“NASCAR Herbie” In the film, Herbie takes on a few different looks. The most radical is NASCAR Herbie, which proved to be the most challenging of the cars to build. The Herbie team first rented the small Irwindale Speedway in Irwindale, Calif., to test engine and trans combinations for NASCAR Herbie. They then rented the larger California Speedway for additional testing. Various engine and transmission combinations were tested. Only two engines were blown in the entire Herbie R&D stage! The racing engine that was finally chosen was a 2300cc engine sporting a pair of 48mm Weber carbs coupled to a racing transmission. NASCAR Herbie made a public appearance during warm-up laps before a nationally televised NASCAR race at the California Speedway. This would allow the director to get scenes with the stadium filled with people (the track was later rented by Disney for additional filming, which required White to replicate all the NASCAR cars that were at the race!). For Herbie to run on the track at a NASCAR event, Stach and his team of mechanics had to build a true NASCAR Herbie that had to pass tech as if it were really going to race. Stach and his team of mechanics knew they would have to upgrade every aspect of the Beetle’s suspension, braking, steering and structural rigidity. An adjustable beam helped lower the front of the car as low as it would go to help lower the car’s center of gravity. NASCAR Herbie was built on a pan with independent rear suspension. Center-link steering provided more accurate steering, and the cars were equipped with full roll-cages and other NASCAR-mandated safety equipment. All of the NASCAR cars’ brakes were upgraded to disc brakes. 13-inch aluminum wheels wrapped in Goodyear 23.5 x 9.5 x 13 racing slicks replaced Herbie’s usual widened stock VW wheels and tires. NASCAR Herbie cost a reported $75,000 ($20,000 spent just on the drivetrain). Three of them were built. A fourth NASCAR Herbie — a hero car — was built which was identical to the other three but with a standard 1600cc engine. This car was for Lindsay Lohan, Herbie’s co-star, to drive in scenes where a stunt-double couldn’t be used (White and his team gave Lohan a crash-course in driving a stick shift, and White reports that she did very well). The finished NASCAR Herbies are fast — drivers got the cars up to 138 mph. The powertrains could have pushed Herbie even faster, but the car’s shape made it unstable at speeds any faster.
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