If there’s been a silver lining to Volkswagen’s whole Dieselgate mess, its that since all that happened, the company has been working overtime to take our collective minds off that, and on to positive stories and experiences, many of which revolve around classic Volkswagens and their owners and the surrounding culture. This time the result is particularly great: VW of America has paid to fully restore a 73-year-old woman’s beloved Beetle that she’s owned since 1966.

The Beetle was bought by Kathleen Brooks on December 12, 1966, and was a 1967 model year Type I sedan. Kathleen named the Beetle “Annie” and Annie has been Kathleen’s constant, trusted companion since that day, as Kathleen said in her original letter about her car to Volkswagen,

“She has been with me through marriage and divorce, the purchase of my house, my own business, several jobs, three bouts of breast cancer. She has tootled me everywhere, and at this writing has 450,000+ miles on her.”

All that tootling, nearly a half-million miles of tootle, has taken its toll on the little car, and while Annie is still running and usable, Kathleen no longer feels able to take her on long-distance trips, and she, as Kathleen says, is

“...Just like me, she’s slow going uphill and runs much better in cool weather.”

When Volkswagen found out about Kathleen and her 50+ year relationship with her Beetle, they wanted to thank her for her loyalty, so they arranged for a 60-person team at their Puebla, Mexico plant (where the last true air-cooled Beetles were built up to 2003) to do an incredibly complete restoration on the car.

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The team did some incredible work, with the goal of getting the car not to just good-as-new condition, but to make it actually usable for Kathleen to keep driving as long as she pleases.

With that in mind, a number of practical upgrades were made, including adding four-wheel disc brakes, completely rebuilding the engine and upgrading the engine to 1600cc, adding a better camshaft, a full stainless steel exhaust, a complete anti-corrosion treatment all over the car, electronic ignition, a vintage-looking radio that can use Bluetooth, better seat belts, completely new wiring, interior, a much-upgraded set of sound insulation, and on and on. It’s a remarkable transformation.

For some reason, they also changed the look a bit, going back to the ‘66 and earlier double-glass sloping headlamps instead of the upright sealed beams a 1967 U.S.-spec car would have had. I prefer these older lights, so maybe they just did it because, why not?

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The interior upholstery has custom embroidery with Kathleen and Annie’s names, and Annie now sports some fancy whitewall shoes and a fetching hat in the form of a roof rack.

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VW of Mexico provided details of all of the upgrades and improvements, and it’s pretty amazing; 357 original pieces of the car were restored, and many others replaced. This car is easily better than it was when it left the factory in 1966.

There are a few strange translations I don’t exactly understand, though, like this line item:

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Huh. Well, I guess if you’re going to have 45 zinc-plated turkeys, they may as well be new ones.

Of course, what makes this all worthwhile is to see how Kathleen reacts to her very-refreshed old friend. For reference, this is what Annie looked like prior to her Mexican spa treatment:

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...and here’s Annie, afterwards:

And, even better, here’s a video that shows, along with interviews of the people who restored her, Kathleen at the moment Annie is returned to her:

That’s pretty wonderful. I hope Annie and Kathleen get to have many more decades of adventures together, because I absolutely understand the bond between people and their cars, in this case, even more so, as I have a very long relationship with a Beetle of my own. 

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I wonder what I have to do to get Volkswagen to do this for my Beetle in a few decades? Be less of a jerk? I wonder if there’s an easier way?

Regardless, no matter how cynical you want to be about PR departments and major automakers, this is a pretty wonderful thing to have done.