The Journey Continues
story of this '63 Bug actually starts
before I was born. My parents bought
this car on April 9, 1966 from Younce
Motors, Inc in Hickory, NC, the dealership
that originally sold it new. It had
been traded back in by the original
purchaser. My parents, at the time with
two kids, needed a second car. They
had lived in Germany several years while
my Dad was in the army and had toured
all over Europe in an early 50s split
window Bug with another army couple.
That, their growing popularity in the
US, and their economic appeal all weighed
into their decision to buy a Volkswagen.
was born in 1968 and my parents brought
me home from the hospital in this very
car. The first car I ever rode in. Its
still funny hearing my Mom describe
the bouncy ride of the little car while
she was in labor on the way to the hospital
that Sunday morning. This was our family
car growing up and I vividly recall
us taking it everywhere. Long trips
to visit family, camping trips, taking
it to the lake pulling a canoe on a
trailer via the trailer hitch my Dad
made. We'd stick our fishing poles through
the sunroof on the way to the lake most
every weekend in the summer. I recall
my Dad driving it through the snow as
it was his daily work car loaded up
happened to be the same year, make,
model, and color as Herbie so my sisters
and I called it Herbie. We always aggravated
our Dad to paint it like Herbie, but
back then there was no internet, so
unless you knew someone who did that
sort of thing it wasn't readily available.
And to my Dad, cars were utilitarian.
Over the years I recall the car having
snow tires on the back all the time,
no hubcaps, bondo and primer spots on
the fenders, and patches on the sunroof.
In the spring on 1982 I recall the day
the original motor died. My Dad bought
another VW and had the engine swapped,
but it was never quite right. One day,
fed up and tired of dealing with it
he pulled the car into the driveway,
parked it under a huge tree, and never
drove it again.
recall the years looking at it as it
sat there, a limb had gone through the
top, it would rain and snow in it. I
was nearing driving age in the mid 80s
and I begged my Dad to let me have it
and get it running. But he always said
no. They were too much trouble, there
was too much wrong with it, he said
he would get it running when he retired,
etc. People would stop by in the evenings
during supper trying to buy it. I'd
sit at the window staring out praying
he wouldn't sell it, and he never did.
One day he asked a guy why everyone
wanted that dilapidated car so much
and the guy told him it was because
of the sunroof.
car had sat for about 8 years when my
Dad decided to get it back going again.
A man at church, Alan Younce, was the
brother of the VW dealership owner.
He had worked on VWs his whole life
and built tons of dune buggies. They
had been discussing his VW and Alan
came to get it and start working on
it. I remember how excited I was that
it was going to be running again!!!
It had always been my favorite car.
My dream car. So many hours sitting
in it pretending to be driving, dreaming
that one day I'd be driving it and I
could turn it into Herbie. I can still
picture Alan pulling it out of our driveway
with a tow bar.
got started with brakes, building an
engine, etc. then we got bad news. Alan
had become very ill battling cancer
and couldn't work on the car. Then after
a year or so his wife also became seriously
ill and they couldn't attend church
anymore. We lost touch with them. I'd
ask my Dad about the car occasionally
and he'd say, "I don't want to
bother them, they have so many serious
issues going on, etc." Then a few
years later we learned they had moved
from their house in Hickory and we didn't
know where they'd gone, if they still
had the car, etc. The city had already
made Alan get rid of a ton of VWs he
had at his house before they moved.
I'd ask Dad about it occasionally and
he'd say, "It's gone. Forget about
it. I don't know if they are still alive,
much less whatever happened to the car."
I went on with college, graduated, got
married, and my wife and I had moved
out of state. I bought an old Corvette
and was going to car shows still wondering
about whatever became of my dream car.
evening in 1998, about 9 years after
the last time I saw the car, our phone
rang and it was my Dad. He said, "You'll
never guess who I just got off the phone
with. Alan Younce." My heart jumped
out of my chest and started pounding
with excitement I can't begin to describe.
"He said he still has my Volkswagen
and a guy keeps stopping wanting to
buy it. He always tells him it isn't
his, but now his wife wants him to get
it out from behind their garage. He
wants to know if I want it or if I want
to sell it to him. I told him you had
aggravated me to death about that car
so long I better ask you if you want
it. He said it's in really, really bad
shape. Do you want to come look at it
this weekend and see if you want it?"
