There’s a good number of globally famous movie and TV cars — KITT, the Ghostbuster’s ECTO-1, Tony Danza’s hovercar/submarine from Who’s The Boss — but there’s one that probably has more recognition than all the others combined: Herbie the Love Bug. And now, the last unrestored movie Herbie is for sale — for over $50,000.
Actually, it’s up to $50,000 on eBay now, and the reserve still isn’t met — so who knows what this may end up going for. There’s only four unrestored movie Herbies left, and this one seems to be the last one available for purchase.
This Herbie was originally built for the second Herbie movie in 1972, but was used most extensively in the 1977 film Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. This particular 1963 Beetle was labeled “CAR NO. 3” and was one of the ‘blind-drive cars’ — that means this one could be driven with a hidden driver, giving the illusion that the car was driving itself.
The hidden driver rig is amazing both for the clever simplicity of it and the relative crudeness of its execution. Essentially, it consists of a rudimentary seat being built in the rear footwell of the gutted interior, and shop-made extensions for the pedals and steering column. The gearshift was relocated to right in front of the transmission, which I bet made the shifter feel much better, since about 90% of the length of the control shafts have been removed.
All the modifications have the competent but unrefined look of studio mechanics looking to get something done quickly and within a budget. Clearly, they worked well, though exactly how the driver was supposed to see isn’t clear. There’s a cutout in the front left wheel well where maybe the driver could see?
In the Monte Carlo movie, Herbie was sporting a single foglight that I’ve heard housed a camera for a hidden driver. It’s possible the driver crammed down there may have had a small TV monitor to use for driving the car, as well.
This particular Herbie is also notable because it was known as the ‘funky decklid Herbie’ because it, well, had a funky decklid, or engine cover. The decklid appears to have been cobbled together out of a ’68 upper three-quarters with a ’63 or ’64 lower quarter, with a ’63 license plate light stuck on (a little bit too high). It’s not clear why this was done, since proper decklids shouldn’t have been hard to source, though some say it’s from a revolving license plate gag that was cut.
The most incredible thing about this car is the remarkably original condition it’s in. It was lost for years, turning up eventually in a Florida warehouse, and managed to avoid retrofitting into a ‘proper’ Herbie show car or any restoration in all that time.
This Herbie is also the one used to set its tire prints in concrete in front of Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, so that’s a big deal, too.
I hope that whoever ends up buying this bit of cinematic history respects it enough to preserve it as is — the world doesn’t need another pristine Herbie clone, and a working blind-driver movie car like this, even in its rough interior condition, is a far more interesting artifact.
Plus, with modern cheap electronics, you could hide a camera on the front and run it to a nice big LCD down there in the back and have some real fun in this, making what appears to be a driverless autocross car or something.