The Love Bug Reunion

love-bug-reunion

Josh MortensenBy Josh Mortensen

After our feature of the Apollo GT, we received an email from Tory A. about a VW Beetle he recently bought out of an old warehouse in Pennsylvania. As it turns out, Tory’s car is the very one that starred in The Love Bug. In this scene both cars can be seen with the Thorndyke Special towing Herbie off a cliff. Ironically, both of these famous movie cars were once forgotten, but have since been saved. Continue reading to learn more about this Love Bug’s long journey from the big screen into disrepair, and now back to the road again.

herbie-junkyard-car

Unlike the Apollo GT, this bug went on to be used in the next Herbie movie, Herbie Rides Again. It was painted yellow and played the role of the Junkyard car. After filming, it went on display as part of the World of Wheels car show. Eventually it was retired and put into storage. It was purchased by the Swigart’s Auto Museum in ’97, but it was simply moved from one warehouse to the next.

love-bug-as-found

Tory has carefully cleaned off all the yellow paint to reveal the pearl white Herbie paint. Other than replacing the stripes and the numbers, he has decided to leave the body as is. He replaced some of the missing interior pieces, got the motor running, and sorted the brakes out. Even though the motor was seized, he was able to break it free with some Marvel Mystery oil and it is now running and driving.

junkyard-bug

This Beetle suffered considerable damage from its jump, but amazingly most of the damage was simply cosmetic. Disney often reused cars, so this Bug’s rough appearance made it perfect for the role as the Junkyard car. In some ways, it’s sad that in the process of preserving it, much of that chapter of its life was erased.

love-bug

Tory has done an amazing job preserving this Herbie and we are glad it’s back on the road. We just wish we could get it and the Thorndyke Special back together for one more hill climb. A special thanks goes to Tory for sharing his story with us. If you want to learn more about what all he has done to the car, be sure to visit his thread on The Samba.

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Comments

  1. David

    I went to Cruising The Coast this past October,(Look it up, it’s really cool), and they had the movie Bug from one of the Herbie movies. It’s headlights flickered and it’s doors opened on their own and it talked. They also had a matching bus to go with it.

  2. Don Andreina

    Great job, Tory. Keeping the movie-made dings looks right and certainly boosts the provenance. Another point, too often I see race numbers restored in the wrong typeface – even MB with ‘722’ – so thanks for pleasing my fetishist side.

  3. Jaime

    This car has a solid roof, yet Herbie had a sunroof, so how does the owner explain that? It is a unique car in that the movie history adds to the value, but that one item makes it difficult to agree that it is the same car.

    • Albert

      Not all of the cars used, needed to be real sunroof cars.

  4. Greg

    How did you get the yellow paint off without ruining the original white paint underneath?

    • JW

      Aircraft stripper will take off one layer at a time, and no more.

    • DougM

      And also, I am sure in the movie industry when they added the second coat of paint, they did not do all the customary sanding and prep work, but probably just did a really quick application…which would make it even easier to remove the outer layer.

  5. Graham Line

    One suspects more than one ‘Herbie’ was employed by Disney in the making of the movies. I mean, there were at least three James Bond DB5s.

    • Fubeca12

      Yeah estimates have it at +50 Beetles used for the movies

  6. RJ Sottile

    The Swigart’s Auto Museum is worth stopping at if you ever make it to huntingdon PA. They have two Tuckers on display along with a bunch of other antique cars.

    • Chris

      They also have a herby from one or two of the later movies in excellent condition. It’s really cool to see, but I didn’t know they also had the original at one time, though. I’d really like to see the others they have in their warehouses–they unfortunately only put a dozen or so, if that–it’s been a couple years since I was there–on display, since that’s what they have room for, but they have an insane collection of awesome cars.

  7. David

    There were a lot of VW’s used in the movies. Here is a reference website.
    Take a look. Copy and Paste
    http://lovebugfans.net/disneycars.htm

    • 01j

      Holy Smokes! I counted over 50 Bugs used in the movies!

