Car Design and War


There’s a lot of hearsay about the birth of the VW Beetle and the prewar years in Germany. Paranoia. Prejudice. Misinformation is at work here, obviously.

The nonsense is cut through brilliantly by this fascinating documentary that looks in depth into the relationships between industrial design and the war machine of the 30s and 40s. Turns out the Beetle was as much a genius bit of propaganda as it was a way to bring a car to every family of the Germanic Fatherland.

The documentary is great from start to finish, but highlights are at roughly 9-10 minutes and 21-22 minutes, where the bit about the Beetle and the De Haviland Mosquito respectively.

But what’s really fascinating around 34′ is the in-depth story of the Tiger tank, which was designed as a competition between Ferdinand Porsche and Henschel engineering – a brutal piece of industrial design that terrified allied soldiers – but was ridiculously expensive to make and therefore ultimately ineffectual in terms of the outcome of the war.

Sort of like the Bugatti Veyron in armour, then…

We didn’t realise, either, that Henry Ford was one of Hitler’s heroes – and that Soviet planners visited Detroit in the 1930s to learn about mass production – leading to the sort of industrial philosophy that produced over 60,000 cheap T34 tanks, which ultimately defeated Hitler’s premium products.