Thanks to Nursing Student, ‘Herbie’ of ‘Love Bug’ Fame Rides Again
Story by Bob Romantic
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
If you’ve seen this vehicle around campus – and who hasn’t? — chances are you had the same reaction as two members of GCU’s landscaping crew when they wandered by a photo shoot for this story:
Rebecca Bradley gets that a lot.
The sophomore nursing student draws plenty of attention when she’s driving her 1968 Volkswagen Beetle. The car is a little rough around the edges with faded decals and pinstriping, but it is still the spitting image of the “Herbie” vehicle made famous by the 1963 Disney movie “The Love Bug.”
The pearl white paint job, red-white-and-blue racing stripes from the front to back bumpers and racing-style No. 53 on the front hood are easily recognizable even to the most casual of movie buffs.
“I like the fact that it’s Herbie,” says Bradley, 19. “Even though it’s horrible in the summer because it’s so hot and there’s no air conditioning, I just like having a classic car. Not many people can say ‘I have a classic car that is awesome.’”
Cars with character “Herbie” got us thinking: What other cars on campus show a little character? Click here for a slideshow of what we found.
Bradley’s father, James, came across “Herbie” on Craigslist in March when he was shopping for a car for Rebecca. The Bradley family already owned one themed car – a Geo Metro painted to the likeness of the “General Lee” vehicle made famous by “The Dukes of Hazzard” TV show.
“He was looking for a slug bug, a VW bug, but he saw this car and was like: ‘This … must … happen!’” Rebecca says. “Any car is fine with me as long as it moves forward and backward and won’t break down. He just likes to be the people who stand out. With the little General, people are always telling him ‘Your car is so cool,’ so he just wanted another one.”
Rebecca is fine with that. She’s well aware of the original “Love Bug” movie. In fact, she grew up on old movies.
“Both my parents love old movies,” Rebecca says. “My dad’s from Ohio; we would go back there and they have this grand theatre. It looks like a stage theater but it’s a movie theatre. You get all dressed up for it and they play old movies. That’s the first time I saw the old ‘Sabrina’ movies with Audrey Hepburn. And ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s.’ I just love them. I like black and white movies, too … the classics.”
The original “Love Bug” movie — starring Dean Jones, Michele Lee and Buddy Hackett — is about a spunky little VW that has a mind of its own, can drive itself and somehow outperforms race cars in competitions. It spawned the sequel “Herbie Rides Again” in 1974, followed by two more sequels, a TV series and a 2005 remake starring Lindsay Lohan and Matt Dillon. There are also at least four websites and a Facebook page devoted to “Herbie” fans.
Rebecca says some people kid her about her car by saying, “You’re like Lindsay Lohan!” – referring to the troubled actress. “And I’m like, no, I’m not!”
Rebecca’s “Herbie” car gets many different reactions.
Some people will honk, which startles Rebecca before she turns and sees someone giving her a thumbs-up sign.
Another time she was driving on the freeway when a girl pulled up alongside her and, with both hands off the wheel, took her picture. “That was scary because I thought she was going to hit me.”
And once, when she was at a Walmart parking lot, “Some guy pulls up next to me and says, ‘I’ll give you $10,000 cash for your car.’
“I’m not sure exactly what we paid for it, but it was nowhere near that. But I would never sell it, even for more than that. It’s too much fun. … I’m going to keep this car forever.”
There are also people who don’t get it and will ask, “Why is the No. 53 on your car?”
“How can you not know who Herbie is?” Rebecca says. “Everybody knows Herbie. … I wish my car would wink, or drive itself. That would be really cool.”
But even if her car doesn’t take on a life of its own, it brings Rebecca much enjoyment – faded paint job, lack of air conditioning, 163,000 odometer reading and all.
“When we go someplace, most of my friends are like, ‘We should take your car. Your car is fun.’ It doesn’t get the best gas mileage, so it’s not fun to go far. But I like driving it, so I’m OK with that.”
Contact Bob Romantic at 639.7611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.