Last month, Volkswagen announced it's ending production of the third (and final) version of the Volkswagen Beetle, a car that traces its lineage back to pre-World War II Germany.

This month, the most pristine, original, version of the car you'll ever imagine is on sale on the online car auction site, Hemmings.

It's a 1964 Volkswagen Beetle, with only 22 miles on the odometer--kept in storage ever since it was driven off the lot 54 years ago. The asking price? A cool, $1 million.

Here's the story of the million dollar Beetle--plus why this car is such an icon and worth a few minutes of your time.

'The most important and iconic car of all time'

In 1964, an auto mechanic named Rudy Zvarich, who loved his 1957 Beetle, bought newer edition to use as a backup. Why? He'd learned about design changes that were coming for 1965, and he didn't like them. 

But, he never needed the backup. He apparently became something of a collector as life went on, and his pride in having bought a car for $1.756.90 and never driven it except home from the dealer, was enough for him to keep it in storage indefinitely.

Zvarich died in 2016. His nephew inherited the Beetle, and put it up for auction.

My guess is he'll probably get the big asking price from some wealthy collector. Because there's a reason why the Beetle was called "the most important and iconic car of all time," by a car enthusiast publisher.

Actually three reasons. 

The design

If you're a fan of incredibly design, you need to study the Beetle. It was the iPhone of its time, a sleek, small, strange, rounded, simple-looking machine that was as different-looking from the competition as you can imagine.

And that doesn't even include the somewhat risky ad campaigns, which are iconic today. Like the "Think small" magazine ad that showed a tiny photo of the car, or the "Lemon" ad that featured the car full-sized, and talked about what VW would do if one of its cars turned out to be defective.

The expansion

In the 1950s, the idea of buying a foreign car in the United States was radical. The Beetle changed all that. By 1955, there were 35,000 VWs in the United States. In 1960, Volkswagen had imported 300,000.

By comparison, the Honda CR-V sold 400,000 in the United States in 2016. And our population now is about 70 percent bigger than it was in the early 1960s.

By 1992, VW produced more than 21 million Beetles worldwide. Massive numbers, for a tiny car.

The longevity

Even if you were to pick up a rusted old 1970s Beetle, you've got a piece of history now. Volkswagen stopped selling the original version in 1979 in the United States, although it kept going through 2003 in Mexico.

They rolled through two revival editions, but the latter of the two will end production in 2019. 

"The [original] Beetle was a legend," author David Kiley told The Wall Street Journal. "But the tepid response to this latest Beetle is proof that even Baby Boomers have moved on.

The only way it might come back? The company has said it might consider the design for an all-electric model. Other than that, you'll have to pick one up used.

Published on: Oct 6, 2018
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