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Peter Cheney takes a look at the life of Volkswagen's iconic car

The Volkswagen was commissioned by Adolf Hitler to provide low-cost transportation for the masses. A 1935 V-series prototype hints at the final shape of the car that would go on to become the best-selling vehicle in history.Volkswagen

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By 1938, designer Ferdinand Porsche had arrived at the shape that would define the Beetle for decades to come.Volkswagen

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A 1946 Volkswagen publicity photo shows a Beetle leaving the assembly line.Volkswagen

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A worker welds a body component at the VW factory in 1947. At this point, the Beetle used a split rear window, which increased structural rigidity and reduced costs by allowing smaller glass panes.Volkswagen

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In 1953, VW eliminated the split window to improve rearward visibility.Volkswagen

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This 1955 Volkswagen Beetle was the 1,000,000th car produced by the German auto maker.

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A Volkswagen Beetle production line in 1955. Note the oval rear window, which later became a prized feature for VW collectors.Volkswagen

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African chlldren wash a 1958 Beetle. The car's simple, rugged design and low cost made it popular worldwide.Volkswagen

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A 1960s VW Beetle turned into a boat for a publicity stunt. The car's sealed underbody made it buoyant.Volkswagen

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The distinctive shape of the original Beetle was maintained for more than 60 years. The Beetles in this picture illustrate the subtle changes that were made to the car over the decades. The car on the far right is a 1976 model - note the widened hood and windshield and bumpers that were raised to meet new government standards.Volkswagen

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College students jam themselves into a mid-1960s Beetle. The orginal Beetle became an icon of the free love era.Volkswagen

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A late-1960s Beetle painted to match the one in Disney's 1969 film The Love Bug. Although several cars were used in the movie and its sequels, the best-known Herbie is a modified 1963 Beetle that had a motor transplanted from a Porsche.Volkswagen

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A publicity photograph taken in 1972, the year the Beetle passed the Ford Model T as the best-selling car of all time.Volkswagen

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A 1977 Super Beetle convertible. This model had an extended front end that increased trunk space, and a curved windshield for improved aerodynamics.Volkswagen

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Next-generation VW Beetle concept, shown at the Detroit auto show in 1994.Volkswagen

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A fleet of first-generation new Beetles line up in front of a screen showing Disney's famous Love Bug movie race car. In the foreground is a Herbie-replica Beetle with a Porsche-style whale-tail spoiler.Volkswagen

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The last VW Beetle rolls off the production line in Puebla, Mexico. Although Beetle production was halted in the rest of the world long before because the car couldn't meet new emission standards, the car lived on in Mexico due to relaxed environmental laws.Volkswagen

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1998 New Beetle. The car's underpinnings bore no relation to the original car. The New Beetle was front wheel drive, powered with a watercooled engine borrowed from its corporate sibling, the VW Golf.Volkswagen

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2012 VW Beetle. Volkswagen stylists created a flattened roofline that mimics the lines of the original Beetle designed by Ferdinand Porsche in the early 1930s.Peter Cheney for The Globe and Mail

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The broad stance of the 2012 VW Beetle gives the car greater interior volume, and gives the car a more muscular presence than the previous model.Volkswagen

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Seen from the rear, the 2012 Beetle bears a strong resemblance to its famous ancestor, yet is a far different car.Volkswagen

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