Almanac: The Volkswagen Beetle

(CBS News) And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: February 17th, 1972, 41 years ago today . . . a memorable milepost for the little car that could.

For that was the day the 15,007,034th Volkswagen Beetle rolled off the assembly line . . . surpassing the old record set by the Ford Model T, which shut down production in 1927 after a 19-year run.

It was German Chancellor Adolf Hitler who launched the VW in 1933 when he called on the legendary Ferdinand Porsche to design a low-cost "People's Car," or Volkswagen.

Large-scale production didn't begin until after World War II, and world-wide success was a while in coming.

In all of 1949, exactly TWO Beetles were sold in the United States.

Over time, however, the small car with the rear-mounted, air-cooled engine became genuinely cool . . . helped in large measure by witty and understated ads.

And though Ford initially disputed VW's claim to the production record, no one disputes the Beetle's claim to a special place in our popular culture.

After all, there's a Beetle behind the Beatles on the cover of "Abbey Road." Woody Allen paid tribute in his 1973 time travel movie "Sleeper." And Disney cast the Beetle as the star of the "Herbie the Love Bug" films.

The last of the original-design Beetles was built in Mexico in 2003, five years after the debut of a newer and more futuristic Beetle, which has just rolled into model year 2013.

Today, the Beetle is fourth in the all-time production rankings . . . behind the Toyota Corolla, the Ford F-Series, and Volkswagen's own Golf.

As for the Model T, nearly 86 years after production stopped, the Tin Lizzie still finishes as Number Eight.

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