A well-loved Love Bug
Hollywood is fickle, even for a plucky little car that wears its heart on its fender.
The recent Pixar films might wish you to think otherwise, but no other car has won as many hearts as a little ’63 Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie.
Dean Jones, one of Disney’s most popular actors in the 1960s and 1970s, was cast as the lead in the 1968 film The Love Bug, but it’s clear that the real star of the film and the franchise was Herbie. A feisty little car with a mind of his own, Herbie was fiercely loyal to his friends and a romantic at heart (not above locking a guy and gal in a car if it could push their relationship along).
The film is as much a love letter to the Volkswagen Beetle as anything else. Though it’s hard to imagine any other car with the personality to carry off the film, filmmakers considered lots of other makes, including foreign cars like Toyotas and Volvos. While they kicked the tires and tried the steering wheel on lots of models, the little Beetle was the only one they pet as if it were alive, thus sealing the car’s fate.
And certainly Beetle owners everywhere will attest to there being something special about the car, as mentioned in the film:
“They make 10,000 cars, they make them exactly the same way, and one or two of ‘em turn out to be something special. Nobody knows why.” Jim Douglas (Dean Jones)
The film itself is something special too. The story was the last live-action film green-lit by Walt Disney before he died and it was a huge success when it hit theatres. The film made over $51 million by 1969, which works out to about $282 million in today’s dollars, and it spawned five sequels and a short-lived TV show.
Herbie continues to ride on as Beetle owners and Love Bug fans worldwide pay tribute to the adorable little car by recreating its racing stripes and iconic number 53. If you see him, give him a honk and a wave from us.
Did you know? Herbie gets his number 53 from Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Don Drysdale (Dodgers).