On December 8, 2014 the classic car marketplace website Bring a Trailer listed one of the Herbie Volkswagen “Love Bugs” for sale. It was discovered a few years ago in a Florida warehouse where it was stored for many years. As part of the ad’s picture gallery there were photos from the the car in use in the 1977 film “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo.” Our eagle-eyed Citroënvie member Larry Lewis saw the ad and immediately spotted a Citroën DS in background! Way-to-go Larry!!
This particular Bug was originally built for the second film in the movie series, “Herbie Rides Again,” which was filmed in 1972 and released in 1974, starring Helen Hayes, Ken Berry, Keenan Wynn, and Stefanie Powers. It was then used again in “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo,” starring Don Knotts and Dean Jones, who reprised his role from the original “The Love Bug” film as Jim Douglas. It romanced and danced with its equally famous love interest, a 1976 Lancia Scorpion named “Giselle” in the movie, through the streets of Monte Carlo where the film was made.
The car runs and drives. It’s a “bind drive car”, a Hollywood jargon referring to a vehicle that appears to be driving on its own. It’s a fairly common gag which can be seen anywhere from KITT in Knight Rider to the James Bond films, and is certainly utilized to the fullest extent in the Herbie movies. This specific car was the primary blind drive vehicle in both “Herbie Rides Again” and “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo.” Whenever you see Herbie driving “by himself” in either of these films, it is this very car. This was achieved by a driver crouched down in the rear of the car, with extended controls for the pedals, steering, and shifting. This car was seen “holding” flowers for the Lancia in its rear bumper.
By happenstance, this vehicle is very easy to spot in the film due to the engine lid being an odd combination of an early and late model Volkswagen Beetle decklid that has been welded together. This, coupled with the fact that this car is utilized so prominently in both films, has earned the car the endearing nickname “Funky Decklid Herbie” in the Herbie and movie car community. It is still not entirely understood why the Disney effects team made this “funky decklid”, but it seems to have been related to a gag involving a flipping license plate that didn’t end up making it into the film.
For each film, Disney prepared a handful of Volkswagens that were all identical in appearance. Each car served a different purpose, such as one that was set up to squirt oil on the traffic director’s foot. That same car also housed the valuable “star of Joy” diamond in its exterior gas cap, after the heist in the movie. The vehicles were so similar that they were given identification numbers.
Amazingly, the “bragging rights” this car can claim go even further. This very vehicle is the ONLY automobile in history to have had its tire tracks imprinted in cement outside of the world famous Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California.
Upon locating and confirming the authenticity of this car, it was sent to a known movie car restorer, Dan Miller (Red Barn Restorations) who worked diligently with the former Disney special effects technician who actually worked on the films originally to rebuild this vehicle to its former glory.
The car has been made operable by restoring its unique drive gear and everything else necessary to make it safe and reliable, yet to maintain the integrity of its movie patina, leaving the car original as seen in the movies. This car is, by and large, unrestored and in original, screen used condition.
There are only four original clean Herbies in the world that remain in unrestored condition, and this is one of them. Another belongs to the Volkswagen museum in Wolfsburg, Germany.
This car retains its original Disney California title, or Pink Slip as they’re called, which lists the vehicle’s VIN, purchase date from 1972, and “DISNEY WALT PRODUCTIONS” as the owner.