TRAVEMÜNDE, Germany — Old Beetles may be all the rage in the US, but back home in Germany, the new Beetle has a tremendous following. The biggest event among German Beetle fans is the Volkswagen Beetle Sunshine Tour, where hundreds of Beetles (and their owners) gather by the Baltic Sea in, to eat, drink, and be all Beetle-y. Here are twenty of the coolest—and strangest—cars we saw at this year’s gathering.
Statue of Liberty Beetle
The Sunshine Tour is a three-day event, and after gathering at the Beetle Meadow in Travemünde, participants have the option of gathering at one of several nearby locations, then parading back to Travemünde with their fellow Sunshiners. Here, a second-generation Beetle, done up as the Statue of Liberty, prepares to lead the caravan back to the seaside.
Stars and Stripes Beetle
A lot of us see the original Beetle as something of an American phenomenon, and it seems that German Beetle fans agree—we saw more American flags during our two days in Travemünde than we have in the last six months in America. This was one of several US-themed Beetles we saw, with a cool red, white and blue paint job.
No question, this was one of our favorites: A Beetle done up as a step-side pickup truck, complete with a wood-lined bed, roll bars, and (working!) exhaust stack. And yes, it’s a diesel. All it was missing was a gun rack in the back window. (Yes, we checked.)
Mona Lisa Beetle
Volkswagen supported the event and brought several cars along, including this Mona Lisa-painted New Beetle.
This Beetle Convertible was done up in the blue-and-orange paint scheme that adorned Gulf-Porsche racing cars in the 1960s and ‘70s.
2001 New Beetle RSI
This was one of the coolest finds at the Beetle Sunshine Tour: A 2001 Beetle RSI, #001 of the 250 produced (251 if you count the #000 show car). This was the bonkers Bug that packed a 225 hp VR6 engine and 4Motion all-wheel-drive. Volkswagen brought along their own RSI, car #2 (a blue one built for VW’s then-chairman Ferdinand Piech), which we got a chance to drive from Wolfsburg up to Travemünde. 225 hp may not seem like a lot by today’s standards, but the RSI is plenty fast.
Herbie the Love Bug
As you can imagine, there were several Herbie-themed Beetles in attendance. This third-generation Beetle, featuring classic-style wheels and plenty of (painted-on) mud, came to Travemünde from the Czech Republic. (We were tempted to call it “Dirty Herbie,” but that sounds like something you’d pay for in the red-light district.)
The Sunshine Tour is dominated by new Beetles, but there were a few original Type 1s (“Käfer” in German) to be found. This one has a Jack Daniels-inspired paint job, and we liked the gray paint and baby moon hubcaps. We’re sure this is exactly what the rum-runners in the Deep South would have used, except for the fact that you can’t outrun the cops on 40 horsepower.
Barn Find Beetle
This New Beetle was done up as a barn find, complete with a rough Bondo finish and plenty of rust (though we think some of the oxidation around the rear fenders may have been legit). Note the model of the car on the dashboard.
The German fascination with all things American came as a pleasant (if somewhat strange) surprise. This Beetle was adorned with the names of the Presidents, plus portraits of Barack Obama and Jack Kennedy. Donald Trump, it seems, is not a fan favorite.
This Bug wore a replica of the New York State Trooper paint scheme. Note the Michigan plate on the front of the car.
America Hell Ja!
Another classic Beetle in full American regalia. Are those Cragar Quick Trick wheels?
Rap Star in Dallas Beetle
Not all of the cars at the Beetle Sunshine Tour are well-executed works of art. We’re not exactly sure what was going on here—some sort of rap-star-goes-to-Dallas theme, perhaps?
El Deeablo (sic)
This Mexico-themed Beetle came with a wall—get it? We didn’t have the heart to correct their spelling of “Diablo.”
Sometimes subtlety works best. Magenta paint, a black hood, and subtle checkerboard texturing in the doors and fenders made this one of the cooler-looking Beetles at the Sunshine Tour. Check out the matching ride-on car.
This graffiti-themed third-gen was another favorite of ours. WOB on the number plate means this car is from Volkswagen’s hometown of Wolfsburg.
This second-generation Beetle Convertible was done up as Minnie Mouse, complete with ears and nose. The bow looks a little small; we have to wonder if it was meant to fit, you know, a Mini.
Either this Beetle has been slammed, or that is one seriously heavy inflatable flamingo.
Hollywood Smurf Beetle
Can’t decide whether your theme should be Hollywood or The Smurfs? No problem, man—do both!
We thought this wood-grained Beetle would be a perfect promotional car for Volkswagen’s Fender audio system. Check out what’s going on inside: An American football game on the dashboard and a couple of mannequins in the front seats.