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Herbie car.jpg
An original Herbie used by Disney for the filming of Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo
First appearanceThe Love Bug
Make/ModelVolkswagen Beetle
In-universe information
OccupationRacing car
NationalityGerman American

Herbie, the Love Bug is a fictional sentient anthropomorphic 1963 Volkswagen Beetle, a character that is featured in several Walt Disney motion pictures starting with the 1968 feature film The Love Bug. He has a mind of his own and is capable of driving himself, and is often a serious contender in auto racing competitions. Throughout most of the franchise, Herbie is distinguished by red, white and blue racing stripes from front to back bumper, a racing-style number 53 on the front luggage compartment lid, doors, and engine lid, and a yellow-on-black '63 California license plate with the registration "OFP 857".


Herbie's origins as a racing car are firmly established in The Love Bug (1968). Before the events of the film, he was bought from the showroom of Peter Thorndyke (David Tomlinson) by San Francisco socialite Mrs. Van Luit for her upstairs maid, but returned the car shortly afterwards due to reliability problems. He was then purchased by race driver Jim Douglas (Dean Jones), who had earlier stood up for Herbie when Thorndyke kicked him. Tennessee Steinmetz (Buddy Hackett), Jim's best friend, mechanic and housemate, names the car "Herbie" after his uncle Herb, a middleweight boxer whose nose got shaped more and more like a Volkswagen Beetle, then makes Herbie a racing car.

In Herbie Rides Again (1974), Herbie has been left to Tennessee's widowed aunt, Mrs. Steinmetz (Helen Hayes). Mrs. Steinmetz and her displaced neighbor, Nicole Harris (Stefanie Powers), try to save her house from being bulldozed by Alonzo Hawk (Keenan Wynn) with the help of Herbie. During the film, it is explained that after several successful races with Herbie, Douglas entered foreign racing circuits while his sidekick Tennessee is residing in Tibet to help his ailing instructor. During the film, it is revealed that Herbie has befriended other sentient VW Beetles and these team up with him to defeat Hawk, and we learn of the existence of other sentient objects (briefly hypothesized by Tennessee in the first film), such as Mrs. Steinmetz's self-playing orchestrion.

By Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977), Douglas enters Herbie in the Trans-France Race and recruits mechanic friend Wheely Applegate (Don Knotts) to assist him. Herbie falls in love with a Lancia Scorpion named Giselle (who is also sentient, although Jim, Herbie, and Wheely are the first to discover it) and Douglas with her driver Diane Darcy (Julie Sommars). Herbie also finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time when the stolen Etoile de Joie diamond is hidden in his gas tank.

In Herbie Goes Bananas (1980), Douglas has retired from racing after Monte Carlo and leaves Herbie to his nephew, Pete Stancheck (Stephen W. Burns), who plans to enter Herbie in the Brazil Grand Primeo. In the interim, Herbie befriends an orphan named Paco (Joaquin Garay, III), with whom he wreaks havoc on board the cruise ship the Sun Princess, prompting the overzealous Captain Blythe (Harvey Korman) to force Herbie to "walk the plank". Having fallen into the ocean, Herbie is rescued by Paco and disguised as a taxi, later to stop a gang of con artists from stealing ancient Inca gold. Early in their partnership, Paco gives Herbie the nickname "Ocho" because he can't understand Herbie talking through his horn. Ocho is the Spanish word for the number 8; purportedly because the digits 5 and 3 in Herbie's racing number, 53, were combined to produce "8" (5+3 = 8) and possibly to rhyme with "Vocho", the Beetle's colloquial name in Mexico.

After the Mexico debacle, Douglas takes in Herbie and opens a driving school in the TV series Herbie, the Love Bug. There, Douglas meets a woman named Susan MacLane and her three kids: Julie, Matthew, and Robbie, with the kids become friends to Herbie, But a business man named Randy Bigelow wants to get rid of Herbie and Douglas and get Susan back since they broke up during their wedding.

