Air-cooled VW History

Beetle in media and pop culture

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Like its contemporaries, the Mini and the Citroën 2CV, the Beetle has been regarded as something of a "cult" car since its 1960s association with the hippie movement and surf culture; and the obvious attributes of its unique and quirky design. For example, the Beetle could float on water thanks to its sealed floor pans and overall tight construction. Much like their Type 2 counterparts, Beetles were psychedelically painted and considered an art car ancestor. One of the logos used by the Houston Art Car Klub incorporated a Beetle with a cowboy hat.

The Beetle has made numerous appearances in Hollywood films, most notably The Love Bug comedy series (Disney) from 1968 to 2005, starring as "Herbie", a pearl-white, fabric-sunroofed 1963 Beetle—racing number 53.

The Arrival (1996, science fiction) featured a few Mexican Beetles in the film (in one scene Charlie Sheen's character hides in the notoriously cramped trunk of a Beetle). In Woody Allen's Sleeper (1973), a Volkswagen is still able to start after having been abandoned in a cave for 200 years. ("They really built these things, didn't they?") In the comedy hit What's Up, Doc? (1972), Ryan O'Neal's and Barbra Streisand's characters, after a climactic car chase, end up floating in San Francisco Bay in their Beetle (see note on construction, previous paragraph).

In all but one instance of the cartoon show The Real Ghostbusters the Ghostbusters secretary Janine Melnitz owned a Beetle convertible. First seen as a red car in the second season episode "Beneath These Streets" it became pink in all future appearances. The Kenner made toy line for the show also included a licensed yellow Beetle convertible that transformed into a ghost. The Toy was called the "Highway Haunter" and seated 2 figures and came with a removable "engine" in the rear that had a ghost designed on the opposite side.

Also made famous is the Autobot Bumblebee, a canary yellow Beetle in the toy, comic and cartoon line The Transformers. The Throttlebot, Legends and Generation 2 toy line versions of Bumblebee also transformed from robot to VW Beetle, though the Throttlebot-type was called Goldbug as it was a golden 1975 Super Beetle. (Note, too, that the G2 toy was painted anodized gold in color.) In other countries, 'Bumblebee the Beetle' has been released in various colors. For the 2007 Transformers film director Michael Bay decided that Bumblebee would not become a Beetle to avoid comparisons with Herbie, nevertheless the Beetle made a cameo appearance in the live-action movie next to the Autobot's new form the Chevrolet Camaro.

During the early 1970s, the Beetle was used for advertisements where graphic art ads were decaled on newly-sold Volkswagens. A marketing consultant (Charlie E. Bird) in the Los Angeles area came up with the "Beetleboard" concept. Both standard and Super Beetles were used, until the original Beetle ceased production in Europe in 1978. This trend was resurrected after the New Beetle entered production.

The Volkswagen Beetle has built a large fan base among off-road types in the form of the Baja Bug. Today, there are many online clubs and communities that keep Beetle aficionadoes on touch.

Even the sighting of a Volkswagen Beetle is cause for violent fun in the car-sighting game known as "Slug-Bug" or Punch Buggy.

The Beetle is also one of the most commonly reproduced cars as a toy or model of all sizes. Hot Wheels and Matchbox produced many near stock and outrageously styled and customized drag racing and modified dune buggy beetles. Most manufacturers of toy cars have included a Beetle in their line at one time or another.

A Beetle appears on the cover of The Beatles' iconic album Abbey Road.

In the book series "The Dresden Files" by Jim Butcher, the lead character Harry Dresden drives a pieced together VW Bug named the "Blue Beetle."

The famous "Think Small" Beetle ad campaign of the early 1960s is referenced in Mad Men as a potential threat to traditional advertising.

The Fremont Troll sculpture, under a bridge in Fremont, Washington has an actual VW Beetle clutched in his hand.

In the 1968 movie comedy Bye Bye Braverman and the 1964 novel upon which it is based, To an Early Grave, a cramped Beetle is used as the vehicle by a quartet of Jewish literary intellectuals traveling from Greenwich Village to Brooklyn to attend the funeral of a deceased member of their circle, and its Nazi heritage is repeatedly a subject of discussion.

In 2008, Volkswagen launched a series of commercials set to a talk show theme with a black Beetle named Max (speaking with a German accent) as the show's host. Featured guests included supermodel Heidi Klum, basketball coach Bob Knight, Napster creator Shawn Fanning, former Space Shuttle commander Richard A. Searfoss and actor David Hasselhoff. Another one was used to introduce the Volkswagen Tiguan crossover vehicle.


beetle, media, movies