Vancouver’s “Herbie” seen in Strathcona

Vancouver’s “Herbie” seen in Strathcona

I saw this “Herbie” VW Bug in Strathcona and it made me think of a little bit from a book Asphalt Nation that was reading a little while ago. Published 22 years ago the book is sadly still relevant and worth reading. Interestingly, Vancouver would in the past 20 years implemented a lot of the recommendations for “taming” the car in cities.

1973 The Energy Crisis

A tiny bit of history from the bad days of the 1970’s. OPEC starts an oil embargo which reduces the supply of gas in North American. People lose confidence in their American fuel inefficient autos. The price of gas triples in less than a year. Driving patterns change, folks even change modes with car pooling and using public transit. Car buyers increasingly look to smaller cars from Japan and Europe.

Jane Holtz Kay notes in her book Asphalt Nation:

 “ Why did Americans have to spend a quarter of their income on automobiles, with more and going to accessories? Small imports, less expensive to drive than domestic gas-guzzlers, nibbled away at the Big Three’s sales. “Herbie”, Hollywood’s version of the adorable Volkswagen, also known as the Bug and the Beetle, and the less endearing Japanese vehicles offered low-mileage, low-frills mobility and gave Detroit stiff completion.”

In 1974 Disney comes out with another version of the movie “Herbie Rides Again”. With the American car industry, in a deep down turn, must not have been happy with free PR for Volkswagen. More importantly that move is emblematic of Americans love of the cars. Two tons of metal and toxic material is anthropomorphize into a chippy family member, romping around.



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