No one knows exactly how many Volkswagen Beetles Walt Disney Productions used in making the first four “Herbie the Love Bug” feature films, but estimates are somewhere north of 50. While tributes abound, surviving film cars are both rare and valuable, as evidenced by a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle sunroof sedan, which sold for $128,700 at Barrett-Jackson’s Palm Beach extravaganza to become the most expensive VW Type 1 ever sold at auction.
It was a bar that chassis 5424447, the Volkswagen sold in Florida last Saturday, had set in the past. In 2015, the same car crossed the auction stage at the same venue, then selling for $126,500 to become the top-priced Beetle ever sold at auction. The car’s documented history and its appearance in two Herbie films, including 1977’s Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo and 1980’s Herbie Goes Bananas, make it among the most desirable of Herbie examples remaining.
Which wasn’t always the case. When purchased by Herbie enthusiast Bob Hoag from a Wershaw Auction at the Disney Studios in August 1980 (though other sources say it was found on the lot of a prop rental company), the tired car wore a blue rattlecan paint job, and was missing both exterior and interior bits, possibly “borrowed” for another Herbie variant (all of which were 1963 sunroof sedans, or later models modified to look like the year and model). What wasn’t lacking was a clue to the car’s identity; inside, Hoag found a bracket used to hold an auxiliary oil pump, leading him to believe it was the car used to befoul a traffic cop’s shoes in the beginning of Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo.
Paperwork included in the sale listed Walt Disney Studios as the car’s title holder in 1972, meaning the car was probably acquired for – but not used in – the production of 1974’s Herbie Rides Again. It’s not clear how long Hoag held onto the car, but its next owner, Arthur Porter, took the Herbie mythology seriously, converting the Beetle into an actual vintage race car. Porter also restored the car to its most familiar Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo livery, which it continues to wear today.
In roughly 2000, the car sold to Scott Velvet of the Hollywood Rock & Country Museum, and it later passed to Burkett’s Hollywood Museum, acquired by Randy and Jeff Burkett. When this business closed, Herbie collector Doug Kaufmann purchased 5424447, restoring the car’s interior to match its Monte Carlo exterior and replacing the bumpers removed for vintage racing. It was Kaufmann who sold the car at auction in 2015 to buyer John Staluppi, who displayed the car in his Palm Beach, Florida, Cars of Dreams museum.
Though the fee-inclusive selling price of $128,700 was enough to set a new record, it wasn’t enough to make the Palm Beach sale’s top 10. Cars atop the sales’ tally sheet included a 2012 Lexus LFA Nürburgring Edition, which sold for $770,000; a 1959 De Soto Adventurer convertible, which sold for an auction record-setting price of $330,000; a 440 Six-Barrel-powered 1970 Plymouth Superbird, which sold for an auction record-setting price of $286,000; a 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air custom convertible, which sold for $275,000; a 2006 Ford GT, which sold for $244,200; a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado convertible, which sold for $231,000; a 1957 De Soto Adventurer convertible, which sold for $231,000; a 1956 De Soto Fireflite convertible, which sold for $225,500; a 1959 Dodge Custom Royal Super D-500 convertible, which sold for $220,000; and a 1960 Chevrolet Corvette 283/290 fuelie, which sold for $209,000.
More affordable lots of interest included a 1925 Ford Depot Hack, which sold for $9,350; a 1966 Plymouth Valiant convertible, which sold for $9,350; a 1967 Cadillac Sedan de Ville, which sold for $8,800; a 1990 Ford Mustang LX convertible “7-Up edition,” which sold for $8,580; a 1973 Ford Mustang coupe, which sold for $8,470; a 1972 Mercedes-Benz 350SL roadster, which sold for $8,470; a 1987 BMW 325i convertible, which sold for $8,030; a 1962 Rambler American, which sold for $7,920; a 1970 Volkswagen Beetle, which sold for $7,700; and a 1972 Ford LTD two-door hardtop, which sold for $6,270.
For complete results from the Palm Beach sale, visit Barrett-Jackson.com.