After buying the rights to a 1967 novel featuring a cute car that drives itself, Disney executives weren't sure what kind of car to use in the film they were developing. So they parked several models at the gates of Disneyland to see which drew the most reaction from passers-by — and the older Volkswagen Beetle won by a landslide. After a few modifications, including the racing stripe and the number 53, same as Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale, Herbie the Love Bug was born. "The Love Bug," released on this date in 1969, was the highest-grossing movie of the year, and made the Beetle a permanent fixture of American pop culture — although it may be a while before Herbie takes to the screen again after "Herbie Fully Loaded."
Photo: Sam Howzit via Flickr