I love Herbie! Disney’s living car that has a mind of its own and is capable of driving all by himself. He is such a great character and I have loved him since I saw my very first Herbie movie in 1969. I was six years old, my dad (who is car crazy too) took me and my little brother (aged 4) to the cinema and we all fell in love with Herbie immediately.
At that time we had a tiny Renault 4CV, the French car that was made to compete with the Volkswagen, but didn’t succeed. Driving home from the cinema our little car, called the Nolte, became living too. Dad sat with his arms raised over his head and the Nolte drove all by himself!
What we didn’t notice was that the car was so small so dad could steer with his knees. Dad is a mechanic so he had placed several buttons at the bottom of the car so he could operate the horns (he had several funny horns) and the light with his feet. So while we drove the car would blink and “talk” to us, just like Herbie did. We were SO excited. We could not see dad moving his feet from the backseat.
But the little car really had a mind of its own. He was kind of strange and often very stubborn. Dad had put a bigger and faster engine in him, but he was often unwilling to start, so dad placed a crank in front of the car, which mum had to turn a lot before he would start. I suppose I was about 10 years old when I got the responsibility of sitting behind the steering wheel and step on the accelerator – I felt very grown. My mother turned and turned and the car wouldn’t start, it kept dying again and again. My mother sweared a lot and then one of us three kids asked her to try talk nice to the car. She gave us the eye, but then she patted him and asked him to please start! And vroouuum – he started! You could almost hear him laugh. The three of us shouted with joy from the back seat.
Once we had been to the theatre and while we were in there, a snowstorm had begun. When we came out we looked at each other knowing that little Nolte would never start. We had no phone, so we could not call dad, the expert. There was about two feet snow, it was damn cold and it was late and we were SO tired – not good at all! We walked through the snow and found Nolte all alone at the parking place. We brushed all the snow off him and got in – and vrooouuum, he started immediately! I thought he knew we were all very tired and wanted to go home to our warm dining room.
He also had a bad habit – he could never pass by an ice-cream café!
Mum protested, but dad insisted, with his arms raised over his head, that it was the car that wanted to stop! We all hooted from the backseat.
But a Renault 4CV is very rusty. Dad kept repairing him over and over again, and one day he came home, sick and tired of all that rust and said that now the car had to go to the breaker. All three kids started crying! He could not kill our little Nolte! We cried and cried, until he made a compromise: He would repair little Nolte one last time and then sell him. That was OK with us, not good, but better than killing him. So dad kept his promise and repaired him for the last time, even painted him dark green, so he still looked good and sold him to a lady in our town – which I’m sure killed him within a few years! The last day we had him dad took a photo of all of us in front of him with self-timer on his camera.
My brother must have been somewhere else that day.
This is a photo of little Nolte and my mother. Judging from her dress I think the photo is from the very early seventies.
I’ve told my son these stories and we’ve seen all the Herbie movies and he loves Herbie as much as I do. I have a vintage Opel GT and he thinks that it is a little alive too. We hope so, until now he’s behaved and been a good car.
Little Nolte became the love of my life and every time I see a vintage Renault 4CV I have to go check if it is MY little Nolte. If I ever find him, I’ll buy him on the spot, irrespective of the condition he will be in. If he is all rusty I will just place him in my back garden and go down to pat him once in a while. (And dear husband will kill me for doing so!)
Do you also have such memories of cars!?
You can read more about Herbie here.