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The Love Bug was the first in a series of movies made by Walt Disney Productions that starred a white Volkswagen racing Beetle named Herbie. It was based on the 1961 book Car, Boy, Girl by Gordon Buford. The movie follows the adventures of Herbie, his driver Jim Douglas (Dean Jones), and Jim's love interest, Carole Bennett (Michele Lee). It also features Buddy Hackett as Jim's enlightened, kind-hearted friend, Tennessee Steinmetz, a character who creates "art" from used car parts. English actor David Tomlinson portrays the devilishly evil Peter Thorndyke, the owner of the auto showroom and a SCCA national champion who sells Herbie to Jim and eventually becomes his racing rival.

Four theatrical sequels followed: Herbie Rides Again, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, Herbie Goes Bananas, and Herbie: Fully Loaded. A five-episode TV series, Herbie the Matchmaker, aired on CBS in the United States in the spring 1982. In 1997, there was a made-for-television sequel which included a Dean Jones cameo, tying it to the previous films. The latest entry Herbie: Fully Loaded, was released on June 22, 2005, by Walt Disney Pictures.

At Walt Disney World's All-Star Movies Resortmarker in Orlando, Floridamarker, Herbie has been immortalized in the "Love Bug" buildings 6 and 7.

The Love Bug was the highest-grossing film of 1969.


Jim Douglas is very short on cash after losing his car in a demolition derby. His friend Tennessee has disassembled his Edsel car. Jim goes to purchase a cheap car and stops at Thorndyke's, admiring his Jaguar XKE (aka "The Thorndyke Special") on display. Jim's attempt to haggle with Thorndyke results in a dislike between the two. Suddenly, a beige Volkswagen Beetle appears in the room. Thorndyke thinks its trash fit to be crushed, but Jim speaks openly against and tries unsuccessfully to buy it for $75.

The next morning, Jim is surprised to find the Beetle outside his house, and Thorndyke suspects him of theft. At Thorndyke's, Jim protests the accusation and suggests Thorndyke put the car there to set him up. With Carole's help, Jim is able to get the car using his rent payment. As Jim tries the car out, it acts on its own and he understands why the previous owner sent it back to Thorndyke. He drives it back, but Carole persuades Jim to give it a chance and goes in with Jim, forgetting about her dinner with Thorndyke.

Eventually Carole is also convinced that the car acts by itself. Jim is impressed with the car for its speed, and hopes he can use this car for winning races. Tennessee lectures Jim about the car's ability to feel and express emotions, which Jim dismisses. Jim manages to get in his first race, the car with the number 53 on it. Tennessee decides to call the car Herbie after his Uncle Herb and fuels and motivates the car while Jim drives.

After Herbie wins the race, Thorndyke offers to buy the car, which Jim declines. On the second race with Thorndyke included, Herbie wins and Thorndyke is convinced that Jim's winning is ridiculous and there is something strange about the car. Herbie wins race after race, keeping Jim's finance steady and making Thorndyke look a failure. Thorndyke directs Carole to drive Jim in his fancy car while he investigates the secret of Herbie. Thorndyke has a friendly chat with Tennessee while he inserts Irish coffee down Herbie's fuel tank. Halfway in the next race, Herbie breaks down from the Irish coffee, making Jim lose and Thorndyke win. Herbie splodges Thorndyke with Irish coffee before leaving.

While Jim goes off, Tennessee tries to comfort Herbie. Carole comes in to make up for her deceit having left Thorndyke, and she helps clean Herbie's fuel lines. Jim comes back with a new red car, a Lamborghini, making Tennessee and Carole angry that he intends to sell Herbie to Thorndyke, and Jim thinks they've gone nuts. Outside, they find Herbie smashing Jim's new car in envy. Jim hits Herbie with a shovel, but Tennessee manages to convince him by telling him straight that Herbie won the races and not him. Thorndyke comes to collect the car, but Jim refuses and realises Thorndykes knows Herbie can feel. Tennessee points out that Herbie has driven away, upset with Jim.

