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Famous movie cars: Herbie - the great VW Beetle

Famous movie cars - VW Beetles
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J in Douglas loves classy cars. A fast Lamborghini would be just the thing for the ambitious racing driver from San Francisco. Instead, he got stuck with this shabby little imported car: the VW Beetle just didn't leave Jim's side when he was actually looking for a stylish sports car in Peter Thorndyke's luxury car dealership. So Jim had to buy the Beetle - and quickly learns that the little car's strange life of its own certainly benefits him. Herbie, as the Beetle is called by Jim's friend Teddy, turns out to be a veritable racing car that drives circles around Ferraris and Corvettes and gives the so far unsuccessful racing driver Jim one victory after another.

New edition of the film Herbie with Lindsay Lohan

Despite Herbie's mimosa-like bitches - among other things, he smashes a Lamborghini out of jealousy and tries to throw himself off the Golden Gate Bridge - the Beetle and Jim remain a team. In the end they win the El Dorado race together with Jim's girlfriend Carole and Teddy as mechanics on board. The success of the 1968 film “A great Beetle” led to numerous sequels, the most recent being “Herbie: Fully Loaded” with Lindsay Lohan in the most important supporting role.

Technically, the original Herbie was a pearly white Volkswagen Export model, built in 1963. The sun roof was part of the luxury equipment. The luxury of the export model was rather modest, but back then many of the basic models from the American manufacturers were not exactly lavishly furnished. For the US market, the Beetle had to be fitted with an additional protective bar above the bumper, which the car looked pretty good.

Most of the scenes were shot in the studio

That The interior of the car should have been white, but for the film it was painted matt gray so that it would not reflect the glaring film cameras. Most of the scenes for the early Herbie films were shot in the studio, which sometimes seems quite strange - in the first film you can clearly see that numerous street scenes in San Francisco consist only of painted backgrounds.

In the second Herbie -Film the beetle plays the protector of a peaceful grandmother who also lives in an old syringe house in San Francisco and is threatened by real estate speculator Alonzo Hawk. As always, the little car is grossly underestimated by its opponents. HerbieAlonzo makes hell hot and even appears in his dreams - as an Indian beetle that ties Hawk to the torture stake, and as a winged beetle armada that Hawk, like King Kong, hunts on a high-rise. At the end of the film, Herbie gets reinforcements: Numerous beetles, some in the brightly painted flower child look and one with a kissing couple in the back seat, go into business for themselves and help number 53 out of a tight spot.

Import cars were in San Francisco not uncommon

Import cars were of course nothing new in the USA in the 1960s - especially not in San Francisco, where alternative and intellectuals like to stand out from the establishment with unusual cars. The streets were still dominated by big American sleds, but year after year more “imports” spilled across the pond. Whether Fiat or Alfa, Mercedes or Porsche, Toyota or Datsun, Citroën or Peugeot - the choice was huge. A Corvette could not hold a candle to an agile Porsche, a Jaguar demonstrated cosmopolitan elegance. And a Mercedes was the ideal vehicle for anyone who wanted to show off their wealth, but not with a Cadillac.

The Beetle played a special role. He was neither fast nor elegant, anything but luxurious and as lost among the American cruisers as an insect in a herd of buffalo. With 34 hp, you could at best swim in the slipstream on the American highways, and the comparatively low consumption of 8.5 liters per 100 kilometers was not a real selling point, at least in the 60s. The nickname 'Bug' (beetle, insect, bug) was anything but friendly, even if the later nickname 'Beetle' (beetle) sounded nicer. Rear-wheel drive wasn't exactly all the rage in the US either, after all, in the early 1960s, Chevrolet put on its nose with the compact rear-engine model Corvair. American carmakers preferred to keep their hands off funny small cars, exceptions like the Nash Rambler confirmed the rule.

VW Beetle was chosen because of the passers-by

The original title of the first Herbie film (“ The Love Bug “) reveals how the Beetle got around the corner: as a cuddly car to love and as a sympathetic underdog, in which there were undreamt-of talents. Allegedly, the producer of the first Herbie film chose his main actor after the reaction of passers-by. He had several unusual cars parked in a parking lot and watched how people reacted to the cars. Only the Beetle was so popular that you even caressed the bonnet.

As early as the 1950s, the Beetle proved to be a global export hit - in 1953 the car was available in 86 countries. “The export of the Beetle to the USA began in 1950 with a total of 328 vehicles,” says Volkswagen's history expert Dr. Manfred Grieger. There were almost five in totalMillions of beetles shipped across the pond. The export sedans and convertibles were followed by the 1300, 1302 and 1303 models. As early as 1958, VW was the largest importer in the USA, and in the 1960s a real “Beetlemania” began - strongly supported by the Herbie films. Even in 1973, more than 370,000 Beetles were sold to US customers.

However, the Beetle remained a “one hit wonder” in North America. The New Beetle could not continue the success of the cult ball, and certainly not the US golf. The New Beetle will soon be retired, but a successor should be in the starting blocks in 2011 - and will win hearts again in the USA. Herbie can't be beaten down.


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