Hank Cooper (Bruce Campbell) becomes the owner of Herbie in the 1997 made-for-television movie The Love Bug. In this alternate sequel to the original film that ignores all others, Herbie's origins as a sentient Volkswagen Beetle are that an elderly German engineer named Dr. Gustav Stumpfel was building Herbie when a picture of his deceased wife fell into a vat of molten metal; with Stumpfel's love for her animating Herbie. During the film, Stumpfel is forced to build an evil Volkswagen counterpart to Herbie, "Horace the Hate Bug", from a sample of Herbie's original metal. Horace's personality is influenced by the narcissism of Herbie's former owner Simon when he has a picture of himself dropped into the metal vats, and kills Herbie during the film. Cooper buries Herbie, but the return of Jim Douglas sets Cooper to rebuild the fallen Love Bug (with the help of the repentant Dr. Stumpfel) and have him race against Simon and Horace. In this race, Herbie ultimately divides himself in half (as in the original film) to win the race.

Over the years Herbie is passed down from owner to owner (including someone named "Maxx", who left his driver suit inside the hood), competing in many races, until he starts losing constantly to newer and faster cars, and later found by a tow truck driver in a garage and carried to Crazy Dave's scrapyard and, later, bought by Maggie Peyton (Lindsay Lohan) in Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005). He is later modified, becoming a 2002-cc-engined car and participating in various races, from a demolition derby to the final race of the Nextel Cup Series. Herbie eventually falls in love with a Volkswagen New Beetle (which, at the end, is revealed to be a sentient car too).

Appearance in media

Herbie has been the central character of five theatrical-release films, a made-for-TV movie, and a short-lived television series.

Film series

Film Release date Director Runtime Box office gross (as of 2017)[1]
Domestic Domestic adjusted Worldwide
The Love Bug December 24, 1968 Robert Stevenson 108 minutes $51,264,000 $312,277,200 N/A
Herbie Rides Again June 6, 1974 88 minutes $38,229,000 $176,834,700 N/A
Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo June 24, 1977 Vincent McEveety 104 minutes $29,000,000 $111,721,400 N/A
Herbie Goes Bananas June 25, 1980 98 minutes $18,000,000 $57,776,900 N/A
The Love Bug November 30, 1997 Peyton Reed 88 minutes — TV film —
Herbie: Fully Loaded June 22, 2005 Angela Robinson 101 minutes $66,023,816 $89,096,100 $144,146,816
Total $205,516,816 $747,706,300 $280,639,816+

Television series

A television series, Herbie, the Love Bug,[2] was aired in 1982 on CBS. Dean Jones reprised his role as Jim Douglas for the series.[3] Five episodes were made.[4]

Other official appearances

Unofficial appearances

  • Herbie has an unofficial appearance along with Maggie Peyton (portrayed by "Fully Loaded" actor Breckin Meyer) in a segment of Robot Chicken titled Horny Robot Redux. In the segment, he is a New Beetle rather than an original Beetle and has animated eyes and a mouth.
  • Herbie has a brief cameo in episode 195 of American Dad!, "Stan Smith as Keanu Reeves as Stanny Utah in Point Breakers", where he helps Stan Smith escape from poachers and wolves. In the episode, he has incorrect stripes and different 53 font.
  • The Herbie film series spawned a knockoff series of Superbug films. A white Beetle, split in half and numbered 53, makes a cameo in the first film of the series, though its name is never mentioned.
  • Herbie had a cameo in The Simpsons episode "Beyond Blunderdome" in the Movie Car Museum.
  • Herbie makes an appearance in Forza as a paint job for the 1960s Beetle.
  • Two of the liveries available for the "BF Weevil" (The Grand Theft Auto equivalent of the Beetle) in Grand Theft Auto Online are based on Herbie.

Guises and paint schemes

Herbie's appearance remained consistent throughout the first four film entries as well as the 1982 television series. There were only minor, subtle changes. The 1997 TV movie and Herbie: Fully Loaded featured major overhauls in Herbie's appearance, as there were different production crews working for Disney by this time.