I replied, "I'll be there Saturday
morning with a trailer to get whatever
is left of it!!!"
drove to Alan's house, and we sat on
the back porch catching up. I could
see the front of it barely sticking
out from behind the garage. Finally
we got around to "let's go check
it out." The joy and excitement
of finding my dream car was quickly
tempered by seeing how bad it was. He
pulled a tire off the top holding down
a tarp, and I was crushed. The wheels
were dug down into the dirt, the bottom
of the car on the ground. The pans were
essentially gone. I leaned on the passenger
side of the car and the entire side
of the car went in about 5 inches. Channels,
pillars, quarter panels, floors
gone. Engine was gone. The car was full
of squirrel nests, everything chewed
up by mice, but inside the glove box
was the original Younce Motors vinyl
dealer pack. Inside was the owner's
manual and all of the original paperwork
where my Dad had purchased the car.
Loan documents, bill of sale, and all
kinds of other documentation. None of
it had been damaged somehow.
We winched it onto the trailer and I
hauled it to Don Eastwood of The Bug
Shop in Wytheville, Virginia. I had
done some research and talked to Don.
I had no idea what to expect but I knew
I had my car!!! Don told me it was really
too far gone to reasonably restore.
It would cost more to restore than it
would ever be worth, but I didn't care.
I told him let's start, but I had to
make a decision first. Put back as close
to original as possible, or make it
more usable. Since the original engine
was long gone decades before, it would
never be "numbers matching original",
so I opted for a 1600 single port 12v
and eventually had a 67 gearbox put
in it for highway driving. It took 3
years from start to finish. New pans,
heater channels, A and B pillars, quarters,
inner fender wells front and back, new
fenders, but the doors, lids, glass,
and seat frames were all ok.
wanted the car to look like it did back
when I was a kid but "new",
L87 Pearl White (single stage Imron
paint because VWs didn't come with base/clear)
with brick red interior, and I wanted
the engine to look stock too although
it would have an alternator vs generator.
Seeing as I restored the car 20 years
ago, there were many things that I could
not get at the time that were true to
original. I ended up getting a tan canvas
sunroof cover and tan carpet (just on
the sides and back not on floor) with
black rubber mat on the floor. I deleted
the holes for the deck lid script because
I knew one day I wanted to make it a
Herbie. I just struggled with how to
get stripes on a sunroof cover that
looked good. So three years of work
by Don's shop, a local paint shop, a
local upholstery shop, and me stripping
the car, doing finish work, and researching
and sourcing parts from all over the
globe and in August 2001 it was done!!!
timing of its completion happened to
coincide with the birth of our daughter.
My parents came to visit when she was
born and it was also the first time
they saw the car since I had started
it. They said it looked brand new, actually
better than the day they bought it.
I took my parents for a ride, my Dad
drove it too, and my Mom sat in the
back and fell asleep. She said, "the
rocking motion of the springy seats
in this little car always put me to
drove my dream car to my hometown one
weekend to visit my parents several
hours away and while I was there they
told me that Alan, the man that had
kept the car for many years, was in
an assisted living facility close by.
They suggested I should take it by and
show it to him. So I did. We sat on
the front porch chatting a little bit
and he said, "let's go see the
car!!!" When he saw it he absolutely
could not believe it was the same car
I had pulled out of his yard three years
earlier. He insisted it was better than
when it was new. I told him all the
specs, the things we did, the things
we changed, etc. and he was very impressed
with the decisions I made and the execution
of everyone that had worked on the car.
He walked around back, lifted the deck
lid and was looking and noting the various
things and he said, "fire it up
for me, I wanna hear it." I did,
and he pressed the accelerator and said,
"whoever built this engine knew
what they were doing!!!" We went
back to the porch and had a great visit.
I learned shortly after this that he
passed away. But at least we got to
share that moment together before he
really enjoyed years of us using the
car. I drove it constantly, went to
car shows, picnics, long family drive,
etc. And we always called in Herbie
just like we did when I was a kid. Well,
one Saturday in 2005 my daughter stopped
in her tracks when she saw a commercial
for Herbie Fully Loaded on TV. She was
mesmerized!!! She turned and looked
at me and said, "Daddy, can we
paint our car like Herbie?!?!?!"
In a moment that took me back 30 years
to my own childhood I said, "ABSOLUTELY!!!"
By now there were resources on the internet
and I found some Herbie fan webpages
with resources for decals and widened
wheels. I made the contacts and ordered
a set of decals from Greg Carr in Florida
who had owned one of the original Herbie
movie cars (Herbie #2 I believe). And
since the HFL movie version didn't have
stripes on the sunroof cover, my dilemma
was solved. I ordered a charcoal gray
canvas cover and removed the tan and
replaced it with the gray. Then the
next Saturday I drove the car to a local
sign shop to have the guys help me install
the graphics. I had studied the original
movie decal placements, measurements,
and I knew exactly where and how they
were going to be placed. Although I
did put the stripes on the aprons and
the air vent grill on the back just
as my own little touch.
the way home from installing the decals,
I started noticing something very odd.
People started waving, beeping, and
reacting like never before. I got the
occasional nod or thumbs up before,
but this was unreal. When I got home,
my wife and daughter were standing in
the driveway waiting for me and my daughter
ran up and hugged the hood and said,
"I love you Herbie!!!" A moment
that still makes me tear up as everything
had come full circle. I started being
asked to be in parades, which my wife
and daughter really enjoyed too. I was
contacted by a special group to be a
volunteer to take Herbie to visit sick
and special needs children. That was
so rewarding. It dawned on me that all
of these things came together for a
reason and it wasn't just to sit in
a garage with a car cover on it and
going to car shows. I realized my childhood
dream, my daughter's childhood dream,
and now it gave me a chance to connect
with people and share hope and helpful
perspectives. The families that I got
to meet and the difference we were able
to make in their lives was overwhelming.
2011 I relocated with my job and moved
to Pasco County, Florida
Bug Jam, a huge VW car show every year
typically with 600+ VWs. I didn't know
that when I accepted the position, but
found out when I started investigating
the VW scene in my soon to be new home.
Ironically, with all of the VW shows
and events I got to meet and become
good friends with the people who had
helped me turn my car into Herbie and
realize my dream. Such a small world.
My car was a Herbie for twelve years,
and the decals were showing their age.
So I talked to Greg, who was not making
decals anymore, but he agreed to make
me a replacement set and it gave me
a great excuse to go to his house and
see his unbelievable collection of VW
memorabilia and cars.
2017 I removed the decals, which turned
out to me a monumental task after years
of baking in the Florida sun. It involved
many hours of removal and paint correction.
After working so hard to make the paint
look great again, I was really enjoying
the car looking the way I remembered
it growing up. And now living in Florida
I had noticed that there were many Herbie's
at lots of the events. It felt odd to
roll into a car show to see three other
cars that looked just like yours. After
moving to Florida, I had also upgraded
many of the things that were now available.
I replaced the carpet with light gray
German wool square weave carpet like
the original, and I had found light
gray rubber floor mats like the originals.
I had also freshened up many of the
rubber seals around the car and had
POR15 coated then painted the inside
and underneath of the floor pans and
suspension of the car gloss black. Now
the car really did look like it did
when I was young, with the exception
of the widened VW wheels I had added
when I "Herbied" it. Instead
of having the wheels painted to match
the car, I had opted for chrome just
as my own personal touch.
events after removing the decals I noticed
something odd. Me and my buddies had
noticed over the years that when people
saw my Herbie they'd walk by and say,
"It's Herbie" without even
really looking at the car or appreciating
the level of restoration that had gone
into it. But now, people started actually
looking at the car for what it was,
and reading the documentation I had
framed in the trunk, and reading about
my history with the car. People were
appreciating the car not for being a
Herbie replica, but for being a 1963
model 117 Deluxe Sunroof Sedan that
was in pristine condition with 50+ years
of documented family history. So now
it's 2021 and I'm still enjoying my
car as it was without being a Herbie
replica, but I have paid homage to his
Herbie history with a small 53 decal
in the bottom corner of the rear window.
"Herbie" now enjoys the company
of seven other VWs that I own. I'm constantly,
buying, restoring, trading, and selling
VWs just as a hobby, but I have a few
that I will never part with. My Dad's
car is certainly one that I would never
consider parting with. I now have a
12 year old son as well and his favorite
car is my 1963 Bug. It will certainly
be passed on to him when the time is
right. My daughter will get my 1962
Sunroof Bug "Ruby" which I
hand painted over 10 years as a groovy
peace sign and flower covered hippy
car which now sports many of Herbie's
former parts, like the tan sunroof cover,
tan carpet, and black rubber floor mats.
It also sports Herbie's original front
bumper and tags from when I was a kid.
When I brought that car home in 2007
to start on it my daughter ran out into
the driveway and declared, "Her
name is Ruby and she's Herbie's girlfriend."
And so she is.
my life journey continues to move forward
with my 1963 Volkswagen model 117 Deluxe
Sunroof Sedan, "Herbie." Some
used to say, "it's not the REAL
Herbie" to which I often responded
"He may not be a movie star but
in many ways he's even more of a reaI
Herbie who has changed many lives and
made so many dreams come true."
Thank you for taking the time to read
our story, a story that has many more
chapters yet to be written.
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