Home Cars Surprising Facts About The Legendary “Herbie” Volkswagen Bug

Surprising Facts About The Legendary “Herbie” Volkswagen Bug

Cameron Eittreim October 6, 2023

The “Herbie” Volkswagen Beetle captured the hearts of a generation with its unforgettable adventures on the silver screen. But there’s more to Herbie than meets the eye. Beyond the distinct white racing stripes and lovable demeanor, the Herbie VW Beetle boasts a rich history that has left an indelible mark on pop culture. This spunky car made its debut in the 1968 film “The Love Bug” and quickly became a symbol of automotive joy and enthusiasm. The original Herbie, a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle, was sold at an auction for $126,500.

Herbie was known for his unique personality, displaying emotion through the positioning of his headlights and lovable horn honks. These playful quirks added a layer of endearment to the character that resonated with audiences worldwide. In this article, we’ll peel back the nostalgia and uncover the untold stories, quirks, and surprising tidbits that make this car an enduring symbol of automotive magic. So, fasten your seatbelts and join us to discover the unexpected facts about Herbie, a truly one-of-a-kind Volkswagen Beetle.

Photo Credit: Hagerty

There Was a Chance Herbie Wouldn’t Be a Volkswagen

Although the Volkswagen Beetle fit the personality of Herbie quite well, there was a rumor that it almost didn’t happen. Producer Bill Walsh had a few other ideas in mind for the movie. There was a Toyota, Volvo, and even an MG lined up. But when all was said and done, the Beetle seemed to fit the part perfectly. The spunky little car, looking back, was a great choice. The Herbie franchise wouldn’t have been the same without the Beetle (via Auto Evolution).

Photo Credit: Hagerty

The fact that there were a few options for Herbie just further complicates the complex history of this car. Nevertheless, the Herbie VW Beetle is by far one of the most iconic movie cars of all time. The cute little Beetle changed the way that we looked at the iconic Volkswagen. Before Herbie, there wasn’t a modern racing franchise associated with the car.

Photo Credit: Mecum

More Than One Original Herbie

Although the original Herbie was an iconic ride, it wasn’t alone. During the production of the movie, there were at least 50 Volkswagen Beetles that were used. These cars all had different purposes and scenes such as the racing scenes and the general driving scenes. You wouldn’t think that it would take that many clones of a car to shoot a film, but it did (via Slash Gear).

Photo Credit: Ideal Classic Cars

The original Volkswagen Beetle was an iconic car and millions were produced. A movie that was as in-depth as Herbie needed a lot of doubles to cover the stunts and driving scenes. Another reason for the multitude of VW Bugs during production was the fact that the air-cooled car was notorious for overheating and breaking down. Having an adequate level of backups was crucial to make sure that the filming remained on time and on point.

Photo Credit: Slash Gear

You’ll Notice Something Was Missing

Everybody knew what Herbie was. But, if you look closely at the movie scenes you’ll be able to tell that something very important is missing. The Volkswagen logo was nowhere to be found on the car. The production company didn’t obtain licensing from Volkswagen to use the logos in the film. Thus, Herbie was just Herbie. But to those who knew anything about cars, it was obvious what model it was. The Beetle is such an iconic ride that it doesn’t need a nameplate to establish itself (via AACA Museum).

Photo Credit: Slash Gear

The lack of a logo was not overlooked by most enthusiasts and they were quick to point it out. The Volkswagen logo was never a big part of the design of the Beetle. What made it iconic was the shape of the car. Known as the “people’s car,” the Beetle was a cute, friendly little car that changed the world. Herbie ended up influencing a generation of children who learned to love the movie and the car. There are also many endearing fans who’ve decided to decorate their own authentic Herbie cars.

Photo Credit: Mecum

A Real Herbie Isn’t Cheap

The important thing to remember about the original Herbie was the fact that there were only 50 of them ever built. This means finding an original wasn’t an easy task. But some enthusiasts loved the movie and scoured the world to find these cars in their original condition. One such example of the car was sold at auction for a whopping $318,900. The car was sold to Planet Hollywood and was the car featured in the movie “Herbie Goes Bananas” (via Britannica).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The results of this auction just go to show that enthusiasts will pay a ton of cash for a car they love. The original Herbie Beetle had a unique style and brought a lot of attention to the hip car. You’d never think of the Beetle as a race car but the Herbie movies changed that. With its white paint and iconic stripes, the Herbie Beetle was fun and had personality. This friendly little car lit up movie screens like other movie cars from the same era, but it did it with a wholesome feeling.

Photo Credit: Mecum

No White On White Paint Job

Herbie was a car that had an original factory paint job, the coveted L87 pearl white paint job. But unlike most factory Beetles, Herbie didn’t have a white-on-white interior. Instead, the interior was a special non-reflective gray. The purpose of the gray interior was to prevent reflection from the light into the cameras during shooting. Thus, anyone who owns a true authentic Herbie model will be treated to an interior color that you’ll never see in a factory Beetle model from this era (via Frasier Engine).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The original Volkswagen came in a lot of colors that were unique to the nameplate. Some were quite noticeable like the yellow ones, while others were quite mild-looking, like the pearl white ones. The film crew dressed Herbie up with a red white and blue stripe scheme and the iconic number 53 on the sides of the car. There was no denying that Herbie was indeed a race car; it had all the unique attributes of one. This is one reason why the movie ended up resonating with a new generation of fans.

Photo Credit: Mecum

Where Did The Name Come From?

Herbie was a unique name and probably one of the most interesting TV car names ever created. Where did the name originate from? The name was created by Buddy Hackett’s comedy skit. The famous comedian once said, “If you ain’t got a Herbie, I ain’t goin.” Among the other choices on the table were Bugboom, Magic Volksy, and The Runaway Wagen. The movie had a lot of interesting titles on the table, but there was just something about “Herbie” that stuck with filmmakers (via MeTV).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The Volkswagen was called “The Peoples Car” for a reason. It connected people to affordable transportation in the same way the Model T did. Naturally, using the bug for a children’s movie was a smart move because the car was friendly and inviting. Herbie changed the game when it came to children’s movies and the car ended up being its own star. There will never be another Herbie and the nameplate will remain an iconic piece of automotive history thanks to the wonderful story and fun car.

Photo Credit: Mecum

Some Original Herbies Had a Porsche Engine

Since the original Volkswagen was already designed by Porsche engineering, it wasn’t uncommon to see a Porsche engine jammed into one of these from time to time. And that’s what happened during the filming of the original Herbie flicks because the stunt scenes were too much for the factory engine to handle. The movie crew utilized a 90-horsepower 1600-cc twin-carburetor flat-four engine for the models that were used in the stunts and racing scenes. The result was a car that performed considerably better, especially on video (via Auto Evolution).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The Porsche engineering was an adequate first step in giving the car some real power. A factory Beetle just didn’t have the pep to deliver when it came to a real racing scene. The directors knew that but the design of the car fit the movie so well that they found a workaround. Thus, some original Herbie models are floating around that utilized a true Porsche engine under the hood. Finding one of these cars is a special experience and sure to leave a lasting impression on whoever ends up owning it.

Photo Credit: Mecum

Real Racecar Drivers Were Used in The Movie

Perhaps one of the most unique things about the original Herbie movie was the fact that real race drivers were used in the production of it. Carey Loftin was the stunt driver in charge of the production and was acclaimed in the industry. That’s why most of the scenes have such a realistic feel to them because the drivers were well-trained to do this. The main thing that people talk about when they remember the Herbie movies is just how fun to drive the car looked like it was (via Auto Evolution).

Photo Credit: Mecum

The sheer detail that went into every shot made the movie extremely enjoyable. Plus, who can forget the awesomeness of the striped Beetle racing across the screen? There is something about the Herbie franchise that’s extremely special. The car had a nice touch of reality coupled with a feel-good story, and most of us remember that.

Photo Credit: Mecum

What Did #53 Mean?

If there’s one thing people remember about Herbie, it’s the #53 on the side of the car. But why exactly did the directors go with #53? Well, the number had some significance to it. The producer Bill Walsh had a fixation with baseball and his favorite pitcher wore that number. The number belonged to the legendary Don Drysdale. The colors were chosen because of the patriotic theme, which gave the car an inviting look and went with the factory white paint job (via Auto Evolution).

Photo Credit: Barn Finds

That just makes Herbie even more special of a franchise because every bit of the car was unique. From the one-of-a-kind paint to the thought that went into every detail of it. Herbie was a special piece of movie history and something that a selection of fans are still holding onto.

Photo Credit: Star Cars TN

Where Did The License Plate Come From?

Maybe one of the most unique facts about Herbie was the license plate and where it originated from. The letters “OFP 857” were seen throughout the movie on a black standard California license plate. But, was there a meaning for that, or was it just a random plate? It turns out that the plate did have some meaning to it. The lettering stood for “Our First Production 8-57”, which was a nod to ‘The Love Bug’. The fact that this little easter egg was evident throughout the movie franchise is quite interesting (via Auto Evolution).

Photo Credit: VW Owners

There was no shortage of unique features when it came to the original Herbie. The car had a lot of love from the entire production crew, and the quality is evident when you watch the movies. The Beetle created a cultural phenomenon when it hit the market and that appeal can be seen in the movie when it hit the theaters.

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