About the Car

“Some day I’ll teach you not to confuse the car with the driver.”

Dean JonesThe Love Bug

In February of 2017, Gabe and his wife, Abi, purchased a white(ish) 1963 Volkswagen Beetle from a gentleman in Trenton, New Jersey. This was the culmination of a 30-year-odd (and 30-odd-year) obsession of Gabe’s with Walt Disney’s 1969 film, “The Love Bug”, which starred a 1963 white(ish) Volkswagen Beetle, and co-starred some pretty talented human actors, including Dean Jones, Michele Lee, Buddy Hackett, and the deliciously villainous David Tomlinson.

The purchase of the car was also something Gabe and Abi did to buoy their spirits in the midst of worsening depression, for both of them, and feelings of hopelessness and despair. February of 2017 was a dark and tumultuous time for them personally, and for much of the nation. They decided that the world, or their small corner of it, anyway, needed a little symbol of love, so they brought home this little Bug and immediately set to work “Herbie-fying” it with red, white, and blue stripes, and strategically-placed “53” gumballs on its hood, engine compartment, and doors.

Other changes, improvements, and modifications would take place as time permitted; some safety-oriented (like an upgrade to front disc brakes, 3-point shoulder belts for the front, a chemical fire suppression system in the engine compartment [old Bugs like to catch fire]) and some were more vanity-oriented, like a fake gray ragtop sunroof cover (Herbie had a sunroof, this Bug did not), wide racing wheels and tires to give it that Herbie look/stance/and cornering ability, modern windshield wipers, and a gray interior, to match Herbie’s in the film.

But the most important “modification” to this Herbie was the application of a professionally-produced and installed full rear window graphic featuring the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK {8255}). Gabe added this graphic to his Herbie in 2018, and began spreading a message of suicide awareness, de-stigmatization of mental health challenges, and hope. They have appeared at suicide prevention and mental health events, as well as traditional car shows, taking their message of hope wherever they go.

Herbie and Gabe have gone as far North together as the Vermont/Canada border, and as far South as Sarasota, Florida (they cheated a little bit there, using Amtrak’s AutoTrain) and they have logged thousands upon thousands of (mostly) very happy miles together. Along those miles, hundreds of thousands of motorists have seen the Lifeline number because of this Herbie.

Being The City of Brotherly Love’s own “Love Bug”, Gabe’s Herbie has been featured at several prominent Philadelphia events, including the Philadelphia Love Run, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)’s “Out of the Darkness” Walk, Solace House’s “Into the Light” Suicide Awareness Walk, and Herbie has appeared in the Philadelphia Pride Parade for the last two years; in 2019 draped in black and rainbow mourning bunting in honor of Philadelphia Sheriff’s Deputy Dante Austin, the Sheriff Department’s LGBTQ+ Liaison Officer, who shot and killed himself on June 7, the day before the Pride Parade.

%d bloggers like this: