When I was about 6 years old, there was one thing I wanted desperately more than anything else in the world, even more than Shaun Cassidy: a Volkswagen Beetle. Or more specifically, I wanted Herbie the Love Bug. I was absolutely infatuated with him....er, it.
I really can't explain why I loved Herbie so much except to say in my first grade mind, he rocked: he could easily burn rubber and pop wheelies on the twisty San Francisco streets, squirt motor oil out his automotive butthole at bad guys and unruly drivers, and understand spoken commands. Plus the unmistakable rounded shape screamed "cute!" and appealed to my child senses. I must have watched The Love Bug at some point on TV, but since my fascination with Beetles began in the mid-70s before movies were available for rent on VHS, the closest I could get to Herbie was gazing at the 3D images of him inside my Viewmaster. Everything from the Disney movie stills looked so incredibly real, I thought I could actually step inside the slides to go for a ride in my dream car. I also had a couple of Matchbox Volkswagens. Mildly satisfying, but needless to say not even close to the real thing.
Now of course I realize that Herbie starred in Disney movies that are terribly uncool by today's adult standards despite co-starring Michelle Lee, Don Knotts and Stephanie Powers (some of the sequels to The Love Bug, such as Herbie Goes Bananas were pretty craptacular...and don't even get me started on the Lindsay Lohan tainted Herbie Fully Loaded) but at six years old, I was hardly a movie critic. When I was out riding with my mother and we saw a Volkswagen, especially a white one, I'd get excited and wave. I thought maybe the real Herbie was in disguise via a new paint job, and would toot his horn back at me. Being a faithful Catholic girl who regularly attended church, there was even a solid week where I prayed - and vehemently believed - that Jesus was going to deliver Herbie or a child sized version that I could actually drive - in my living room by Friday morning. I prayed every night but alas, Friday morning arrived and Herbie never manifested next to the sofa. I was disappointed.
It didn't matter, because in 1998 I finally did get my own Herbie when Volkswagen resurrected its famous Bug, now being promoted as the New Beetle. I loved that car. I waited about four months after placing my order with the dealer for a red automatic with black seats to arrive. Everywhere I went the first year I owned it, we attracted attention - some bad (as in the case of a bunch of immature teen boys who yelled at me that my car sucked) but mostly good, and there were almost always questions about where the engine was located (the front, as opposed to the original Beetle where the engine was in the back.) I joined an email mailing list for other New Beetle owners and fans, and even attended a dinner with other fan club members.
I've always loved the interior and will never forget the new car smell. The high rounded roof provided plenty of headroom and made for a very spacious front seat. I felt like I was in a spaceship due to the rounded corners and bright blue and orange lights.
The only reason I gave the Beetle up was because it simply proved too slow, especially on the highway when trying to go up inclines. It was with a really heavy heart that I traded it in for a sensible yet sporty Honda Accord coupe - a vehicle which I really do love, by the way, but in a different way. I was actually a bit sad the night before I traded the Beetle in and even had second thoughts. I'd be lying if I said I that sometimes I still miss the car, and I often think that someday I'll end up with another one - this time a light blue convertible. Or maybe white with a 53 and stripes on the side - just like Herbie.
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!