In order to create the effect of Herbie driving himself, Disney concocted a detailed system of sprockets and pulleys connected to a second steering column under the front seat for a rear seat driver. There was also a second set of pedal assemblies, clutch cables and a shifter extension. In The Love Bug, the rear seat driver sat low enough to see over the windshield but still out of the view of the camera. For Herbie Rides Again and Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, Disney installed a hood-mounted Carello fog light that concealed a small camera which allowed the rear seat driver to view the street and sit lower.[5]

The Love Bug (1968)

Original film car used in The Love Bug
Original film car used in The Love Bug

In the original film, The Love Bug, the original racing stripes differ from those in later movies; the stripes do not cover the valances or louvers of the car and the blue is a lighter shade. Also, Herbie features color-keyed running boards, while in later films the running boards are standard black.[6]

During the film, depending on the scene, the wheels change from standard VW wheels (although fitted with plain hubcaps with no VW logo) to specially widened wheels on the racing Herbies. During one scene (when Tennessee is hanging out of the window), the "53" logo (a.k.a. "gumball") on the passenger-side door is missing. The door is also cut along the lower edge at an angle to enable the car to tilt over to the right on two wheels.[6]

One of the modified racing Herbies featured a Porsche 356 engine, brakes and KONI shock absorbers. All Herbies in The Love Bug had the VW badges removed from the hood and featured plain non-VW hubcaps. The hood-mounted VW logo was replaced with a plain disc of the same diameter, colored to match the body. All VW logos were removed to avoid any trademark conflicts.[6]

Herbie Rides Again (1974)

Fan-made Herbie replicas at Stamford Hall
Fan-made Herbie replicas at Stamford Hall

In Herbie Rides Again, Herbie features revised racing stripes, with the original blue switched to a dark navy. In addition, the stripes were applied over the valances and louvers, and the front hood was recycled for 1982's television series Herbie the Matchmaker. Herbie also received a hood-mounted Carello fog light, and his running boards were now the more conventional black.[6]

Additionally, Herbie was running on standard wheels yet again. Volkswagen also promoted the film by having a Type 1 Beetle, complete with Herbie livery, in every showroom. There are various model errors in this film, such as the later "big window" (post-1964) Beetles being used. Also of note is the "cut-n-shut" engine cover after the warehouse break-in. The Beetle used was a late model, having a more bulbous flat-bottomed lid with an earlier rounded bottom edge welded on.

After the success of The Love Bug, the film was heavily endorsed by Volkswagen, which was in financial trouble at the time, when Beetle sales in North America were considerably lower than in previous decades. As such, the company insisted that the VW logos appear on Herbie. Both the hub cap VW logo and hood-mounted VW logo were reinstated at the company's request.

Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977)

In Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, Herbie is again fitted with wide racing wheels (Goodyear GT radials), and has an external fuel filler cap. Post-1967 Beetles did feature the fuel tank accessible on the right side behind the fender; the silver cap itself, however, was fake and added for the film's storyline.[7] With the addition of the fuel filler, the antenna is now a retractable unit fitted on the front cowling, near the windshield wipers. He has a roll cage again, and he has Monte Carlo racing stickers on his windows (one on the front window, two on the left back window, and one on the rear window). Herbie still sports the hood-mounted Carello fog light with an added black cover sporting the company name. He now has gray bucket seats instead of stitched seats. Throughout this film, Herbie has an asymmetrical door mirror. There were a total of 9 VWs used in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. Many of these cars were recycled for use in Herbie Goes Bananas.[6]

Herbie Goes Bananas (1980)

In Herbie Goes Bananas, the hood-mounted light, the grey roll cage bar, the Monte Carlo racing stickers and the silver gas cap were removed. He still had his gray bucket seats, asymmetrical door mirror and his Goodyear GT Radial racing tires and rims, and Herbie's sunroof was the original light gray rather than the dark gray from Monte Carlo. The rust seen on the car in this film was painted on some of the Herbies. The car that "walks the plank" in the movie was never recovered from the sea. It was tossed overboard from the "M.N. Coromuel" ferry ship (not The Sun Princess cruise ship). The car is somewhere between La Paz and Baja California. The car thrown overboard was not a proper car and had many wooden parts.

Herbie Goes Bananas also featured the same later model door mirror as Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. Herbie set a Guinness World Record as the first car to go through the Panama Canal during filming in 1979. Herbie's name is only mentioned 3 times in the film by the garage owner, apart from the two times Herbie honks his horn at Paco trying to say his name when Paco couldn't understand what Herbie was saying.

