When the northern Italian city of Brescia is transformed into an open-air car museum on 15 May, two very special Volkswagen Beetles will be among the 430 vintage cars on the Piazza della Vittoria. Volkswagen will be represented by the “Maggiolino”, as they are affectionately known by Italians. The Mille Miglia is by no means a gentle drive, it is a race, and a fast and uncompromising one at that: 1,600 kilometres over three days, from Brescia to Rome and back.
Racing ambition is entrenched in the history of the event: The Mille Miglia was first held in 1927 and was regarded as one of the longest and toughest races in the world until it was temporarily brought to an end in 1957. The best drivers of their era battled it out for victory and glory. In 1977, the Mille Miglia was resurrected. It is also known as the “most beautiful race in the world”. The passion, with which the “Mille” is celebrated in Italy, is legendary: Hundreds of thousands of spectators line the route to cheer the teams on.
Beetles stir things up in the Italian classic
Volkswagen helped shape the history of the Mille Miglia in the 1950s. High-performance Beetles finished much higher up the standings than the more powerful opposition expected, thanks in no small part to their reliability. For example, Paul-Ernst Strähle surprised many with his Beetle dubbed “Dapferle” in 1954: He fitted the 1948 production Beetle with parts from a Porsche 356 and pulled off a shock success: Victory in the 1300cc class and third place in the 1500cc class.
In 2019, Volkswagen lines up with two dynamic Beetles. The 1951 Pretzel Beetle and the 1956 Ovali Beetle have been modified to replicate their historical predecessors. The regulations are strict: Only cars that can demonstrate that they were involved in the Mille Miglia between 1927 and 1957, and whose parts are all in accordance with the originals, are eligible to take part. The Diamond Green Ovali Beetle is an authentic replica, built exclusively by Volkswagen Classic for its outings in 2011 and 2012, and generates a full 55 kW (75 PS) thanks to the rear-mounted Porsche engine. The second, Reseda Green Beetle has been modified with various Porsche parts and produces 44 kW (60 PS). This Beetle was assembled according to the original “Dapferle” documents and Strähle’s registration for the 1954 Mille Miglia.
The Beetle’s appearance at the iconic Mille Miglia is another example of what has connected millions of people for decades: The passion for the “round Volkswagen” Beetle and its successors. This era will draw to a close in summer 2019, when the last Beetle rolls off the production line. Over 70 years after the start of production, and 21 years after the launch of the New Beetle, it is time to bid a final farewell. As with the “Última Edición” in 2003, the Volkswagen Beetle will also be given a worthy send-off – with the “Final Edition”.