Rare Pikachu VW Beetle Is the Ultimate Catch for a Pokemon-Loving Gearhead

Rare Pikachu VW Beetle Is the Ultimate Catch for a Pokemon-Loving Gearhead photo
Rare Pikachu VW Beetle Is the Ultimate Catch for a Pokemon-Loving Gearhead photo

Millennials who grew up playing Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow will now have a chance to relive the glory days in a car that was officially sanctioned by Nintendo and Volkswagen. A rare 1998 Volkswagen Beetle known as a "Pikabug" has been listed for sale in Wisconsin by a reluctant seller who says she's sad to see the Pikachu-styled Beetle go, but after years of having owned what is likely to be one of the original ten Bugs that Nintendo bought from VW in the late '90s, it's time to move on.

According to self-described Pokémon archivist, Grace Klich, Nintendo wanted a fleet of vehicles to drive around the country and promote the U.S. release of the Pokémon games for the Game Boy, as well as the animated series. (Remember the Poké rap? Sure you do. It was an ear worm.) Prior to the debut, Nintendo went on a marketing blitz that included buying a handful of New Beetles from VW in Washington state, and having them customized by a body shop in Missouri.

The New Beetles were dressed up as entry number 25 in the original Pokédex, a.k.a. Pikachu, with "thundershock yellow" paint, brown stripes and the signature red cheeks of the Pokémon mascot. These ten Pikabugs would be the first of a Poké Patrol that included up to a rumored 20 Beetles used throughout the aughts for promotional events, as Kotaku reports.


The Beetles also had wooden ears and a foam tail, which was later replaced by a wooden tail due to the foam's lack of durability and impractical location on the hatch lift gate. In the hatch, there was a Nintendo 64 console and television, which fans could use to play Pokémon games. There was also a custom sound setup that added a speaker to the car's exterior, wired to a button in the cabin that would make the Pikabugs "talk," as Klich explains in a video about the history of the cars:\u0026t=293s

The seller of the Pikabug in Wisconsin, Kerry, tells The Drive that this speaker system is in her Pikabug, and that she would often hit the button to the delight of onlookers. As you would expect, the car drew a lot of attention to its owner, which can present its own difficulties. But, overall, Kerry says she was happy to see the joy it brought scores of fans and all the kids (big and small) that crossed its path.

She's had the car for a few years, but hardly drove it in the time she owned it. That means that the 170,000 miles currently on the odometer were likely driven as part of the promotional tour that the Pikabugs went on in 1998. Kerry came to own the car after seeing it around town, and telling her sons she would buy them the bright yellow Beetle one day:

My two boys were big fans of the game. We saw the car driving around Central Wisconsin. We thought it was just somebody who was creative and made his car look like Pikachu. We thought it was somebody just passing through town, but it was actually someone in my town that owned it. I told my boys that someday I would buy that car for them if I had the ability to do so. I ended up finding a mechanic and when I went into a shop, he had all this VW Beetle memorabilia all over it, and a bunch of Beetles that he was working on in his parking lot.

I asked him if he happened to know who owned the one that looked like Pikachu. He said, as a matter fact, he did, and that he had just purchased it for his daughter who was going to be driving in the next couple of years. I told him if he ever wanted to sell it, I would be interested in buying it. I didn’t wanna bug him but was in and out of his shop quite often and just happened to mention to him after a couple years that I was wondering how his daughter liked Pikachu, and reminded him that I’d like to try to buy it someday. He said that his daughter was embarrassed by it and wouldn’t drive it, and he actually had it up for sale in California for $10,000. I told him I wanted to buy it...

Kerry K.

Indeed, she bought the car from her mechanic, but there was a hiccup: the Pikabug came with a manual transmission! That only makes it cooler in the eyes of enthusiasts, but she did not how to drive stick—at least not yet. She goes on, saying:

I didn’t know how to drive a stick, but my mechanic drove me around the block and it was so easy and he was so confident in me that I drove it home. It was all rusty, and inside the roof was all coming out, but I liked it and I drove it. I loved how it made little kids smile and even big kids and how excited they were to see it [...] It was fun to drive a stick and easy. And I liked that I learned something new with him about what I was driving.

At times when I was just enjoying a ride with my windows down, all of a sudden, I’d hear somebody next to me screaming "Pikachu" and I’d practically have a heart attack. They scared me so, but he definitely brings joy to a lot of people that see him, even on the interstate. People pull up alongside us and will take video or pictures and I don’t really like being in a video, but I like how much they love him.

Kerry K.

So, Kerry learned to drive stick for the sake of the Pikabug, which is kind of awesome. She tells me that her mechanic told her he'd been offered $50,000 for the car due to it being one of the original ten Beetles from the Poké Patrol. Later, someone offered her $100,000 for it, but she turned it down because she "wanted to keep it." She said the same Pokémon archivist who spoke with Kotaku reached out and helped her authenticate the Beetle. It seems her car is officially Pikabug nine.

Once Kerry was able to prove her car was official, she tried to enlist the help of an auction house in Texas, who claimed they could get her $250,000 for Pikabug #9. But, in the end, the shipper tasked with getting the Beetle from Wisconsin to Texas broke the tail and scratched the paint on a door. Worse still, the auction house had trouble starting it, so they sent the car back to Wisconsin. The fix was simple, according to Kerry, and involved a startup sequence the auction house was unaware of.

Still, the Pikabug seems to have been modified in a few ways since its days as a member of the Poké Patrol. The original engine is no longer in the car, but the 2.0-liter four-cylinder will come on a crate as part of the sale. The wheels currently on the bug match the yellow paint, but they seem to be from a later Beetle Turbo, not a '98 base model. It's also missing the Nintendo gaming setup in the hatch, though the wiring is likely to still be there. The previous owner removed it along with the door decals, but the car is otherwise close to how it was when it rolled onto the scene at the turn of the millennium. Kerry is asking for a firm $125,000 for the Pikabug, which is no small amount, but sure to be worth it for the right collector. I mean, have you seen how much hardcore Nintendo fans are willing to drop on old games these days?

<em>Mewisme700 via YouTube</em>
Mewisme700 via YouTube