Over the course of 11 months, employees at Volkswagen’s Puebla plant took time away from building brand new cars and faced the same frustrations as the rest of us. A team of 60 employees rebuilt Annie, a 51-year-old Beetle with more than 350,000 miles on the clock.

As Volkswagen points out, that’s enough to go around the planet 14 times. And all of that driving was done under the ownership of one person. Kathleen Brooks of Riverside, California bought Annie in 1967. It was her first Beetle and it turns out she really liked because up until 11 months ago, it remained her daily driver.

A three-time cancer survivor, Brooks now works with breast-cancer survivors, providing cosmetic care and comfort during treatment and recovery. She also has a wry sense of humor, comparing herself to the car she’s driven for the last half-century.

“I’ve said many times 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 running,” says Brooks with a laugh. “And as long as I take as good care of her as I can, she’s going to continue to run.”

So Volkswagen decided to provide a little cosmetic care to a cancer survivor of its own, Annie. The rust, VW reports had eaten its way through the floorpan, so that you could see right through it. In their 11 months with the car, VW’s restorers report that they had to replace about 40% of the parts and fix 357 of the original pieces. The red paint even had to be reverse engineered. A paint sample was taken from inside the glovebox, where the sun couldn’t fade it, and mixed at Puebla’s paint shop to give Annie back her color.

They didn’t stop at just getting the car back to factory fresh, though. The jack and toolkit were painted deep sea teal metallic, the same color that 2018 Beetle Coast Editions were painted. The team even went to pains to restore all of the stickers that Brooks had stuck onto her windows through the years.
Volkswagen also added a few “better-than-factory” parts, too. Disc brakes from later Puebla Beetles were added to make Annie a little safer, as was an AM/FM/and even Bluetooth stereo designed to look era-appropriate.

Volkswagen’s final special touch was to embroider the names Kathleen and Annie in the classic Beetle font on the front seats.
Augusto Zamudio, project manager and mechatronics engineer, says that the point of the project wasn’t to make a museum piece. The idea wasn’t to restore Annie to factory-spec, but instead to honor its life with Brooks and to make something unique and special.

The restoration team’s dedication and labor were, in part, inspired by a letter Brooks sent the team when her Beetle was first taken. In her letter, Brooks explained how special Annie was to her and asked the team to take special care of her.

Zamudio says the letter spoke to him and the feeling became mutual.

“This was a labor of love for all of us,” he says. “It was emotional to see Annie go after all the time we have spent working on her, but we are happy Kathleen and her can be reunited.”