Where was The Love Bug filmed?
San Francisco, San Bernadino, Agoura
Classic Car, Ranch Style
About The Love Bug
Simply put, The Love Bug is Walt Disney’s first “Herbie” movie. Released in 1968, Robert Stevenson directed the comedy film with Dean Jones and Michele Lee as the main stars. Jones portrays Jim Douglas, a race car driver whose life becomes a whirlwind of adventure thanks to his 1963 racing Volkswagen, Herbie.
We get acquainted with Jim when his glory days as a champion racer are long gone and his time is spent racing younger drivers at demolition derby events. An old firehouse provides a roof over his head, but perhaps its selling point is the view it offers of the San Francisco Bay.
Jim shares the humble abode with Tennessee Steinmetz (Buddy Hackett), his good friend who is into spiritual enlightenment. Steinmetz's experiences living among the Tibetan Buddhist monks influence his outlook on life, and his hobby is upcycling old car parts into “art.”
Jim suffered the biggest setback yet after one of his races ends in a crash, which in turn left his Edsel totaled beyond repair. On the upside, Steinmetz transforms the mangled wreck into a sculpture. The only issue is that it leaves Jim without a racing vehicle.
He heads into town in search of cheap wheels but is soon lured into an upmarket European showroom. That is where he sets his eyes on Carole Bennet (Lee), an attractive mechanic and sales assistant. At the same time, Jim witnesses the dealership owner, Peter Thorndyke (David Tomlinson), “mistreating” a Volkswagen Beetle.
Not one to let such injustice slide, he defends the vehicle’s honor, subsequently ruffling Thorndyke’s ruffles. Once Jim leaves the dealership, the automobile sneakily follows him home. The vehicle parks outside his house, and needless to say, Jim has a brush with the law the next morning over it.
The cops inform him that Thorndyke decided to press grand theft charges against him, and the pair get into a heated exchange. Carole convinces her boss to drop the charges, on the condition that Jim makes monthly payments to buy off the car.
The Love Bug Locations
Jones approached Walt Disney with an idea about a film centered on the first sports car to make its way to the United States. Disney thought otherwise and figured that adopting “Car, Boy, Girl” would create a more compelling story.
Before The Love Bug production took speed, several working titles were considered. That includes Beetlebomb, The Runaway Wagen, and Wonderbeetle.
A few creative liberties went into bringing the movie to life, for instance, Herbie competes at the Monterey Grand Prix. Except for 1963, the event wasn’t a racing competition until the inception of the Monterey Sports Car Championships. In fact, the ’68 Grand Prix didn’t feature production cars, and instead, the event was a Can-Am Series.
The yellow “Special” Thorndyke races in the movie came from the International Motorcars of Oakland. It was a rare 1965 Apollo GT sporting an Italian-built body combined with an Intermeccanica chassis and Buick V8 engine. The vehicle is currently owned by a private collector who restored it to the condition seen in the film.
The production process started in April 1968 and filming wrapped in June. There are plenty of other details to explore about the movie, and here is a breakdown of some of the filming locations of The Love Bug.
Gordon Buford’s 1961 publication, “Car, Boy, Girl,” inspired the premise of the comedy film. Several other titles were considered including Bugboom and The Magic Volksy.
Herbie gets frightened of the freeway scene in The Love Bug
California State Route 60, East Los Angeles
On his first spin in the Beetle, Jim takes the freeway. The vehicle gets frightened and comes to a halt. Soon, it kicks the reverse gear and proceeds to back out of the freeway.
Lamenting about the car to Steinmetz, Jim believes that Thorndyke sold him a lemon. His friend thinks otherwise, explaining that certain inanimate objects have souls and minds of their own. He goes about befriending the vehicle and dubs it Herbie.
Soon enough, Jim’s feelings about the car gradually change, particularly because the vehicle gives him the perfect excuse to keep in touch with Carole. Taking the vehicle for a check, he exclaims, “what do you know? The engine stalled.”
California State Route 60, near Atlantic Boulevard, is where they filmed the freeway scene where Herbie gets spooked.
The filming crew also transformed the Roscoe Boulevard Interchange in North Hollywood and California State Route 170 into The Love Bug film sets. That is where they recorded the scenes where Herbie enters and exits the freeway.
Herbie and Jim defeat Thorndyke at the Riverside event scene in The Love Bug
Riverside International Raceway, 22255 Eucalyptus Ave, Moreno Valley, CA
Jim also soon discovers that Herbie is quite the speedster for his size. His sentiments say it all, “I may be kidding myself, but I think I can make something out of that sad little bucket of bolts.”
He decides to race the Beetle, and Thorndyke, who witnesses their first victory, offers to waive the remaining payments. The catch is that Jim has to race against him at a Riverside event scheduled for later that month. Jim takes up the offer, but Thorndyke employs underhanded tactics attempting to clinch the win.
Still, Herbie and Jim win the race, and they emerge victors several more times in subsequent racing events. Thorndyke convinces Carole to go out on a date with Jim while he breaks into the racer’s house. He gets past Steinmetz, who passes out after downing his custom Irish coffee brew.
The nefarious dealership owners pour the remaining alcoholic coffee into Herbie’s tank. The next day, Herbie is hungover and doesn’t win the race. As Thorndyke basks in his victory, Herbie chugs out some of the whipped cream beverage from his exhaust pipe and it lands on the dealership owner.
The Riverside International Raceway (RIR) at 22255 Eucalyptus Avenue in Moreno provided one of the settings for The Love Bug scenes. Other racing scenes were recorded at the Laguna Seca Raceway and Willow Springs Raceway.
