top of page

My Car Herbie...

It's really hard to know where to begin with this story but here goes...

As stated earlier, my mom and dad wanted to do something really special for me back around 1995 after my dad had suffered a major medical condition that left him unable to work.  They knew that things were changing and wanted to give us something to do in the months and years to come.  It was pretty obvious that I loved the little car called Herbie since I would sit around all day and watch the movies over and over again, so dad decided that he would start looking around to try and find a donor car that they could convert to a Herbie just for me.  They actually found two cars, one which was a 1965 VW sedan with a sliding hard top and the other a 1997 VW Beetle with an automatic with the idea that I might even end up driving it someday.  This was around 1997, shortly after we had built our new home and dad was starting to get back to a somewhat normal life.  Both cars were in pretty poor shape, and it was evident that both would need a lot of work to convert them into something we could enjoy. 

Well, dad finally decided that the 1965 would be the best to work with, so around the middle part of the year, he went out and purchased a set of decals and stripes for the car just so that we could start using it.  It still had the sliding hard top and wasn't all that pretty to look at, but at least we could start to drive him and go to some car shows in our area.  Since we lived in Central Florida, our favorite place to go on Saturday nights was a place called Old Town USA where they held a collectible car show every Saturday and it was limited to cars that were 1968 and older.  Actually, it was a really neat place to go, and they even had Wolfman Jack who was podcasting live from Old Town with his oldies when they first started.  The guys and gals who brought their collectibles were the best to talk with and their cars were pristine from the early 1900's to 1968 with 300-400 cars every Saturday night.  Old Town was also very popular since it was only a few miles from Walt Disney World and they would bring people in from around the world in buses just to see the cars and enjoy the entertainment.  We were going at least 3 times a month.

319 - Stephen and Herbie Aug 1998 (3).jpg

As a retired engineer, it didn't take dad long to start making a few changes to Herbie.  My dad's father was actually trained by Volkswagen of America as a mechanic which eventually allowed him to open his own VW shop where dad would work in his spare time repairing cars and building engines when needed.  Now dad was not a VW lover from the very beginning in that he had a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro which he had modified with the latest big block L88 that produced over 500hp.  When he was 18, he was one of the first to put a Chevrolet 300hp V8 in a VW sedan and they would run the car at what was then The Gainesville International Speedway.  Anyway, with dad's knowledge in engineering, he quickly developed an electro-mechanical controller that basically performed around 6 functions automatically including turning the lights, windshield wipers/washer and horn on and off and even opening the hood using pneumatics since we now had 8 scuba tanks sitting around and not being used.  Herbie was an instant hit with the thousands of people visiting Old Town and was soon being asked for by name.

Well, we continued to entertain the crowds up till around 1999 when I had my surgery and came down with MRSA.  Dad spent all of his time staying at the hospital with me and while he took a 12 hour break to rest, he was at home developing me an electro-mechanical hand so that when I finally got back on my feet, hopefully I could return to some of the things I use to do.  Turns out the custom hand was never needed and a few months after I was able to return home, dad decided that it would be a great time to refresh Herbie from the ground up starting with new floorboards and heater channels, stripping him down to bare metal and repainting him with the correct L87 Pearl White paint, getting the correct font for the decals and colors for the stripes, along with adding an aftermarket sunroof to make him look more like the movie cars.  We were not quite ready to return going to Old Town as of yet, so dad decided to upgrade the electronics and tricks that Herbie could do.  We never talked about or even tried to reproduce one of the movie cars since there were many different designs/cars used, but dad wanted to make my Herbie special where he could do many of the tricks they did in the movies with stunt cars, and still be able to drive him on the street, to car shows, etc.

In addition, he and mom had this idea of getting all of the stars from the first four movies that had been made at the time to autograph a special picture of me standing beside my Herbie as well as having them sign the glove box door.  It was quite an undertaking trying to catch the stars when they were either not making a movie or not traveling abroad, but eventually, they were able to get almost everyone to provide the autographs.  Unfortunately, Helen Hayes who played Mrs. Steinmetz in Herbie Rides Again had already passed away, but otherwise, they eventually got all of the leading actors including Don Knott's who was impossible to get to.  We finally met up with him around a year later while he was performing with Tim Conway at one of the Casino's in northern Mississippi.  As far as we know, this is the only glove box door in the world that contains this complete set of autographs, and the pictures still hang on the wall of my apartment as a special reminder of their kindness.

