Kathleen Brooks bought her Beetle in December 1966 and used it ever since as her daily driver. Nicnamed ‘Annie’, the red Beetle has racked up more than 350,000 miles over 51 years, with Brooks still using it to get to work.
When VW North America heard about Kathleen and her Beetle, they offered to restore ‘Annie’ at their factory in Puebla, Mexico which is the go-to place for Beetles in North America.
“We often hear stories of dedicated Volkswagen owners, but there was something special about Kathleen and Annie that we felt we needed to honor,” said Derrick Hatami, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Volkswagen of America. “The original Beetle launched our business in the United States. 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 works with breast-cancer patients and survivors, providing comfort and cosmetic care during treatment and recovery. A three-times breast cancer survivor herself, she says that ‘Annie’ has been a constant conversation starter for over five decades.
“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.”
The restoration process took a little over 11 months, involving a team of 60 employees and trainees. The car’s biggest issues was mostly rust-related in the floor pan, suspension and transmission, as well as some electrical issues cars of this age and mileage usually have.
VW says that they replaced roughly 40 percent of the Beetle’s parts and restored 357 original pieces, including the recreation of the stickers Brooks had applied to the body and windows over the years. The team matched the original shade of red from the inside of the glovebox, in order to paint the body in the correct color after sandblasting it.
Several parts used in the restoration are better than the original factory ones, including the disc brakes from later Beetles produced in Mexico, and the Bluetooth stereo that mimics the look and feel of the original. All the wiring was completely redone, while the transmission was rebuilt and the suspension upgraded.
The engine was disassembled, cleaned, updated and rebuilt, while the seats got a new leather upholstery with “Kathleen” and “Annie” embroidered to them. According to project manager Augusto Zamudio, their goal was not to create a museum quality Beetle, but to bring it back to a state where its owner could drive and enjoy it for many years to come.