From Hitler to Hippies: The Volkswagen Bus in America

209 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2006

See all articles by David Burnett

David Burnett

University of Virginia - School of Law, Alumnus or Degree Candidate Author

Date Written: May 2002

Abstract

This is my Master's thesis, completed in 2004 for a degree in American Studies from UT Austin. The paper presents a cultural history of Volkswagen buses, beginning in Germany in the late 1940s and extending to present-day America. My primary goal is to explain the vehicle's astonishing transformation, during the period from 1950 to 1970, from a post-WWII work truck into the vehicular icon of the American hippie movement. In doing so, I describe how the vehicle's practicality and quirkiness made it ideally suited for its countercultural purposes. A wildly successful advertising campaign in the 1960s and 1970s reinforced this dual emphasis on practicality and personality, creating the ironic effect of big-business mass media inadvertently helping to turn a big-business automobile into an antiestablishment icon.

Keywords: Volkswagen, hippie, Germany, counterculture, advertising, Doyle Dane Bernbach, automobile, van, bohemian

Suggested Citation

Burnett, David, From Hitler to Hippies: The Volkswagen Bus in America (May 2002). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=950575 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.950575

David Burnett (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - School of Law, Alumnus or Degree Candidate Author ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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