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History of Herbie The Love Bug

Herbie the Love Bug is a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of its own! The star of several Disney films, this quirky anthropomorphic motor has a very distinctive look. In most films he sports rather dashing red, white and blue racing stripes and a racing number “53”. He also has a black and yellow ’63 California license plate.

Bookish Beginnings to Film Fame

Herbie found fame on The Love Bug (1969) which was based on the 1961 book Car, Boy, Girl by Gordon Buford. Herbie was featured in several other Disney films following his immediate popularity with audiences. This new model of film franchise inspired many films thereafter, showing Hollywood bosses that once a film was proved itself once, variations of it are likely to prove popular too. Not to mention you already have a fan base!

Could’ve been Herbie the Toyota

The Love Bug follows the adventures of Herbie along with his driver Jim Douglas (played by Dean Jones) and Carole Bennet (played by Michele Lee). But it’s pure chance Herbie was cast as a Volkswagen Beetle, as this wasn’t specified beforehand. Disney actually set up a casting call for over 10 different cars to audition for the famous part.

Along with the Herbie we all know and love there were some Toyotas, a TVR, a couple of Volvos and an MG. In the end Disney went with the Volkswagen Beetle as it was the one that got most of a human reaction from the crew!

Logo Logistics

Despite being a Volkswagen car, the brand name, logo or shield isn’t actually in the film as Volkswagen didn’t initially allow Disney to use the name. There are a couple of slip ups (naturally!) and you can see the logo on the brake pedal in the first scene in which Herbie takes control of the car whilst Jim is supposed to be driving.

You can also spot it on the ignition key in the scene in which Jim is trying to shut down Herbie who is braking. In the following films the Volkswagen name is seen. Possibly because sales of the Beetle were down during this period and Herbie was certainly a good chance for brand promotion!

Costume Changes

The next film out after The Love Bug was Herbie Rides Again (1974) where his blue stripes were switched up for a dark navy hue. Next up was Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977) where he sports wide racing wheels and Monte Carlo racing stickers on the window. In 1980 Herbie Goes Bananas was released where he needed rust painted on. The made-for-television version of The Love Bug came out in 1997 and most recently of all Herbie: Fully Loaded was released in 2005. His latest role required several costume changes which his look changing drastically from scene to scene!

Smashing World Auction Records

In April last year a Herbie car was sold for $126,500 setting a new world auction record for a Volkswagen Beetle! The model was used for filming in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo and Herbie Goes Bananas. Specifically, it was the vehicle which squirts oil on the traffic policeman’s foot! As the market for collectable cars and movie memorabilia continues to grow, we reckon it’s a good investment! 

Offbeat  09/02/2016 09:13:22

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