Some of these Herbie cars were recycled for Herbie, the Love Bug in 1982.

One of the actual film cars used with its flip wheel chassis in the bullfighting scenes now resides in Sydney, Australia. Another one was displayed in the Cars of the Stars Motor Museum until the museum's closure in 2011. Since then its new location remains unknown.

Volkswagen ceased the sale of Beetles in the USA one year before the film's release.

2005 Fully Loaded version of Herbie, specifically his "Street Race" look
2005 Fully Loaded version of Herbie, specifically his "Street Race" look

The Love Bug (1997)

In The Love Bug television film there were some significant changes. The graphics used were copied from the 1974 Volkswagen of America decal kit, and the position on the front hood 53 was higher up. The racing stripes were different sizes, and the shade of blue reverted to the lighter version used in the original 1968 movie. The sunroof was a solid white (vs. gray) and was missing the racing stripes. Herbie's wheels were standard Beetle wheels, instead of the wider GoodYear GT Radial racing tires used in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo and Herbie Goes Bananas, and the seats were regular instead of the gray bucket seats he had previously had.

Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005)

Herbie at Electric Dreams Slot Car
Herbie "personality car" preserved at Electric Dreams Slot Car in El Segundo, California. This car remotely moves its eyes, bumper, hood, doors, visors, and antenna - giving it human-like characteristics.

In Herbie: Fully Loaded, Herbie, who in this film seemed to be able to show emotions mimicking a face, went through several "costume changes" throughout the movie, changing his style dramatically from scene to scene.

  • The font of the 53 is different, and it is slightly bigger and lower down on the front hood. The racing stripe is missing from the sunroof and the stripes are painted the way they were in the first four Herbie movies. Herbie's front licence plate is not present on his front bumper anymore.
  • For the "street racer" look, Herbie has brighter white paint, a whale-tail rear spoiler, air intakes in the front of the rear fenders, lowered suspension, no rear bumper, wider tires and a windowed rear engine cover through which blue LED lighting show. He is also shown to have a nitrous oxide system to boost his speed during the race against Trip Murphy.
  • During the demolition derby, Herbie is stripped down with no vehicle interior panels, vehicle racing seats or special street racing body parts. The sunroof cover has been removed, although the cutout remains to play important roles during the demolition derby. He still retains the same 53 logos on the sides that he wore in his street race look except with Targets or Bullseyes Sprayed over the Logos and the white paint and all vehicular modifications in his Street Racer Version were all dismantled and completely thrown away for good. He later gets red Bull's-eye targets spray-painted on his front doors and hood by Crash.
  • For the "NASCAR" look, Herbie gets a new, more off-white paint job, NASCAR sponsor decals, a different duck-tail rear spoiler, a roll cage, Goodyear Eagle NASCAR tires, wider fenders, no front turn signals, no back bumper, no passenger seat, & no back seat.

More than 30 different Herbies were used during the shooting of this film,[6] and three original cars are known to be on display. There is one at the Volo Auto Museum[8] in Illinois and two other vehicles in California, one fully motorized is preserved at the Peterson Automotive Museum[9] and a “personality car” at the hobby store Electric Dreams.[10] Both California cars were used during the NASCAR racing segment of the film.


  1. ^ "Franchises: Herbie the Love Bug". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 5, 2015.
  2. ^ "Herbie, the Love Bug" (1982) at IMDb
  3. ^ The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present. Ballantine Books. 2003. p. 523. ISBN 0-345-45542-8.
  4. ^ "Herbie, the Love Bug (TV Series 1982): Episodes". IMDb.
  5. ^ " - The Ultimate Herbie Community".
  6. ^ a b c d e f " - The Disney Cars". October 28, 2009. Archived from the original on October 28, 2009.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  7. ^ "The VW Beetle -- Changes Through the Years".
  8. ^ "Volo Auto Museum Cars for Sale - Herbie Fully Loaded". Archived from the original on January 24, 2013. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  9. ^ "Petersen Automotive Museum: The Vault". Archived from the original on March 17, 2013. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
  10. ^ "Home - Electric Dreams". Archived from the original on March 15, 2020. Retrieved April 12, 2020.
This page was last edited on 15 August 2021, at 07:49
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