‘The Love Bug’ Is a Hippy, Trippy, Racing Icon

the love bug
‘The Love Bug’ Is a Hippy, Trippy, Racing IconLMPC - Getty Images

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  • The Love Bug kicked off Disney’s six-movie Herbie franchise.

  • Herbie is named after the character Tennessee Steinmetz’s uncle.

  • Herbie is a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle sunroof sedan.

We’ve dived into the stylized lives of Formula 1 legends with Rush, spent time with Frankie and Annette in Bikini Beach, and watched The Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.) become a crew chief in Thunder in Carolina. As outlandish as all of these pieces of cinema were at times, they don’t hold a candle to a movie that somehow started a massive franchise: 1968’s The Love Bug.


Herbie’s origin story hits the standard racing tropes, with its protagonist a down-on-his-luck racing driver who’s abandoned his craft and pivoted toward demolition derbies and auto repair. It’s easy to see from the onset that Disney’s foray into motorsport will be a 108-minute redemption story where Jim Douglas (Dean Jones) returns to the highs of motorsport. The twist? A sentient, autonomous Volkswagen Beetle.

Herbie, named after Tennessee Steinmetz’s (Buddy Hackett) uncle, does help kickstart Douglas’ racing career and dominates a race at Riverside against an assortment of early ‘60s sports car staples to absolve the remaining loan balance from its financier. Of course, that’s just within the first half hour of the movie. The main storyline is centered around The Eldorado—a road race through the Sierra Nevada mountains. Naturally, hijinks ensue before, during, and after the race.

It’s easy to ignore or willfully forget about The Love Bug. Though, giving it another lap through your TV set might remind you that it does pack a ton of great sports cars, fun acting, and a wholesome story. Also, Herbie crushes a Jaguar E-Type—out of Jealousy.

You can watch this beautifully odd film on Disney Plus.

What do you think about The Love Bug? Tell us your thoughts below.