‘Max’ The Beetle And His 4 German Secret Agent Accomplices

'Max' the Beetle

Some years ago Volkswagen enlisted the help of secret agent ‘Max’ a crafty German spokesperson to eloquently embody the brand’s ideals…

A shrewd move but not the easiest of tasks to undertake and it became abundantly clear that not just any celebrity superstar would do. With the help of advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the unforgettable black 1964 Beetle we simply know as ‘Max’ was fast-tracked to the limelight.

Though he wasn’t human, Max was unquestionably iconic, and instantly shone as a spokesperson. The lovable icon spoke English but with a polite German accent as he interviewed celebrities of the day that included Heidi Klum, Leonard Nimoy, David Hasselhoff, and basketball coach Bobby Knight. His schedule stayed fully booked, with appearances at car shows and vehicle launches nationwide filling out the days between photo shoots.

Max the Beetle

Max – Famous Five

But how could Max be in so many places at once? Simple – there were five of him. In an incredibly short timeframe, prime candidates were located, purchased, identically restored, and delivered to the public stage.

State of Mind Customs in Oxford, MI handled the restoration process, completing the first three Beetles in just 30 days. Spearheading a team of 20 through the work, owner John Bickel stresses “the feat would never have been possible without the strong cohesion and enthusiasm between all involved parties and Volkswagen itself”.

Max the Beetle

The 1964 Beetle might be the most iconic representation of the car’s incredible 30-year long run. A myriad of upgrades included a metal sunroof, larger front turn signals, a larger license plate light, and four new colours: Panama Beige, Java Green, Bahama Blue, and Sea Blue. Inside the 1964 Beetle, the horn featured two buttons in lieu of the earlier car’s half-ring design and basketweave vinyl seats provided some aeration compared with the solid vinyl of the previous car.

Initially, the five restored Beetles were to be static displays, but State of Mind was able to complete frame-on restorations with rebuilt engines and transmissions by the tightest of deadlines. And so, down to the single-stage paint (that is, no clearcoat), each Beetle is a period reflection of the way it would have rolled off the production line in 1964.

Restored with a combination of Volkswagen and reproduction parts, the Max Beetles are indistinguishable from one another, minus the license plates. Max 1 resides at Volkswagen of America’s Herndon, Virginia headquarters.

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With a few pumps of the gas pedal and a twist of the key, Max 1 springs right to life. Vent windows served as the day’s air conditioning, swivelling open easily with a push of the hand, while the windows are nostalgically wound up and down by hand.

'Max' the Beetle
The Volkswagen ‘Max’ Beetle

An unexpectedly precise ‘shifter’ clicks delicately and precisely into gear only at the very top of each long throw. Even before turning a wheel in motion, the feeling of being somewhere special is overwhelming.

When whistling down the road, the specialness is shared with the many onlookers offering waves, honks, smiles, and thumbs-ups. The sprung seats do their part in absorbing bumps and ruts in the road as much as the suspension itself does, even as they unknowingly handle the job of adding a 1960’s tint to the experience. Any 1964 Beetle is an icon; this one is a celebrity.

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