Established in 1957, the RIR closed its doors in 1989. Its proximity to Hollywood made the raceway a popular film shoot location. Other productions like “The Rockford Files,” “Knight Rider,” and “The Fall Guy” also made use of the racing facilities.
Herbie damages Jim’s 400GT scene in The Love Bug
1000 Lombard Street, San Francisco, CA
Carole, since quitting working at the dealership, goes to Jim’s house that evening to help Steinmetz repair Herbie. Steinmetz shares his thoughts about Herbie, and she believed it.
He explained it best to Jim, “we take machines, and we stuff 'em with information until they're smarter than we are. Pretty soon, you know what? The machine starts to think it *is* somebody.”
Jim turns up rolling in a Lamborghini 400GT that he plans to race at the upcoming El Dorado event. He also reveals his intentions to sell Herbie and clear the pending installments owed to Thorndyke. Steinmetz and Carole are against it, and they do their best to make him understand that he owes his string of wins to Herbie.
Feeling betrayed, a jealous Herbie damages the 400GT, which in turn proves to Jim that Steinmetz was right all along. The vehicle runs away, just when Thorndyke arrives to take him back to the dealership. Jim rejects the money Thorndyke offers, and he sets off in search of the Volkswagen.
1000 Lombard Street in San Francisco is the setting for the winding road scenes. The Love Bug location has also had cameos in “What’s Up, Doc,” “Sudden Fear,” and “Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine.”
Herbie goes on a rampage scene in The Love Bug
Paramount Ranch, 2903 Cornell Rd, Agoura Hills, CA
On the run, Herbie has quite the experience; from narrowly escaping Thorndyke’s workshop to going on a rampage at a Chinese New Year’s parade in Chinatown. His last resort is to drive off of the Golden Gate Bridge, but fortunately, Jim catches up in time.
Tang Wu (Benson Fong), a Chinese businessperson whose store suffered damage following Herbie’s rampage, demands compensation. Jim isn’t able to afford the payment, but Steinmetz, who picked up on some Chinese from his years in Tibet, reasons with Wu.
He learns that Wu is a huge racing fan who eventually recognizes Herbie from racing magazines. Wu agrees to drop the charges if he can become Herbie’s new owner.
Jim has no choice but to accept the deal, mostly because Wu also allows him to race the vehicle at the El Dorado event. He counters that if he wins the race, Wu gets to keep the prize money while Jim gets Herbie back for a dollar. Wu memorably says, “Now you speak my language.”
The Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills, at 2813 Cornell Road, housed several of The Love Bug film sets. In particular, it is where the filming crew set up shop to record the start and finish line scenes for the El Dorado Race.
Herbie loses the first leg of the El Dorado race scene in The Love Bug
Keller Peak Yellow Post Sites, San Bernardino National Forest, 20557 Keller Peak Rd, Big Bear, CA
The El Dorado event stretches through the Sierra Nevada mountains, with detours to the Yosemite Valley and a pit stop at Virginia City before doubling back to the starting point. Thorndyke convinces Wu to place a wager on the race but as usual, his offer is wrapped up with nothing good.
Unfortunately, Jim loses the race yet again, and the loss leaves Herbie missing two wheels after Thorndyke's car nudges it. Steinmetz hilariously takes note of the rolling wheel and asks, “where did that wheel come from?”
Carole and Steinmetz help Jim roll the vehicle to the finish line using a wagon wheel. It doesn’t look like Herbie will make it to the return leg the following day, and Thorndyke arrives claiming that the turn of events means that he is Herbie’s new owner. Wu regrettably informs Jim about the wager he made with Thorndyke.
The San Bernardino National Forest and San Bernardino Mountains in Big Bear were other filming locations for The Love Bug. “Paint Your Wagon,” a 1969 musical film, also made use of the forest as a filming location.
Visitors can stay overnight at any one of the forest’s 47 ‘Yellow Post’ campsites. Bus 6 will get you to the San Bernardino National Forest Arrowhead Ranger Station.
Herbie wins the final race scene in The Love Bug
Walt Disney Studios, 500 S Buena Vista St, Burbank, CA
In the confrontation that ensues, Herbie unexpectedly springs back to life to protect Jim. The Beetle gives Thorndyke a chase, symbolically saying that the race is still on.
Jim makes up for the lost time, thanks to a few ingenious shortcuts. The second leg sees him and Thorndyke maintain a neck-to-neck pace as they approach the finish line. However, the final stretch isn’t too kind on Herbie and his body starts cracking between the rear and front seats.
Steinmetz attempts to repair him on the fly using a welder, but the efforts are futile. On the final stretch, Herbie’s body gives way and splits in half, with Steinmetz at the back half crossing the finish line first.
Jim and Carole, who is at the front half of the vehicle, closely roll past the finish line. Carole’s previous words are resounding in that scene, “you aren't winning any of those races! You couldn't win a game of marbles against a 12-toed myopic rhinoceros!”
After all, it’s Herbie’s efforts that clinch them the epic finish, and it also earns them both first and third place. Wu also emerges as the victor based on the wager he placed with Thorndyke.
The Walt Disney Studios at 500 South Buena Vista Street also serves as one of The Love Bug locations. The team also recorded some scenes at Walt Disney's Golden Oak Ranch at 19802 Placerita Canyon Road.
Any huge classic movie fan who wants to visit where the magic happened has a list of worthwhile locations to explore. While at it, also consider stopping by other filming locations of The Love Bug around California.
The filming crew also taped scenes in Santa Clarita, Cuddy Valley, Lombard Street, San Francisco, Newhall, Burbank, Moreno Valley, and the Chinese Camp.