  8. Tory A.

    Very cool write up! Thanks guys! I figured the timing was perfect with the recent Thorndyke Special story! Yes, as someone pointed out above there was more than 1 VW used to create the character of Herbie. For The Love Bug 10 VWs were used during filming. Including the car I now own, only a handful are known to have survived. My particular car started out as a ’57 hardtop, but was modified to look like a ’63 sunroof car. If you watch the movie closely enough you can spot differences between the cars. Oh, and btw, Goof Off solvent is a miracle latex paint remover!

  9. Bob

    Certainly there were dozens of Herbies, but aside from the going off the cliff shot are these all the same car? The two garaged cars and the yellow junkyard car seem to be hardtops while the last picture looks to have a sunroof? What am I missing? Perhaps just a piece of vinyl to make it appear to be a sunroof car?
    Nice sympathetic preservation regardless.

  10. David

    It is estimated that there were close to 50 cars used in the first 4 films which does not include the latest “Fully Loaded” film.

  11. Don

    The movie car had a sunroof. the smashed 53 car and the yellow car do not.

  12. mike theriot

    Some of the cars used in the love bug had a fake rag top in it . The all were not the same year also.

  13. Tory A.

    Yes, Don. The car is a factory hardtop car. Not all of the scenes required cars with a functioning sunroof. My car did some pretty hairy stunts down Big Bear mountain while being piloted by Carey Loftin. In many of the scenes towards the end of the movie my car actually had 2 sunroof covers screwed to the top. The one on top being “scrunched up” to show damage. The car is the real deal. It’s still titled to Walt Disney Productions dated 1968. I got the original pink slip with the car when I rescued it…

  14. Bill (Melbourne, Australia)

    Great work – really enjoyed reading on the SAMBA as well. It must have been tough deciding – “Do I clean it – or rebuild it?” – I think you made the correct decision. It was no doubt helpful that they used latex paint for the yellow. HA – I do notice a nice new fuel tank – no doubt for safety reasons.

  15. Marc B. Greenwald

    Dear Readers,

    If someone can check the linage of this ‘Love Bug’ it will trace back to our father’s foreign car wrecking yard, Grand Prix Auto Parts in No. Hollywood, Ca. During the 1960’s through the mid 1970’s our father rented to Disney, NBC, Universal etc, etc…wrecked & rollers for various films and television show’s.

    Disney bought and or rented 6 of these from our dad. There were a few returned, in pieces such as the 2 piece’s of the special effects car when it split apart and so-on.

    So there you go…..

    Sincerely yours,

    Marc B. Greenwald
    Mitchell W. Greenwald
    Matthew E. Greenwald

  16. Tory A.

    Marc, thanks for chiming in! I’d love to hear more. Feel free to drop me a line at vwfreak53@yahoo.com

    I’m willing to bet my car is one of the cars from your father’s place. Reason being I found a VERY old service sticker in the door jamb from Hannig Import Auto Service in none other than North Hollywood.

  17. 53 Fan

    Back in the early 80’s a friend and I discovered several Herbies stashed in a small fenced off lot in the Lakewood, Ca (maybe Bellflower?) area. It was a long time ago and the memories are fuzzy. I recall one was a hardtop and had a section of the roof painted to look like a ragtop (might have had a ragtop cover screwed to the roof like mentioned above). One was converted from a Oval window to the larger back glass. I want to say one had the body spun around on the pan so the Bug had the engine in the front and rear steering? And I think one was set up so it could be driven without seeing the driver (low drivers seat and steering wheel with hole in dash and front hood to see out … might have been the backwards car?). Also there might have been one filled with foam or something to make it float better?

    Like I said this was over 30yrs ago. I do recall none of them seemed like they could be made road worthy or street legal again otherwise I would have done my best to track down the owner.

    Anyhow the point I wanted to make is that I have seen a hardtop Herbie with a faux ragtop.