Jim goes on his own around the city looking for Herbie while Thorndyke and his men capture Herbie to destroy. Herbie manages to get away while Jim chases him. Herbie accidentally destroys a grocery on his way. Jim has almost given up hope when he sees Herbie heading for the Golden Gate Bridgemarker. Herbie is intent on dropping himself in the river thinking no one sympathises for him. Jim convinces Herbie not to when he nearly falls to his death and Herbie saves him. At the vehicle impoundment, Jim is charged by the Chinese grocery owner Mr. Wu for the damage caused. Tennesse who has had experience in Chinese language and culture reasons with Mr. Wu that the car is the same famous racing one. Mr. Wu wants the car instead of payment. Jim agrees but makes a deal that Mr. Wu let him drive Herbie in the El Dorado race and if he wins, Mr. Wu gets the prize money and Jim can buy back Herbie for a dollar and Mr. Wu agrees to these conditions. The race, which takes two days to complete, goes up one mountain and down another in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.

The next day, Herbie is ready to race, and Thorndyke, too, is in the race. As the race starts, Herbie has to cross a stream of water the hard way; however, Thorndyke gets in the trouble with a black bear. Soon, Herbie runs out a fuel and his petrol tanks have been replaced with water by Thorndyke. Mr. Wu's men arrive and carry Herbie on a load to the depot. Thorndyke leads Herbie and the other cars into a mine, but Jim finds an exit, and Herbie shortcuts Thorndyke. When Thorndyke bumps into Herbie, his right front wheel comes off. Thorndyke had sabotaged the right wheels and cut up the spare tyre earlier. Thorndyke wins the first half of the race, in Virginia City, Nevada, while Herbie becomes disabled.

Late at night, Herbie finally reaches the finish line, running on a cart wheel. Mr. Wu has given up hope for Herbie and is resigned to hand it to Thorndyke. When Thorndyke nastily insults Herbie, the car tries to run him over. This changes Mr. Wu's mind to give the car one last chance in the second lap of the race. Because Herbie came last place, he is forced to begin the race minutes after all the cars start, but Herbie shortcuts every car, even Thorndyke's.

Midway through the race, Thorndyke keeps attempting to bump off Herbie, managing to push the car into a tree. As the car catches up, Thorndyke blocks Herbie's route with a fallen tree. Herbie traps Thorndyke for a short time under his hood. The race between Thorndyke and Herbie becomes fierce as they near the finish line. Herbie splits into two with Tennessee at the back. Herbie barely reaches the finish line winning first and third place. Having failed to follow conditions in his deal with Mr. Wu, Thorndyke loses his car company to Mr. Wu and is forced to act as employees to Wu. Jim and Carole have just been married, and Herbie has been fixed, and they leave for their honeymoon.


* Billed in opening credits, but not closing credits; not credited with specific rôle on-screen. Andy Granatelli, the Association president, appears as himself. Other parts which can now be identified are as follows: Ned Glass (Toll booth attendant); Robert Foulk (Bice); Gil Lamb (Policeman at park); Nicole Jaffe (Girl in dune buggy); Russ Caldwell (Boy driving dune buggy); P.L. Renoudet (Policeman on bridge); Brian Fong (Mr. Wu's nephew – Young Chinese man carrying Herbie); Gary Owens (Announcer); and Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez (Mexican driver).
† Billed in opening credits, but not closing credits.

Production history

Dean Jones credited the film's success to the fact that it was the last live action Disney film produced under Walt Disney's involvement, just two years after his death in 1966. Although Jones tried to pitch him a serious straight-forward film project concerning the story of the first sports car ever brought to Americamarker, Walt suggested on a different and much better car story for him, which was Car, Boy, Girl, a story previously written in 1961 by Gordon Buford.

However, before the film began production, the titular car was originally unintended to stuck as a Volkswagen Beetle, which was why Disney set up a casting call for a dozen cars trying to audition. (They kept them outside the studio so the crew can examine them during breaks, before inevitably casting the car.) In the lineup, there were a few Toyotas, a VR, a handful of Volvos, an MG and a pearl white Volkswagen Beetle. The crew walked to each car to try cast them, but they kept testing them by kicking the tires and tease with the steering wheels of each one to see how they handled. When they came across the humble Volkswagen, they reached out and petted it, as it was innocent, calm, gentle and friendly.