Well, dad continued to play around with the automation of Herbie until he had included almost everything he could think of.  Herbie would not only be opening his hood for everyone, but now Herbie's doors would open and close by themselves and he had air shocks that would allow him to move up and down as well.  He was refining the controller as he went along, and it did not take long before he and mom decided that it would be nice if they didn't have to actually sit and tell everyone what was so special about my car every time we went to a show, and that by adding a servo controller they could expand the display to include other animations as well. It didn't take long before they found the perfect hosts, a pair of white bears that were around 24 inches in height and were being closed out at Toys-R-Us.  They purchased the last two available and dad started to work his magic once again taking them apart and building a mechanical frame with servo motors that would allow each bear to have 9 different functions moving both arms and legs, their ears, their heads and even moving their mouths.  At the time, Billy Bass was his inspiration in that if they could make a fish sing, he could do the same with these new additions to our show.  Of course, it now required a computer to run the bears which meant an additional update to Herbie's controller to control the servos as well.  With the use of a simple laptop, he was now able to program the servos to move as he needed them to including moving the mouths of each bear to be in sync with scripts that he and mom wrote specifically for the bears so that they were now the ones telling the story of how they found Herbie in terrible shape and brought him back to life.  The audio for these tracks were fed out through a flex cable to each bear which had their own speaker built-in making it appear that they were doing the talking and dad found a way to modify his and mom's voices so that they were distinct.  They finally decided to name these two bears Beauregard (Bo) and Daisy after my second most favorite TV characters who played in The Dukes of Hazzard.  Dad then came up with this brilliant idea that they needed a companion so one day while visiting a thrift store in Mississippi while on vacation, he found the cutest little dog that they thought would be perfect and once again, the animation began including ears that would swing up into the air whenever Herbie would blow his horn, a tongue that would move in and out, and even a tail that would wag.  His name quickly became Duke with his own personalized collar.   

872 - A good frontal view of Herbie and his friends, Bo, Daisy and Duke.jpg

Over the next 5 years or so, dad continued to add different functions to Herbie.  The full-length movie Herbie Fully Loaded came out where Herbie could move his eyes and even had visors that would blink.  Now in the movies, they took the liberty to cut the frame around the headlamps to make room for all of this, but dad had the idea that he would make my Herbie do the same yet without having to modify or degrade the integrity of the car.  So once again, out in his workshop he went and after several weeks, he had designed and built a special set of headlamps that would not only move independently left and right, but also would move up and down and visors that would blink on command.  All of this was once again run with servo motors and the laptop computer inside Herbie.  He also decided to add a couple of unexpected functions including a water jet located just in front of the passenger side rear wheel and also one located on the engine so that when people would pass by, Herbie would squirt them like he did in the movies, the difference is my Herbie uses distilled water instead of engine oil.

To say the least, my Herbie is pretty much one-of-a-kind.  He is the only one in the world that has all the extra's that dad has added including his friends Bo, Daisy and Duke, has a glove box that has been signed by all of the major stars from the first four movies except for Helen Hayes, and can run indefinitely using the computer and onboard air supply that he has.  He also was filmed by Walt Disney so that he could be included on the first release of The Love Bug by Disney on DVD.  Overall, he is very special.  Although mom and dad produced numerous performances for the bears to do at different car shows, at Christmas time, etc., their favorite was just recently where the bears would sit in Herbie's rear seat and sing love songs from the 60's to each other while Herbie was synced to the music.  Unfortunately, most of these shows were never filmed since that was not the purpose of it all, but if you click on the picture below, you will be able to watch ole Herb and his friends in action...


Click on image above to watch Herbie and his friends in action...

Throughout the last 25 years, many Herbie owners around the world have asked if dad could help them animate their Herbies as well.  Of course, dad is limited in what he can do but around 2005 or so, while trying to help a man down on his luck, dad offered to design a kit that the other man could produce and sell keeping all the profit.  Well, dad did so and then the gentleman he was trying to help jumped ship leaving dad high and dry.  Dad had already taken over 20 orders from individuals from around the world who wanted to purchase the kit so dad had no choice but to build them himself including around 15 of the custom headlamps that would move left and right.  As you can imagine, not everyone could afford all of the great gadgets that are on my Herbie, so he ended up building some kits with simple remotes, some with Programmable Logic Controllers (PLC's) that would run the basic functions, and two kits with computer-controlled servo's and pneumatics.  Four of the cars were actual Disney cars from the movies, three of which dad took the time to automate himself, with the other cars being spread across Canada, Europe, Australia and even one in Hawaii.  Out of the two computer-controlled kits, only one was ever installed that we know of and that one was finally completed late last year (almost 15 years after being sold) on one of the cars from Herbie Fully Loaded and currently owned by Dr. Sofia of Boston.

