Like a surprising number of gearheads, one of the key elements in my childhood car-loving development was watching the original Herbie movies. My friend Tory Alonzo takes being a Herbophile to another level: he actually owns the oldest surviving original movie Herbie. But when he finally decided to sell it, he found that there’s lots of people out there who don’t get it. And they need to tell everyone.
Some quick facts about Tory’s particular Herbie: this one was in the original 1968 movie, The Love Bug, and was pretty much the stunt-car of all the cars in the film. This was the Beetle that took the hard knocks, crashed through tire walls and plunged down embankments. That’s why it looks the way it does.
Interestingly, this Beetle started life as an oval-window 1957, but was given cosmetic surgery to look like the movie Herbie, who was a 1963, big rear window and all. Because this car was designed to be the tough guy, it’s got a roll cage and skid plates and heavy duty shocks and other bits.
It was used as a junker car in the sequel Herbie Rides Again, covered in latex house paint, which Tory painstakingly removed to reveal the original Herbie livery beneath. The car also has all the original Disney studio marking and modifications, and he even has the title from the era listing Disney as the owner.
All this is to say that if you give a damn about movie cars, this one has some serious pedigree and a whole folder full of corroborating materials. There’s a very good reason why Tory asked (and got) $85,000 for this very abused little Bug.
Of course, the internet, as wonderful and glorious as it is, is crammed full of jackasses. Tory got a little bonus reminder of that, which you can read here, in Tory’s own words about his experience selling his Herbie.
It all started Sunday morning with a decision I had been weighing for months. I’m sure most of the readers of Jalopnik can empathize with the plight of being a “car guy.” It’s very easy to acquire cars. Finding the space to store said cars is more often than not the downside to the hobby.
Watching episodes of Hoarders: Buried Alive never fazed me because unlike the 55-year-old single woman with 50 cats and a collection of the Omaha World Herald going back to 1972, my “stuff” had value. With the recent impulse buy of a Panhard Dyna Z, I was now officially out of space. My 1957 Herbie stunt car, currently on loan with the nice folks at the Antique Automobile Club of America, would end soon, and that meant buying another storage stall. Enough was enough. Something had to give.
So the painful decision was made this past Sunday morning to list Herbie for sale on the air-cooled VW fan site, thesamba.com. I spent a couple hours typing out a very detailed listing that would answer just about any and all questions a prospective buyer would want to know.
Since the car is still in Hershey, Penn. in the museum, I simply used pictures I had taken of the car months prior, pulling from different times I had the car out. (More on this apparent faux pax later.) I also submitted the ad to Bring A Trailer, one of my “go-to” car sites and a place I have bought a few cars from. (More on this later too.)
Within minutes the emails started coming in, some from as far away as Europe. Mostly they just wanted more detailed information about the car, requests for more pictures, things like that. I spent the better part of the afternoon answering friendly and encouraging emails from people who genuinely understood the significance of the car I was selling.
Long story short, by the end of the day a deal was struck with a private party for my full asking price of $85,000. As car deals go, one of the easier transactions I’ve dealt with. Little did I know the shit storm was just beginning.
Before I elaborate on what ensued AFTER the car was sold, I should fill you in on why I owned the car in the first place. For me personally, Herbie was what shaped me as a car guy. I’ve owned everything from an SR-powered 240SX, a Mitsubishi Starion, an AE86, a Porsche 928, you name it. But even when I dabbled in “other stuff,” I’ve always had a Volkswagen from day one.
As a kid when most of my peers were fantasizing about KITT or envying Magnum PI’s mode of transportation, I was transfixed on the white beetle with racing stripes and a 53 on all sides. I’m almost 40 now and in addition to countless VWs that have called my garage home over the years, I’ve also been fortunate enough to own a few of the original Herbie cars used in the movies. This latest Herbie was the last one I’ll likely ever own.
On Monday I woke up to a few random messages after having marked the ad “sale pending.” The excitement was winding down, or so I thought. Wednesday, the car’s listing hit Bring A Trailer, and the online crucifixion began.
As I began reading the (mostly misinformed) comments I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Apparently owning a Herbie puts me somewhere on the creeper scale somewhere above the rusty panel van with “free candy” written on the side and just below the guy with the Jeffrey Dahmer glasses that drives the ice cream truck.
“Experts” chimed in that my car wasn’t a 1957 (it is) because the back window was too big (explained in the ad had they just read it). I was told the ad had pictures that showed the car in the spring time yet also in snow. Caveat emptor indeed.
For every positive comment about how cool it would be to take to Cars and Coffee, there were three or four about “Herpes” the Love Bug, the asking price having too many zeroes, and the most played out joke of them all, the Lindsay Lohan cracks. (Which coincidentally is another huge factor in my deciding to sell the car.)
As an owner I was subjected to so many LL jokes, I can honestly say I already know the struggle of a DeLorean owner without ever having had one. Here’s a sampling:
“What movie was that in? Herbie Got His Ass Kicked?”
“Did Lindsay wreck it?”
“Was there coke in the glovebox?”
“Can I sniff the seat?”
Sorry to ruin your fantasies, guys, but this car retired its film career 14 years BEFORE LiLo was even born. Then came the Car and Driver blog with much of the same jokes about scrap prices, an ass for every seat, etc.
The truth of the matter is, like it or not, well documented film cars DO bring the bucks. Especially in the Miller Light fueled big house auctions. Not my scene, but it’s a fact. Don’t believe me?
In the end I had to just laugh all of the comments off. Some people get Herbie, and some don’t. And that’s OK. I’m happy to report Herbie will be going to a great home and staying here in the U.S. in a private collection. As for me, I think I’m done with the Herbie scene. It was a fun ride but that ship has sailed.
I’ve recently bought a 1952 split window that I absolutely love driving. So I think the next VW on my agenda will be something from the 1940s. It’s been a while since I’ve heard a good Nazi joke…
For those of you still baffled by how a very abused ‘57 Beetle can pull $85,000 no problem, think of the car as a movie star. Think how much money you could sell, say, Johnny Depp’s corpse one day, even if it had substantial damage and was once painted by Disney with yellow latex house paint. Make sense now? Good.