For more than a half century, Kathleen Brooks has driven her little red 1967 Volkswagen Beetle as daily transportation. She bought her VW new in December 1966 in Riverside, California, and has put more than 350,000 miles on the car, which she named Annie. At 73, she still drives Annie to work.
Although the VW was maintained over the decades in running condition, Annie was faded, dented and rusted when Volkswagen of North America took notice of Brooks’ unusual attachment to her now-vintage Beetle, decades after most owners might have traded it in for something newer.
The company’s reaction? Offering a no-cost restoration of Annie at the North America Region’s factory in Puebla, Mexico.
During the past 11 months, about 60 VW technicians and trainees restored Annie to the way it was when Brooks picked her up at the dealership 51 years ago. They also added some custom touches to celebrate the long-term relationship.
Derrick Hatami, Volkswagen of America’s executive vice president for sales and marketing, said the company felt it needed to do something special to honor Brook’s devotion to Annie.
“We often hear stories of dedicated Volkswagen owners, but there was something special about Kathleen and Annie that we felt we needed to honor,” Hatami said in a news release. “This isn’t just a Beetle, it’s a member of her family, and after all the time our employees have spent with this special vehicle, we feel Annie is a part of our family as well.”
Brooks and Annie were reunited this week. She met with some of the team that spearheaded the restoration and then took the Beetle for a “first” drive on the beach.
Annie was “always there for me,” said Brooks, whose job these days is helping to care for breast-cancer patients and survivors. The aged VW has been a constant conversation starter over the years, she added, noting that she also is a breast-cancer survivor.
“I’ve said many times she and I are so much alike because she’s old, she’s faded, she’s dinged, she’s dented, she’s rusted, but you know what? She keeps running,” Brooks said. “And as long as I take as good care of her as I can, she’s going to continue to run.”
Annie was in rough condition when it arrived at Puebla, VW said in the release, with a floor pan that was rusted through and a number of problems with the suspension, transmission and electrical system that required refurbishment, and an engine that needed a rebuild.
“Over 11 months, the Puebla team replaced roughly 40 percent of Annie’s parts and restored 357 original pieces, down to recreating the stickers that Brooks had added to the body and windows over the years,” according to the news release. “To properly restore her faded red paint, the team matched the original shade from the inside of the glovebox, sandblasted the body, repaired with a mix of period-correct and updated parts, and then reassembled.”
There are some upgrades to the original car, including front disc brakes, a modern audio system with Bluetooth that was designed to look like the car’s original radio, a roof rack and whitewall tires. The seats are now finished in tan leather with “Kathleen” and “Annie” embroidered in a classic VW font. The tool kit and jack were repainted in Deep Sea Teal Metallic, a nod toward the 2018 Beetle’s Coast Edition.
The goal was not to create a museum-quality 1967 VW Beetle but to bring Annie back into a condition where Brooks could drive the car for many years to come, said Augusto Zamudio, the project manager and mechatronics engineer in Puebla.
“This was a labor of love for all of us,” Zamudio said. “It was emotional to see Annie go after all the time we have spent working on her, but we are happy Kathleen and her can be reunited.”