    53 Fan

  18. Mark E

    I remember reading an article in a car magazine at the time of the movie that, to make the racing scenes realistic, a Porsche engine was transplanted in one of the Herbies…

  19. David

    That is true. A 356 engine was installed in one of the cars.

  20. Albert

    Actually it was a Porsche 912 motor. The car also had 356 brakes, some suspension modifications, and 15×6 wheels with Firestone Indy Special tires.

  21. rusty

    Wow this is great stuff..both resurfacing for this blog.

    Its a great thing you have done keeping its former character and not restoring [and I guess agonising over what to do] but only thing I could say I do feel its a shame that the later half of its performance/cinematic history has been erased to satisfy the want to have the most common but most famous version of this car [with so many lookalikes around made by adoring fans ]…though yours the only one with original “parking lot dents” [or lots of parking dents] hee hee.

    I cant help but feel the junkyard version should have been preserved as it is an equally important part of the cars history, now gone…how many famous cars get to star in two movies but as two different characters and yet so different from each other…

    but now your caring rejuvination is part of its history so document it well, for every car gains history thru every single owner..most undocumented..write that cars story so next owner creates the next chapter of its history whatever that may be. You had to make a decision and you were sympathetic to that version of it.

    Great it wasnt restored but returned.

    Restoring [to me] always destroys a cars history…especially when some one describes a restoration as better than new..haa haa..cringe

    interesting story both cars…keep em coming…

  22. Jim-Bob

    It’s cool to see that this car survived. Herbie is part of the reason that these cars have the iconic cultural status they have today and it is great to see that many of them survived. It’s good that this one “rides again” (sorry…I couldn’t resist.) as I feel leaving it as-is would have been a waste. Cars should be driven, even ones with such a iconic role in the development of their marque’s culture.

  23. Tory A.

    Thanks so much for the kind words! It was a really hard decision which route to go with this car. In the end, I’m happy with the way things turned out. I’ve left yellow paint and brush painted “faux rust” in a few key places on the car so as not to forget the junk car role it played. In the end, I wanted people to be able to identify with the car that was the reason many of the folks in my generation became car enthusiasts in the first place. So many of these cars were “over-restored” erasing the bumps and bruises they earned during filming. I wanted there to be at least one example of a still battered car from the first movie. With any luck, maybe someday I can get with the owner of the Thorndyke Special and have a long overdue reunion photo shoot!

  24. Jeremiah

    Tory – I’m wondering if your Bug might be the one they used for the scene when Michele Lee finishes fixing Herbie up and we see a gorgeous engine shot – right before Jum drives up with the Lamborghini. Certainly the ones they used for racing weren’t stick so it would make sense…based on my recollection of that scene I think it’s a strong possibility as it appears to be of the era of your engine and seems to match!

    The junkyard bug was always my favorite character in the Herbie movies…I am so thrilled you saved him!!!

  25. Erik O.

    Tory,too many fond memories came flooding back.Dean Jones and Buddy Hackett,Keenan Wynn,Helen Hayes,and a very young looking Stephany Powers. How they used to speed up the film when your car was doing the passing.
    But a couple of questions occurred to a Fellow Enthusiast.I always thought your car was the 1971 Super Beetle Model with the crank open canvass sunroof. I was told in a bar here it wasn’t,that it was ’69 with a Porsche turbocharger modification. I was also told that it ran a stock 2100 or 2200 cc engine. Were they entirely way off base or was I right?Ty for the memories and kindest reguards,Erik O.

    • Albert

      The Love Bug was filmed in 1968 and released in 1969. And the Super Beetle (which is a completely different chassis architecture from a Beetle didn’t come out until the 1971 model year. If you read some of the replies above, there was one Herbie built with a Porsche 912 motor. Porsche turbos weren’t even available then. The was one Herbie that ran a Judson supercharger, separate from the Porsche powered one. So who ever told you that was off base.

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