It also made a name for itself for something completely opposite to its purpose. The 1963 Volkswagen Beetle starred as a racer named ‘Herbie’ in the popular franchise of films spanning almost four decades.
The original Beetle was designed by Dr Ferdinand Porsche in 1938, the Austrian engineer who also cars for Mercedes Benz as well as the first Porsche cars.
It came after a request from Adolf Hitler for a basic Volkswagen (literally ‘people’s car’), capable of transporting a family of five at 100kph. These new cars would be available to all citizens of the Third Reich through a savings scheme.
Production slowed significantly during World War II, and stopped in 1945 after the factory suffered damage from Allied Forces bombs. After being handed over to the British post war, it survived by producing cars for the British military.
British Army Officer Ivan Hirst is widely credited with saving the Beetle. After removing a potentially destructive unexploded bomb from the factory, he resumed production. Eventually the factory was handed back to the Germans, and Volkswagens became popular at home and beyond.
The 1963 Beetle was introduced with enlarged directional lights. It had a manual four-speed transmission and an engine that had a modest maximum power of 40BHP (24kW), but was still a very successful model with nearly 900,000 cars produced that year.
Nowadays restorations of the car are carried out, and are available for less than $10,000. Given its status as a classic car, when looking for car insurance quotes for the 1963 Beetle it is important to get an agreed value, as most companies are unwilling to insure them for what they are worth.
A local synthetic grass company in the Australia had the novel idea of covering their Beetle in Synthetic Grass. It took 3 months to cover the car with astroturf. The Sydney synthetic turf car drives proudly around Sydney.
The height of the Beetle’s popularity was in the sixties. It was this popularity that contributed to the 1963 version’s selection as Herbie in the Disney series of motion pictures that started with The Love Bug (1968) and five additional films; the most recent being Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005).
The Beetle first features in The Love Bug as a car that is acquired by unlucky racing driver Jim Douglas (Dean Jones), who quickly finds that it appears to have a mind of its own, seemingly capable of controlling itself and feeling emotion.
It also turned out to have a surprising turn of speed for an unimposing car, transforming Douglas’ fortunes and turning them into a formidable partnership, winning many races. Throughout the series of films Herbie proves to be a formidable racer, in addition to being involved in a number of adventures.
Herbie appears in a familiar livery throughout the series, with a fabric sunroof and blue, white and red stripes from front to back on a white background accompanied by a racing style ‘number 53’. In the 2005 film, to create the impression that Herbie could achieve top speed in reverse, the engineers took the body off the chassis, and placed in back facing the wrong way.