Introducing Max the Love Bug

Print ads send people to volkswagen.com, and Web ads let people click on the statements to vote on whether they agree, to see how others have voted and to comment. Says Ellis, "We want to create buzz and get people to check out Volkswagen again."

Auto restorers max out effort to bring Max in front of cameras by deadline

Max is a real, restored 1964 VW Beetle. Actually he's five of them.

One non-original part is Max's voice box. The five German-accented clones will make appearances around the nation.

After Volkswagen marketers settled on the 1964 model as best representing a classic Beetle, admakers had three weeks, Dec. 24 to Jan. 13, to have the first Max ready for his close-up, says Brian Schultz, a producer with VW agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky.

Teams began a mad search for a restoration expert and restorable Beetles. Within days they found John Bickel, a VW restoration expert who runs State of Mind Customs in Oxford, Mich. Meanwhile, those scrounging for cars and parts found enough for eight to 10 finished cars.

The hardest part to find in mint condition: steering wheels.

"You look at an old car like an old house. You don't know what you're going to find," Schultz says. "We reached out to everyone and everything to find the best cars."

As cars arrived at Bickel's shop, each was stripped to its bones. A team of 20 then began restoration. Each piece of bodywork was media-blasted, each imperfection fixed and the undercarriage painted.

The bodywork was painted, then color-sanded to a brilliant shine.

Most parts were refinished before reinstallation. Electrical wiring was run. Gauges, lights, the 10-gallon gas tank and trim were refitted. Rebuilt engines and transmissions went in.

Next up: the headliner, side leatherette and trim. Then came the glass and, finally, the seats — reupholstered in the Beetle's red "leatherette."

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