By Mike Linn
Two years, a few thousand dollars, and many hours in a Clovis auto repair garage helped transform Sgt. Rob Burke’s 1972 hippie bug into what he says is one of roughly 50 “Herbie the Love Bug” replicas in the world.
And all the work has paid off for Burke and his family: They’ve been invited to bring the Volkswagen bug to Roswell this weekend for the fifth annual Roswell 2K (Beetle) car show.
There, Burke’s car will act as the backdrop for an autograph session with Dean Jones, the actor who drove the Herbie mobile in the 1960s Disney film, “The Love Bug.”
Burke, who has enjoyed fixing up cars since graduating high school in 1985, said he bought the bug two years ago for $400 after noticing it for sale on the side of the road. Back then the car was laced with peace symbols, flowers and colorful beetles.
“We thought we could buy this car and we knew it would need work but it would be worth it,” Rob wrote on his Web site:
Burke, an airman at Cannon Air Force Base, originally bought the car for the gas mileage — he lives less than a mile from base and spends about $6 a month in gas. But he soon found he got much more than 25 miles to the gallon. When he takes his children for a ride his car gets quite a bit of attention. His car is also the spotlight car of the month on SuperBeetles.com.
“I’ve always liked American-muscle cars, but as you get married and families come along those cars have to go by the wayside,” Burke said. “So now I have a Volkswagen bug, which is great fun, and you meet a lot of great people this way.”
While Burke was in Iraq from January 2003 to April 2003, his wife Ginger and his mother decided to refurbish the interior of his car, which before he left was in shambles, parts of it held together with duct tape.
His immediate reaction: “This can’t be my car. I was very surprised,” he said.
Ginger said the Herbie bug is a great family car, and it keeps her husband — and the children — occupied and entertained.
“I’ve always liked cars,” he said. “It’s something I can always change and work on. It’s fun for the kids to play around with … they think Herbie’s great. They love to go for rides downtown and watch people on the highway go by and give you that second look, and honk and wave.”