It's probably a good time to talk about some of the adventures we have had with my car.  Like I have stated earlier, we have spent many weekends at our own local Old Town where Herbie had become a real crowd pleaser.  Actually, dad had built one additional animatronic that was another bear around 24 inches high but this one was remote controlled with dad once again being the disguised voice.  The bear was dressed like Rosco P. Coltrane, the sheriff from The Dukes of Hazard, and dad could actually watch who he was talking to via a small pin hole camera mounted in the brim of his hat.  Rosco ran around on a small custom Segway that dad built for him which included flashing lights and a siren.  He was very popular at every show we attended with him and Old Town actually made him the honorary Sheriff where he protected the people, controlled traffic and even flirted with Daisy and the other girls who adored him.  It was around this same time that we realized that we would need a special support vehicle to not only tow Herbie when we went out of town, but also where dad could sit in comfort and control Rosco.  The only problem is that it had to be old enough to qualify for Old Town, a VW so that it could be taken and entered in VW shows we attended, and powerful enough to actually tow Herbie at Turnpike speeds.  The answer was a 1972 VW Kombi bus that was in very poor condition and had to be totally rebuilt.  However, it also had to have the power needed for towing, so dad got busy and modified a 1981 Chevrolet Blazer chassis that had a 4.3 liter V6 in it, and before we knew it, the chassis was modified so that the Kombi sat on it perfectly and the engine was moved so that it was mid-ship just behind the front seats.  The bus was modified to remove all of its door handles with remote control door locks/openers built in and all of the electronics needed for Rosco.  The bus turned out really nice and most people didn't even realize that it was Chevy powered until they heard it drive in.  Dad also added a DC powered air conditioner on top of the bus so that our cute little dog Brandi who went with us to all of our shows, could stay inside while we stepped away.  Of course, the bus had AC on the engine as well, an automatic transmission and cruise control which mad it perfect for mom to drive.  We had this tow vehicle for around 8 years until it unfortunately burned in a fire that started in the engine compartment.  It was later replaced by a 1981 Dodge 3/4 ton van that dad decorated specially for mom with flowers, butterflies and more.

Gail sitting inside The Beast at Channel 9 remotely operating Rosco, Dec. 2007
Ginger and Rosco 3
110206 001
03152007 003

We probably should talk about some of the different events/shows that we have done with Herbie over the years.  Of course, we've done more shows at Old Town over the last 25 years than we can even count.  We took part in a special VW show in Effingham, IL during 2005 at Mid America Motorworks where they had Herbie's from around the country attending along with a number of original movie cars that they owned displayed along with all of those that came.  This was the first time we actually met Joaquin Garay III who played Paco in Herbie Goes Bananas along with his family.  The next time we met him was when we attended a gathering of Herbie's at Walt Disney World in Orlando for Herbie's 40th anniversary.  It was a great event with around 12-15 cars in attendance.  One of those cars was No. 14 from Herbie Goes Bananas that dad had animated for the owner who lived in Australia.  We also attended a Dukesfest in Little Rock, AR where they invited Herbie to be on display among all the General Lee's that were in attendance.  It was here that Stephen met a number of the actors from the TV series.  We participate in numerous events around Florida each year, have participated in shows all along the Eastern Seaboard as well as the Superdome in New Orleans.  We also put on special appearances at Crusin-the-Coast in Mississippi for over 10 years where 10,000 plus cars attend each year.  Besides those shows, we participated with our local WFTV Channel 9 putting on special appearances for over 15 years for Toys for Tots.  For around 7 years we put on our own show at Old Town called Jingle Bells Rock, again for Toys for Tots and numerous other charity events.  Then in 2019, mom and dad put together the largest gathering of Herbie's ever in one location for Herbie's 50th anniversary.  The event was again held in Orlando, FL around Walt Disney World just before the Corona Virus outbreak and had a total of 42 Herbie's in attendance.  Mom and dad had planned for a special controlled time race from Myrtle Beach, NC and Albuquerque, NM to Effingham the following year where mom would drive Herbie, but it finally had to be cancelled due to the virus.  Instead, they started planning the largest Herbie event ever to be held in the entire world for Herbie's 53rd Anniversary that was held March 31 thru April 3 of 2022 in Daytona Beach, FL..  A special guest appearance was made by Joaquin Garay III for both events plus the prime VW Magazine in the world, Hot VW's, attended both events and gave them full coverage both years in their magazine.  This is just a sample of the events we have either participated in or have planned and there are simply too many pictures to do any of these events justice.  However, by clicking here, you will be able to thumb through a number of on-line flip books that we have put together over the years...

Well, that is about it except for numerous other videos and such things that we have included on the Videos and More page.  We hope you have enjoyed the site, please come back when you can and make sure to tell your friends about me as well...

Stephen Love

A composite photo of what will probably be referred to as the greatest Herbie event ever held for years to come...

bottom of page