent writer who knows how to turn a phrase.
32 of 45 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Historical Revisionism at it Worst. 2 Oct 2002
By Marshall Webber - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
1 star for proceeding from the most egregiously faulty and revisionary premise: that the concept and design of the "bug" was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler.
Ferdinand Porsche had been working on a "People's Car" for more than 20 years before Hitler was even in power. Porsche was frequently forced to backburner the project because his employers (like Daimler-Benz) wanted his design talents focused on the luxury saloons, not an inexpensive 'everyman' car. Porsche eventually quit his job and formed his own design bureau and did piece work for his former employers to fund his passion: the volks-wagen.
Many prototypes had already been built and 90% of the design completed before Hitler appeared quite late in the development process. Adolf's ideas (as referenced in this book) were already part Porsche's pre-KdF design or were the marketing meddlings of a politician anxious to make populist hay of the German Auto industry's refusal to produce an affordable, maintainable car.
Phil Patton has robbed Ferdinand Porsche of the credit he deserves for the selfless pursuit of a people's car and places the laurels, unmerited, on the brow of a madman. Porsche was the visionary; Hitler was only the financial means. You could say that Porsche allowed his life-long goal to see the car produced cloud his judgement in choosing a business partner.
Crediting Hitler with the design of the Volkswagen is sensationalistic historical revisionism at it worst.
For a historically responsible evaluation see "Volkswagen - Nine Lives Later" by Dan R. Post.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Author Desperately ISO Editor 25 May 2003
By J. F Malysiak - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Whether or not Phil Patton's latest is factually accurate or merely revisionist sensationalism, the first half of this overly long "history" of the VW Beetle makes for an entertaining enough read. But past World War Two and Hitler's interest in developing the ultimate people's car, the narrative loses focus and seems to lose its way amid references to Charles Manson, Mickey Mouse, Nike Town, and a host of other pop culture items. I almost got the feeling that the author wasn't quite sure which direction to take and that his editor was MIA. I found myself also losing focus the more I read and by the time the author discusses the Autostadt, I'd lost any semblance of interest. I'd have stopped reading, but I had less than twenty pages to go.
My hat goes off to the dust jacket's designer. It's exceptionally eye-catching.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very few illustrations 5 Sep 2005
By Dale B. Fleishman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It would seem logical that a book about the various mutations and variations of the VW Beetle would be full of illustrations - this book has very, very few. Not recommended.

Instead, look for "Volkswagens of the World" - even though it covers much more than just Beetles, it has over 650 photos and is a much more enlightening book.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Author Desperately ISO Editor 25 May 2003
By J. F Malysiak - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Whether or not Phil Patton's latest is factually accurate or merely revisionist sensationalism, the first half of this overly long "history" of the VW Beetle makes for an entertaining enough read. But past World War Two and Hitler's interest in developing the ultimate people's car, the narrative loses focus and seems to lose its way amid references to Charles Manson, Mickey Mouse, Nike Town, and a host of other pop culture items. I almost got the feeling that the author wasn't quite sure which direction to take and that his editor was MIA. I found myself also losing focus the more I read and by the time the author discusses the Autostadt, I'd lost any semblance of interest. I'd have stopped reading, but I had less than twenty pages to go.
My hat goes off to the dust jacket's designer. It's exceptionally eye-catching.
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