Growing up, it’s safe to say that my absolute favorite movie was Disney’s “The Love Bug”. Living as a kid in a world before Pixar’s “Cars”, it was pretty much the best car movie. I loved the vehicles, the racing, the stunts and, of course, Herbie, the titular Love Bug. I had so many cast beetles as a result, and it certainly played a part in buying my 2013 Beetle a few years ago.
My fandom has not diminished. I still love the movie, maybe more than when I was little. I picked up jokes that I didn’t get as a kid. I watched bonus movies to learn more about the making of the movie. And I clearly remember part of a behind-the-scenes clip where people in the movie were discussing how they cast Herbie. They brought several cars to the studio and they noticed that people reacted very differently to the Beetle than to regular cars, sometimes knocking and treating it as something almost alive. Ever since watching that, the thought has occurred to me, how would you cast “The Love Bug” if it were remade today? (Disney makes a lot of remakes these days.) Well, I think I have an idea, and not just for our hero car.
Now I know, choosing the last generation Beetle, like the Spanish Edition 53 shown at the top, seems like a bit of a way out, and it might seem like I’m biased. Some of that may be true. However, I have good reasons. One of the most important is that the Beetle, even the latest version, is probably still the most unabashedly cute car offered in the US for the past 10 years. Plus, you couldn’t rearrange the movie with a different vehicle without renaming the movie. The Beetle still has a big smile and cheerful round lights. Even Minis and Fiat 500s have a bit of a frown. The ND Miata is still smiling, and it would probably be my second choice if the Beetle had grown too old to be plausibly offered at a premium car dealership, but it has more of a frown with its squinting lights. Just like in the 1960s, there is a lack of friendly-looking cars.
The Beetle also ticks a few other boxes. It fits the description of something that a rich person would have bought his housekeeper for transportation (Herbie’s backstory). It also still has a back seat so you can have the three main human protagonists in it. And the real car has a tunable turbo counterpart that has a small credibility for a beetle hanging with production-based race cars.
Tennessee’s Yard Art
Right at the beginning of the film is the joke that prompts Jim Douglas to look for a car. After returning home from a bad day at the track, Jim plans to go to a dirt track and asks his friend Tennessee (played by Buddy Hackett) where his car is, to borrow it. Tennessee’s car turns out to be an Edsel. well it used to be an Edsel. Tennessee cut it apart and turned it into garden art. He explained with the following quote: “It just came over me all of a sudden. It was the only decent thing to do.”
It passed me as a kid not really knowing what an Edsel was, but now I see it for the funny, pop culture reference that it is. But what could possibly match an Edsel’s ugliness and flop-worthiness these days? Easy: the Pontiac Aztek. Actually, nothing should change about this scene, except for the car parts in the yard of the fire station.
The Thorndyke Special
One of the other key machines in the film is the “Thorndyke Special”, which is a Apollo GT† Although the design was very European, the front-engined sports car was all-American, and under the hood was a Buick V8.
Exotic front-engine sports cars are rare these days, especially from the US. So that leads us to Europe. The Ferrari 812 GTS is a strong contender, but I think the Aston Martin DBS would be a better choice. It has a more menacing front end, befitting an opponent’s car. Plus, I suspect Aston Martin would be easier to deal with as a film contributor than Ferrari.
The Hot Rod
While testing Herbie, a man in a T-bucket pulls on a hot rod and jokes about it, and challenges Jim to a race. Jim isn’t interested, but Herbie says otherwise and proceeds to thrash the hot rodder. The result is the hot rodder’s respect, as well as Jim’s interest in the beetle.
The modified car scene has been extremely healthy for the past few decades, so a whole host of cars could be filling in for the T-bucket. But just as hot rods based on American cars of the 1930s and 1940s were a staple of customization at the time, Honda’s affordable, customizable cars dominated at the turn of the millennium. So a sprung Civic seems like the best choice. And I feel like the owner of a speedy Civic has more respect for a speedy Beetle than, say, the owner of a speedy Challenger, whom I could see sneaking away, praying that no one made a phone video of the race.
The hippie bus
When Jim and Carol’s test drive doesn’t end, Herbie takes them to a drive-thru for dinner. Next to them is a bunch of hippies in a custom-built van. One of them teases Carol as she tries to get out of the car. Fun fact, the hippie in question is actually Dean Jones, the guy who plays Jim Douglas.
I had a few ideas for what could be the new equivalent of this van and its owners. It could be kind of a budget overlander with a few alternative medicine hippies in modern style. Although it is hard to imagine that they are at some kind of fast food restaurant. So I think the better move would be to use an old custom full sized van from the 70’s or 80’s, complete with airbrushed paint on the side. It could even refer to the paint on the van from Pixar’s “Onward”. And aside, it would be a great opportunity to bring in Tommy Chong as owner and driver.
At about the darkest point in the movie, Jim comes home having just bought a Lamborghini from Thorndyke. It is intended as a replacement for Herbie. It’s not surprising that Herbie doesn’t take it well, immediately breaks down the car and runs away.
The original car was a Lamborghini 400 GT, which overlapped with the warmer Miura for a while. As such, a powerful Huracan seems like the best modern equivalent as the Aventador is said to be more like the modern Miura. And a high-performance variant would be ideal, as Jim would have bought the car for track and racing purposes.
And that pretty much wraps the main vehicles in ‘The Love Bug’. What do you think of my choices? Do you have other ideas? Want to see more car movie recasts? Let us know in the comments.