The Love Bug has brought smiles to faces of all ages since Herbie the lovable Volkswagen Beetle first turned a wheel on the silver screen in 1969. In all good racing movies, iconic cars are featured so prominently that they become characters. The Love Bug is the epitome of how that’s done right.
Even if you’ve never seen The Love Bug, there’s still an excellent chance you know the adorable white Volkswagen Beetle with the big number ‘53’ on its hood and larger-than-life personality. Produced by Disney in 1969 and directed by Robert Stevenson, the film follows down-on-his-luck race driver Jim Douglas and his adventures with a sentient Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie. The pair work together to defeat the evil Peter Thorndyke in the grueling El Dorado race. Like many famous movie cars, Herbie has become a cultural mainstay that many think of as soon as they see a classic Beetle.
And it’s not just Herbie that’s culturally significant — the film itself went on to gross a massive $51,264,000 at the USA box office and was the third highest grossing film over a two-year period. It spawned four sequels — Herbie Rides Again, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, Herbie Goes Bananas, and Herbie: Fully Loaded — with Fully Loaded being something of a reboot, arriving in 2005 with Lindsay Lohan as Herbie’s co-star.
7 Fun Facts About Herbie
- Herbie’s number ‘53’ came from Dodger’s pitcher Don Drysdale. Producer Bill Walsh was a big Dodger’s fan and a particular fan of Drysdale. Walsh wanted to honor Drysdale by giving Herbie the same number.
- When The Love Bug debuted, it was the second highest-grossing Disney film ever. Earning over $51 million at the box office, The Love Bug was second only behind Mary Poppins in terms of revenue. Quite a feat for a little Beetle!
- Thank Buddy Hackett for the name ‘Herbie’. Famous comedian and actor Buddy Hackett, who played Tennessee Steinmetz in the film, is credited with coming up with the name Herbie. Hackett had a skit about a German ski instructor, he cracked a joke about a “hoy-bee”, and the name was born.
- Herbie is a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle Deluxe Sunroof Sedan. It was painted pearl white (called Pearlweiss by VW) with a special non-reflective gray interior that was easier for the cameras to film.
- The Love Bug was Walt Disney’s final live-action film. Unfortunately, Walt Disney passed away two years before the film was released, but he greenlit the project and oversaw production.
- Dean Jones plays two characters in the film. Jones, who played the lead role of Jim Douglas, also played the hippie at the drive-in. He personally requested the part and was initially turned down by the director.
- The film is based on the story Car, Boy, Girl by Gordon Buford. While very few (if any) copies of Buford’s story exist, it’s speculated that Disney purchased the rights to it before Buford could get it published. Either way, his story lives on and is beloved to this day.
Should You Drive Herbie Today?
There are few cars as iconic as the Volkswagen Beetle. And while the original Beetle is certainly desirable, for those interested purely in automobile safety and reliability, it’s probably not a vehicle you want to take out on the road today. Technology, safety standards, and manufacturing methods have come a long way since the 1960s, making new cars superior in every way when it comes to driving safety. Perhaps cars of Herbie’s era are best left to collectors or museums.
If, however, you have a vintage machine that you want to keep on the road, Protect My Car’s Ambassador Policy covers almost any vehicle, no matter its age or mileage. The Ambassador Policy can help reduce repair costs, secure a rental car, and provide 24/7 roadside assistance.
Other Famous Cars in Movies
While cars in movies don't get much sweeter or more memorable than good ol' Herbie, films from across the decades have given us numerous iconic vehicles that have captured our hearts and stirred our imaginations. Check out this PMC blog post on a few of Herbie's famous silver screen counterparts.
A Worthwhile Disney Classic
The Love Bug is a Disney classic that endeared a generation to the timeless lines and endless charm of the Volkswagen Beetle, and it has been delighting children and families for nearly 50 years. If you’ve never seen it, what are you waiting for?