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"Herbie the Love Bug" redirects here. For the TV series, see Herbie, the Love Bug. For other uses, see Herbie (disambiguation).
Herbie the Love Bug
A line-up of vehicles modeled after Herbie at a VW rally at Stanford Hall, UK.
Nationality American
Occupation Racing car

Herbie is an anthropomorphic 1963 Volkswagen Beetle, a character that is featured in several 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 also 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 lettering "OFP 857".


Herbie's origins are firmly established in The Love Bug (1969). He was bought from Peter Thorndyke's showroom by San Francisco socialite Mrs. Van Luit for her upstairs maid, but returned shortly afterwards due to reliability problems, and purchased by race-driver Jim Douglas (Dean Jones), who had earlier stood up for him against the pompous Thorndyke. Tennessee Steinmetz (Buddy Hackett), Jim's friend and housemate, names the car "Herbie" after his uncle Herb, a professional boxer whose broken nose greatly resembled the hood of a Volkswagen Beetle.

In Herbie Rides Again (1974), Herbie has been left to Tennessee's widowed aunt, Mrs. Steinmetz (Helen Hayes). Mrs. Steinmetz and her granddaughter, 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.

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, after Herbie falls in love with a Lancia Montecarlo named Giselle 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 fuel tank.

In Herbie Goes Bananas (1980), Douglas has retired from racing after the Monte Carlo race and leaves Herbie to his nephew, Pete Stancheck (Stephen W. Burns), who plans to enter Herbie in the Brazil Grand Primeo race. In the interim, Herbie befriends an orphan named Paco (Joaquin Garay, III), with whom he wreaks havoc onboard 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", 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 Herbie and opens a driving school in the TV series Herbie the Matchmaker.

1963 Herbie replica with accurate details.

Hank Cooper (Bruce Campbell) becomes the owner of Herbie in the 1997 made-for-television movie The Love Bug. Here Herbie's origins are explained: 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, 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 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, competing in many races and even working as a taxi at one point, until he is bought by Maggie Peyton (Lindsay Lohan) in Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005), eventually to compete in a demolition derby and NASCAR races. In this film, Herbie falls in love with a yellow Volkswagen New Beetle.


Box office performance[edit]

Title Year Worldwide Gross Rotten tomatoes
The Love Bug 1969 $51,264,000 * 75%
Herbie Rides Again 1974 $29,000,000* 80%
Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo 1977 $29,000,000* 67%
Herbie Goes Bananas 1980 $18,000,000* 40%
The Love Bug 1997 TV film
Herbie: Fully Loaded 2005 $144,133,816 41%
Total/averge rating $280,626,816 52.6%
  • no foreign data

Television series[edit]

Genre comedy
Starring Dean Jones
Country of origin USA
Original language(s) English
Running time 60 minutes
Original channel CBS

A television series, Herbie, the Love Bug or Herbie the Matchmaker,[1] was aired in 1982 on CBS, Dean Jones reprised his movie role for the series.[2] Five episodes were made:[3]

  • "Herbie the Matchmaker" — original air date: 17 March 1982 (also known as "The Love Bug")
  • "Herbie to the Rescue" — original air date: 24 March 1982
  • "My House Is Your House" — original air date: 31 March 1982
  • "Herbie, the Best Man" — original air date: 7 April 1982
  • "Calling Doctor Herbie" — original air date: 14 April 1982


The title of the film, Herbie the Matchmaker, comes from when all five episodes are shortened together to form the 2 hour movie.

Other appearances[edit]

  • In 1990, Herbie made an appearance in the second season of the 1980s revival of the Mickey Mouse Club.
  • An animated version of Herbie made a brief cameo in two episodes of House of Mouse.
  • Herbie appears as a wreck split in two that is later fixed and resprayed at the beginning of Superbug Goes Wild.

Guises and paint schemes[edit]

Herbie's appearance remained consistent throughout the first four film entries as well as the 1982 television series (Herbie the Matchmaker). 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.[4]

The Love Bug (1968)[edit]

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.[5]

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.[5]

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 VWs logos were removed to avoid any trademark conflicts.[5]

Herbie Rides Again (1974)[edit]

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 would remain so until 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.[5]

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, whose sales of the Beetle were seriously lagging. 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.

Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977)[edit]

In Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, the car is again fitted with wide racing wheels (Goodyear GT radials), and also 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.[6] With the addition of the fuel filler, the antenna is now a retractable unit fitted on the front cowling, near the windshield wipers. Herbie still sports the hood-mounted Carello fog light with an added black cover sporting the company name. Throughout this film, Herbie has a later asymmetrical-shaped door mirror. There were a total of nine VWs used in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. Many of these cars were recycled for use in Herbie Goes Bananas.[5]

One of the many "rusted" Herbies of Bananas.

Herbie Goes Bananas (1980)[edit]

In Herbie Goes Bananas, the hood-mounted light and silver gas cap was removed. He still had his gray bucket seats, the Goodyear GT Radial 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 is painted on. The car that "walks the plank" in the movie was never recovered from the sea. It was tossed overboard from the SS Cozumel 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 once in the film by the garage owner. 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.

The Love Bug (1997)[edit]

In the made-for-television film, The Love Bug, 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 racing tires used in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo and Herbie Goes Bananas and the seats were regular.

Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005)[edit]

2005 Fully Loaded version of Herbie

In Herbie: Fully Loaded, Herbie went through several "costume changes" throughout the movie, changing his style dramatically from scene to scene.

  • Again, the font of the 53 is different, and it is slightly bigger and lower down on the front hood. The racing stripe is also missing once more from the sunroof.
  • For the "street racer" look, Herbie has a brighter white paint, a whale-tail rear spoiler, intake vents ahead of the rear wheels, lowered suspension, wider tires and a windowed rear engine cover through which blue LED lighting shows.
  • During the demolition derby, Herbie is stripped down with no interior panels, racing seats or special body parts. The sunroof cover has been removed, although the cutout remains to play important roles during the derby.
  • For the "NASCAR" look, Herbie gets a new, more off-white paint job, NASCAR sponsor decals, a different duck-tail rear spoiler, wider NASCAR tires and matching wheel wells.

More than 30 different Herbies were used during the shooting of this film.[5] One is on display at the Volo Auto Museum,[7] and another one used during the NASCAR racing segment of the film is preserved at the Peterson Automotive Museum.[8]


  1. ^ "Herbie, the Love Bug" (1982) at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present. Ballantine Books. 2003. p. 523. ISBN 0-345-45542-8. 
  3. ^ Herbie, the Love Bug Episode List, Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ lovebugfans.net/faq
  5. ^ a b c d e f List of Herbie movie cars
  6. ^ vw-resource.com/years
  7. ^ "Volo Auto Museum Cars for Sale - Herbie Fully Loaded". Volocars.com. Retrieved 2013-01-01. 
  8. ^ "Petersen Automotive Museum: The Vault". Petersen.org. Retrieved 2013-01-01. 

External links[edit]