The car was later given the name "Herbie" from one of Buddy Hackett's skits about a ski instructor with a funny accent. At the end of the skit, Hackett would say "If you ain't got a herbie (pronounced hoy-bie), I ain't going". Herbie's trademark 53 racing number was chosen by producer Bill Walsh, who was a fan of Los Angeles Dodgers baseball player Don Drysdale (Drysdale's # was 53). Walsh also gave Herbie his trademark red, white and blue racing stripes presumably for the more patriotic color and came up with the film's gags such as Herbie squirting oil and opening the doors by himself.


  • Even though it did not get special thanks in the credits, some of the racetrack scenes were shot at the Riverside International Racewaymarker in Riverside, Californiamarker.
  • The opening scene of the demolition derby cars was actually stock footage from the film Fireball 500, which explains, for example, the shot of Jim Douglas' 4B car toppling over on its roof before crashing down.
  • Some parts of the racing sequences from The Love Bug were later reused for Herbie's dream sequence in Herbie Rides Again, responding to Grandma Steinmetz's telling of Willoughby Whitfield that he used to be a famous racecar.
  • The driving sequences were supervised by Carey Loftin, who — as Cary Loftin — would go on to play the unseen menacing truck driver in Duel.
  • The hippie in the van next to Carol who talks to her ("We all prisoners, chickie baby. We all locked in.") when she is trapped inside Herbie at the carhop is actually Dean Jones disguised in a wig and glasses.
  • A scene shot, but not included in the final cut of the film, presumably for time reasons, featured Jim calling at a used car lot prior to his visiting Thorndyke's auto showroom. This missing sequence has long since been lost; all that now remains is the script and a single black-and-white photograph of Jim talking with the salesman at the lot.
A well-known publicity photo for The Love Bug.
Note that the "53" racing number is missing from Herbie's open door.
Disney used this botched photo heavily in advertisements.
  • A scripted but unfilmed scene toward the end of the film was to have shown Herbie playing with children at a nearby playground prior to taking the newly-married Jim and Carole off on their honeymoon. The script of this never-shot sequence still exists, along with the original storyboard.
  • For the first and only time in The Love Bug series of films, Herbie has his own cast billing in the closing credits: "and Herbie". He is only one of two cars to be credited in a film; the other is Eleanor (a Ford Mustang) from the original Gone in 60 Seconds movie.
  • During one scene in the movie, Herbie has lost one of his wheels, and Tennessee is hanging out of the passenger side door to balance him. The door opens, and there is no "53" logo on the door. Without realizing the mistake, Disney used the image to heavily promote the film.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the "Thorndyke Special" is an Apollo GT, not a Jaguar XK-E (E-type). (The Apollo GT was a short-lived American sports car designed by Milt Brown and built in Oakland, Californiamarker from 1962 to 1965. Its body styling was heavily influence by the Jaguar XK-E, as well as cars by Enzo Ferrari, so the confusion is understandable.)
  • Mr. Wu said that it was like being pulled by 40 horses, when he and the others were dragged along the dirt by Herbie. A Volkswagen Beetle actually produces in factory configuration.
  • Car, Boy, Girl, The Magic Volksy, The Runaway Wagen, Beetlebomb, Wonderbeetle, Bugboom and Thunderbug were among the original development titles considered for the film before the title was finalized as The Love Bug.
  • Although it is obvious to most viewers that Herbie is a VW Beetle, all "VW" logos were removed from Herbie in the first movie, nor was his brand name mentioned anytime in the script, perhaps a result of Disney's not obtaining license from Volkswagen, to use its trademarks in the film. Sequels of this film do, however show Herbie with logos and "VW" as well as "Volkswagen" are mentioned.


  1. "Wheels on Film: The Love Bug"
  2. DVD commentary, The Love Bug, 2003

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