The newest addition to the illustrious list of four-wheeled film stars to cross the Barrett-Jackson block
It was a casting call like no other. Outside the Burbank, California, Walt Disney Studios in early 1968, a dozen or so cars were lined up in anticipation. There were a handful of Toyotas, a TVR, a few Volvos, an MG and a Pearl White Volkswagen Beetle. Members of the crew walked by the aspiring movie stars for a closer look, kicking tires and checking the steering wheels to assess handling capabilities. It is said that when the rough and tough crew members came across that Beetle, however, they actually began to pet it – and a star was born.
“The Love Bug,” also sometimes known as “Herbie The Love Bug,” was a huge success in 1968, leading to three subsequent films in the original series starring the anthropomorphic 1963 Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of its own. Naturally, there were quite a few “Herbies” used in the films, although only a few remain in existence.
Crossing the Barrett-Jackson block at the 2015 Palm Beach Auction in April will be a particular 1963 Volkswagen Beetle Sunroof Sedan (Lot #394). Known to movie-going public as “Herbie” and to Walt Disney Productions as “5916,” this car is better known in the loyal Herbie community as the “oil squirter,” as it was designed to squirt oil out of the passenger-side wheel well (particularly famous for doing just that on a police officer’s foot in the 1977 film “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo”).
Unlike many of the Herbies, this one actually drives, and was used for both driving and interior shots during its Hollywood career. This Herbie retired after his final appearance in 1980’s “Herbie Goes Bananas” and was sold into private hands. The famous car was later purchased by Arthur Porter, who had the car restored to its “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo” appearance and piloted it in many vintage car races until the year 2000. Herbie spent the next few years relaxing in museums. The next owner, Doug Kaufmann, saw to it that Herbie’s interior was restored to its “Monte Carlo” state, and reinstalled the bumpers, which had been removed for vintage racing events.
This well-documented Herbie has an 1835cc engine with dual Kadron Solex carbs, has had a full mechanical service and is ready to roll again.
With his appearance at Palm Beach, Herbie joins an illustrious list of four-wheeled film icons that have had starring roles at previous Barrett-Jackson auctions. Some are from movie classics, like the 1926 Hudson Speedster from the 1940 movie “The Grapes of Wrath,” starring Henry Fonda (sold at the Scottsdale 2010 auction for $55,000). Who could forget that 1949 Hudson Commodore 8 from the 1990 film “Driving Miss Daisy,” starring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman? It fetched $66,000 at the Scottsdale 2014 auction. And there’s the 1966 Ford Thunderbird from 1991’s “Thelma & Louise,” which stars Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon drove over the edge of the Grand Canyon. Selling for $71,500 at the Scottsdale 2008 auction, the car had one particular passenger of note during the course of the film: Brad Pitt, in his first major motion picture.
Car stars from cult classics have always proved popular at Barrett-Jackson, as was witnessed at the Scottsdale 2015 auction, when the 1958 Plymouth Fury from the 1983 movie “Christine” sold for $198,000, and the 1955 Chevrolet Custom from 1971’s “Two-Lane Blacktop,” starring James Taylor and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys, which fetched $159,500.
What’s an action-adventure movie without a great fast car? Barrett-Jackson has seen an abundance of silver screen specials cross the block – from the 1967 Pontiac GTO Custom from the 2002 film “XXX” starring Vin Diesel and Samuel L. Jackson (sold at Palm Beach 2011 for $28,600) to several cars from the popular “Fast & Furious” movie series.
Most popular were the 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Custom from 2006’s “The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift,” which went for $187,000 at the Orange County 2010 auction, and the 1969 Dodge Charger Custom featured in two films: 2009’s “Fast & Furious 4” and 2011’s “Fast Five.” That Charger sold for $95,700 at the Scottsdale 2013 auction.
So keep an eye out for yet another famous movie car, Herbie, at the Palm Beach auction – but remember: he’s known for having a mind of his own. He may well take that journey across the block all by himself!