In 1966, when Kathleen Brooks was in her early 20s, she decided to buy a 1967 red Volkswagen Beetle. She named it “Annie.” Because that's what we do; we treat possessions like family. For the last 51 years, Brooks has used her red Beetle for daily transportation. Now 73, Brooks has driven Annie 350,000 miles — that’s enough to circle the globe 14 times.
It is an incredible story, and when Volkswagen heard about it, they offered to restore the car to its factory-quality specifications. The timing seemed appropriate as VW is doing a bit of a PR victory lap after announcing that it is killing the third generation of the iconic car and shutting down production as a result of lagging sales.
Brooks bid a tearful goodbye to her beloved Beetle for about 11 months while a team of 60 VW employees and trainees based out of the Beetle factory in Puebla, Mexico, brought it back to its original condition — if not better.
Although the car had all the love it could handle, it needed a lot of work. It had been on the road for 51 years, after all. The floor pan was rusted out and the car had transmission, suspension, and electrical system problems. The team wound up replacing about 40% of the car's parts and restored 357 original pieces.
Some of the restorations were obvious upgrades. For example, the stereo looks like the original but is now Bluetooth-compatible. The Beetle also has better brakes and an improved electric system, as well as a rebuilt transmission and an upgraded suspension. The team took apart the engine, cleaned the components, and updated or even rebuilt some of the parts.
While the exterior was pretty faded, the company was able to match the original color by pulling it from inside the glovebox. VW also made a few custom changes, like embroidering "Annie" and "Kathleen" on the new seats.
It was a tearful reunion as well. Brooks always said that she liked Annie because they had a lot in common: "She’s old, she’s faded, she’s dinged, she’s dented, she’s rusted. ... [but] she keeps running."
And now, Brooks will be able to stay behind the wheel of her old Beetle for many years to come.