In 1961 in Wolfsburg, Germany a little turquoise car came into this world destine for a life beyond his wildest of dreams. The little car with a shape that was ugly to some and “cute” to others was purchased under the “car immigration” program and after vacationing in Germany with his new owner, he ultimately moved to America.
“The Bug” as he and his brothers were called by the Americans, spent his first few years bopping around California carefree and a child of the 60′s. Toward the end of the 60′s his first owner matured and decided it was time to move on to those bigger muscle cars. The little car was given up for adoption and he joined a family with five teenagers. Much to his horror these teens had a great deal to learn about not hitting immobile objects. His once shiny turquoise paint became dull and scratched and his cloth sunroof torn and dirty. His headlining flutter in the breeze and tore even more when the windows were rolled down. The springs from his seats no longer could control themselves and poked out of the once “breathable vinyl” upholstery. His fenders were bent and bruised and his shiny chrome bumpers were anything but shiny. At his lowest point, the teenagers painted him tomato orange, leaving his wheels and sunroof turquoise and installed yellow shag carpeting in his once well appointed interior. When the last of the five teens finished with him, the little “Bug” thought that his life was over. He truly was ugly and could not imagine anyone ever again thinking that he was “cute”. The spark was gone.
One day in mid 1971, the little bug was sitting rejected on the edge of the driveway, dirty, dusty, and broken. One of those zippy American cars pulled up, some horse name he thought – Mustang, with two people inside. The driver looked to be older than the passenger, and the passenger appeared to be one of those teenage creatures. They looked sort of nice but he didn’t want to get his hopes up. He had been through this “gig” before. They look, seem interested and then drive away, never to be seen again.
While the Mustang driver seemed very interested in the bug, the teenage girl certainly did not. As a matter of fact she seemed almost cold and hostile. (Years later she even admitted to the bug, that she had been horrified to see the little car her Dad had in mind to buy for her to drive to college.) Much to the little car’s surprise there was an exchange of money ($325) and he was being driven off to his new home. He was in such bad shape that only his emergency brake worked and his back bumper was so bent that his engine compartment lid could not be opened.
The first thing his new owner did was feed him some break fluid and chain his back bumper to a telephone pole. With gentle acceleration his back bumper slowly pulled away from his deck lid and his engine was tuned up to once again purr.
For the first time in a long time, the bug was given a bath and what was left of his interior was vacuumed, scrubbed and polished. The teenage girl seemed to be coming around and even started calling him “Herr B”. He didn’t know where the name came from but it had a nice ring to it. Over the next few weeks his fenders were straightened and trips to the “junkyard” resulted in bumpers and other body parts coming from donor bugs. He was given a new coat of orange paint, his wheels were painted black and white and his sunroof was replaced. “Herr B” looked and felt good again. He and his girl (Kiki) attended college, went on vacations and soon it was time to interview for their first “real” job. Herr B became an accountant. Once the money started coming in, he heard Kiki talking about buying another car. It was just a matter of time he thought, back to being ignored and sold off to another family. What he didn’t know, was that Kiki’s sister Bitzie was going to drive him and he was once again off to college. Kiki adopted a small British car name “Spittie” a 1979 Triumph Spitfire and Herr B and Spittie became fast friends.
In July 1984 Herr B heard talk that he was about to be sold again. He thought that things had been going OK. He and Bitzie seemed to get along just fine. He and Spittie were close friends. What went wrong? Little did Herr B know that Bitzie too was ready to move on to another larger car but Kiki wouldn’t let the little car be sold, at least not to some stranger. Kiki paid her Dad $325 and Herr B stayed in the family. That summer Herr B and Kiki spent a lot of time together as she prepared him for another paint job. This time Herr B was painted “corvette white”. He got a rebuilt bigger engine and a new transmission. His seats were rebuilt and recovered, new carpet, a new sunroof, he was a “new” car. And then the unthinkable happened.
Herr B and Kiki were on their way to batting practice and as Herr B waited patiently at the red light, an Orange Super B hit him from behind! Being hit in the back is not good for a bug as know and sure enough, Herr B was hurt. A horrible truck with an ugly hook came and took him away. He was lifted up and poked and prodded and told that his days were over. A mean insurance adjuster told him that he was “totaled” and would be taken to a place where his parts would be donated to other bugs. Herr B was scared. But he should have known better. The girl who once thought he was ugly and could not imagine herself driving him to college wouldn’t give up on her little bug. Before he knew it, he was taken to the car hospital and once again his fenders were straighten, his bumper replaced, his engine repaired and a fresh coat of paint applied.
In 1988 Spittie went away; his health had not been good for a number of years and much to Herr B’s joy, another German joined the family. “Beamie” a 1984 BMW joined the family. As Herr B got older, Beamie took on more of the driving responsibilities and Herr B became less active. Herr B still enjoyed spring drives and an occasional summer jaunt but when the chills of fall began to arrive, Herr B preferred to wrap up in his car cover and stay close to home.
In the spring of 2005, Kiki excitedly uncovered Herr B and gave him a complete spa treatment. Deep wash and extensive wax job. And then…. Kiki began telling Herr B about a cousin of his that was a very famous movie star. Herr B listened excitedly about a little bug that was a member of the Disney family and that had starred in several movies, a TV series, had numerous fan clubs and was loved the world over. His name was Herbie too, but it was spelled differently. She told him about how a new movie was coming out starring Herbie and how she had a surprise for her Herr B. She brought out a long skinny cardboard box and told Herr B to close his eyes for a few hours and not to open them until she told him to.
For nearly four hours Herr B kept his eyes closed really tight and when Kiki finally told him to open them, he looked at himself in the reflection of Beamie’s windows. It was the most miraculous thing that Herr B had ever seen. He knew that reflection; he had seen pictures of that reflection. There before his very eyes, was the car that he had heard about, seen in movie magazines and dreamed about being. Herr B saw Herbie! Herr B was Herbie! The little turquoise, ugly bug from Germany had become a famous movie star. He was famous and cute, but most of all he was loved. He was loved by Kiki and Bitzie and thousands of people all over the world.
Each spring, Kiki carefully wakes up Herr B from his winter sleep and gives him the full spring spa treatment. And every spring, Herr B greets his adoring fans and proudly takes his place on the freeways of California with cars that may be bigger and faster, but are certainly not as well known or as passionately loved.
Herr B dreams of someday meeting his real live movie star cousin. But in the meantime, Herr B enjoys the high fives and thumbs up, but especially enjoys seeing the smiles of a new generation of Herbie fans. Life is good!
The End ….. no, just another beginning …..
From: Karen Bradly