The yellow "Thorndike Special" was an Apollo GT. Apollos were built in Pasadena, California. The body shells were fabricated in Italy and shipped to the US, where aluminum Buick 215 CID V8 engines were installed. The same company later made another sports car called the Intermeccanica Italia. One of these appears in the Disney movie The Million Dollar Duck (1971). Dean Jones had the lead acting role, in the movie.
Herbie got his name when the crew of the film was watching one of Buddy Hackett's skits about a ski instructor with a funny accent. Then Hackett said, "If you ain't got a herbie [pronounced as hoy-bie], I ain't goin'." The name stuck, permanently.
When beginning production of the film, Disney set up a casting call for about a dozen cars, and kept them outside the studios for the crew to examine during their breaks. Among the lineup were Toyotas, Volvos, and of course, the pearl white Volkswagen Beetle. When the crew walked by to inspect the cars, they would kick the tires and grab the steering wheel to see how it handled. However, when they came across the Volkswagen, they began to pet it, and so the Beetle got the job, on Sunday, March 23rd, 1969.
According to the filmmakers in the DVD documentary, Herbie's number 53 came from a Disney director or producer, that liked retired baseball pitching star, Don Drysdale of the Los Angeles Dodgers. 53 was Don Drysdale's uniform number.
Herbie, the Love Bug was a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle deluxe ragtop sedan painted in Volkswagen L87 pearl white. Under normal circumstances, the interior would be a matching white. However, Herbie's interior was painted a special non-reflective grey color so the camera and studio lights would not reflect.
During the exchange between Jim Douglas and Mr. Wu while hanging from Herbie's rear bumper: "Car very strong." "And very fast." "The strength of forty horses." The stock Volkswagen Beetle engine did have forty horsepower.
Dean Jones, who played Jim Douglas in the movie and Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977), also plays the role of the hippy in the drive-in restaurant. The actress, that acted as the waitress, is Iris Adrian. Iris Adrian and Dean Jones were together in another Disney movie, two & a quarter years earlier, in the feline comedy, That Darn Cat! (1965). Dean Jones' role was an leading FBI agent, Zeke Kelso and Iris Adrian's role was a firm, unnamed managing landlady of an apartment building, with door-to-door rooms (like a miniature hotel suite) in or near San Francisco, California, with kidnapped bankteller Margaret Miller, Grayson Hall & her kidnappers Dan, was acted by Neville Brand & Iggy was acted by Frank Gorshin.
The station attendant at Tang Wu's Quick Service is wearing a jacket bearing the phrase "Put a Dragon in Your Tank." This is a reference to the 1960s advertising slogan "Put a Tiger in Your Tank" used by the Esso oil corporation, the forerunner of ExxonMobil.
During one scene in the movie, Herbie has lost one of his wheels, and Tennessee is hanging out of the passenger side door to balance him. The door opens, and there is no "53" logo on the door. This image was used heavily to promote the film, despite the glaring omission.
On a bonus 1969 Love Bug DVD conversation disc, a commentator said there was a meeting on (Sunday), March 23rd, 1969, of numerous models of racing style and sedan sized cars. The date, Sunday, March 23rd, 1969 was 17 weeks before lunar history was made, when astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first men that walked on the moon, on Sunday, July 20th, 1969. Whilst astronaut, Michael Collins, remained inside the rocket, Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon. Also, the March 23, 1969 date is unique. By multiplying month number, 3 and day number, 23, they equal the last 2 digits of the year number i.e., multiply 3 times 23 equals 69 (of 1969).
After Carroll fixes herbie when Thorndyke sabotages him with Irish coffee, the vacuum line is disconnected from the the vacuum advance canister on the distributor. This is often disconnected to set the timing but reattached afterwards.