HomeCar CultureVW honors 51-year Beetle driver with ‘labor of love’ restoration

VW honors 51-year Beetle driver with ‘labor of love’ restoration


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.

Annie was pretty scruffy when she rolled into the Puebla, Mexico, facility

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 takes her renewed Volkswagen for a drive

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.”

VW technicians work on Annie’s engine

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.

Annie shows off her reborn self

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.”

Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.


  1. The fact that Volkswagen of America did this for a loyal customer of its original product is quite something; things like this don’t seem to happen these days. Congratulations! Too bad they didn’t install the 3/4" whitewalls like so many VWs of that era used for a more authentic look.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Recent Posts