classic cars, industry, Motoring News, vehicle restoration, VW

VW Annie gets redone – at the age of fifty-one

  • A Christmas tale about a motoring miracle
  • Annie gets redone at age of fifty-one
  • Kathleen and her car, back on the road again
ANCIENT ANNIE: Not looking too good after 51 years on the road - but watch the Christmas miracle unfold. Image: VW Mexico
ANCIENT ANNIE: Not looking too good after 51 years on the road – but watch the Christmas miracle unfold. Image: VW Mexico (See video below)

HERNDON, Virginia – Kathleen Brooks bought her first Beetle in December 1966 in Riverside, California, and as the new year dawned the following month she elected to name her shiny new car…

The Beetle became Annie.

Annie and Kathleen ( (now 73) through the 51 years that have passed since have been fast friends (though maybe not quite as fast as they used to be!) and together racked up more than 560 000km of daily driving and commuting.

YOUNG AGAIN: Cancer triple survivor Kathleen Brooks takes her first run in the reconstituted Beetle called ‘Annie’ after the 11-month restoration. Image: VW Mexico                    

That distance, The Corner was told, is apparently 14 times around the world but Kathleen was still driving Annie to work.


Then VW North America got to hear abound their lifelong automotive marriage and, to celebrate the half-century of woman and wheels, offered to give Annie a comprehensive restoration.

So, Annie went for an 11-month makeover at the home of VW North America in Pueblo, Mexico. A team of about 60 VW workers and trainees reworked Annie back to factory-quality specification – then added some custom touches.

Kathleen and Annie were reunited, just in time for Christmas 2018, at a function attended by key members of the VW restoration team.

Has a tear or two trickled down your rosies yet, dear reader?

Kathleen Brooks
Kathleen Brooks

WATCH ANNIE’S restoration on video click here

Derrick Hatami, executive VP for sales and marketing at Volkswagen of America, said: “We often hear stories of dedicated VW owners but there was something special about Kathleen and Annie that we felt we needed to honour.

“The original Beetle launched our business in the US; 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, too.”

Kathleen (and Annie) work with breast-cancer patients and survivors to provide comfort and cosmetic care during treatment and recovery. She herself is a three-time breast cancer survivor.

THE AMAZING TEAM: Restoration of the 51-year-old Beetle took 11 months and these are the good guys who did it. Image: VW Mexico

She said: ”Annie has always been there for me. I’ve said many times that 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 right on running.

“As long as I take as good care of her, as I can, she’s going to continue to run.”

Annie, even with Kathleen’s best efforts, had several serious problems before restoration began in Puebla in early 2018, from a rusted-through floor pan to problems with suspension, transmission and electrics.

READ MORE VW features on Carman’s Corner

The Puebla team got stuck in and eventually replaced about 40% of Annie’s parts and restored 357 original pieces, right down to recreating the stickers that Kathleen had added to the body and windows over the years.

THE BEACH BOYS are also pretty old now, but their music will last for ever. Click to listen while your read.

To properly restore her faded red paint the team matched the original unfaded shade from inside of the glove box, sandblasted the body, repaired the shell with a mix of period-correct and updated parts, and then reassembled.

Kathleen Brooks
BETTER THAN NEW: SOme p[arts of the engine were restored but after five decades some had to be renewed. Image: VW Mexico
Several parts were restored to better than their original , from the disc brakes that were an upgrade on later Beetles produced in Mexico to the AM/FM/Bluetooth stereo designed to mimic the look and feel of original Beetle radios.

The wiring was completely redone; the transmission rebuilt; the suspension upgraded. The engine was completely disassembled, cleaned, updated and rebuilt. Even the seats received a special touch, with “Kathleen” and “Annie” embroidered in a classic VW font over new leather.

And to tie the car to the modern era, the car’s toolkit and jack were painted in ”deep-sea teal metallic”, the color of the 2018 Beetle Coast edition.


”The goal,” reported project manager and mechatronics engineer Augusto Zamudio, ”was not to create a museum-quality Beetle but to bring Annie back to a condition that Kathleen could drive and enjoy her for many more years.

Steffen Reiche, CEO of VW Mexico, said: “Our team, when Annie arrived, quickly understood the connection between Kathleen and her car and embraced the project wholeheartedly.

”The restoration posed a number of challenges but also provided a demonstration of the dedication we put into every VV we build.”

Kathleen Brooks
STILL AS THE ORIGINAL VW: ‘Annie’s’tired painwork was hard to match with the original colour after a half-century but the basic paint finish in the glove box provide the accurate, unweathered, colour.  Image: VW Mexico

When Kathleen parted with Annie before the work started she wrote a heartfelt note to the Puebla team thanking them for their efforts and asking them to take care of her special car.

Zamudio says the feeling was mutual so the team wrote back to Brooks a note of their own:

“This was a labour of love for all of us. It was emotional to see Annie go after all the time we spent working on her but we are happy Kathleen and her car are reunited.”

JUST RIGHT FOR THE BEACH, BOYS: Shining bright again, VW Annie takes a day off at the California beach. Image: VW Mexico

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