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Smart Summer shows: Driving America connects the VW Beetle and Hitler

Driving is fun. When we’re not stuck in traffic and just cruising down back roads or along beaches we’ve never visited before, driving can feel like the most freeing thing in the world.

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Without our cars, it would take weeks to get across the country to that crazy convention we love so much. Without our beloved wheels, it’d make trips down through Florida to visit our families take even longer than they already seem. And, if you take time to think about it, you’ll realize that the automobile really hasn’t been in our lives all that long.

Driving America is coming to the National Geographic Channel to fill us in on the automobile’s oh-so-short history. We’ll go from a time when having the one and only kind of car available was a true luxury to times when multiple manufacturers raced to come up with the ultimate muscle car. This may sounds geeky and, OK, it is. But it’s worth it, and it’s entertaining.

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You’re not just settling in for another yawn-worthy war documentary with this awesome special, y’all. This is cool stuff, smart stuff and stuff you never knew. Who do you think invented the assembly line? I guarantee it’s not the name you were taught in school. And the first car? Steam-powered. That’s the kind of stuff worth knowing for when you finally test onto Jeopardy. But it gets better when Driving America dives into the history of specific cars. Take, for instance, the Volkswagen Beetle. America has had a love affair with the adorable little brightly colored bug since the 1970s, but most Americans might reconsider their affection if they knew why the Beetle even existed. Turns out the Beetle was originally commissioned by Hitler. Yikes! Then again, the next time someone in a sports car asks you what you drive, you can tell them you drive a Porsche and it won’t be a complete lie. When Hitler decided he wanted a car for the people, he turned to Ferdinand Porsche.

If you want to find out how the Beetle almost became extinct after the war, though, you’re going to have to tune in to Driving America Monday nights at 9/8c. And, trust me, you know you’ll want to watch.

Want to keep your brain working and keep collecting more knowledge? Some studies suggest that kids forget a third of the knowledge they learned in school over their summer vacations. Imagine how much we’ve lost since graduation. Our Smart Summer series is designed to highlight awesome but still educational shows that’ll help keep your brain ticking without making you fall asleep. Check back for all our latest finds.

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