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Punch Buggy… No Punch Backs!

Fads | June 18, 2018

Beetle Sedan circa 1961: Promotional studio image of a 1962 Volkswagen Beetle Sedan. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The Volkswagen (VW) Beetle has been quite a presence in the United States since it first appeared in the 60’s, even though it is a foreign made automobile. The VW brand is a German automobile company that originated in the 30’s by the German Labour Front, under Adolph Hitler.

“Volkswagen” is a German word meaning, “people’s car.”

The VW Beetle was released in the early 60’s and was a car like no other. It had a playful body style with the engine where we would normally expect the trunk to be! As with any consumer product, Volkswagen put a lot of effort into advertising their brand. Getting consumers excited about a new product offering is the goal of any successful business.

Consumers were actually, unknowingly, the ones responsible for the hype surrounding the punch buggy.

Although manufacturers would love to take credit for coming up with a clever marketing campaign of the punch buggy game, they can’t rightfully claim it. Consumers are actually the ones responsible for bringing the most attention to the model. By playing a fun and spirited game, they got each other excited about the Beetle.

There are also several theories about “why” the game began. One school of thought is that the body style of the Beetle resembles a fist. Another is that, with its unique body, it merely gave player something fun to look for and something fun to do. The “why” really doesn’t matter because it took on a life all its own!

All these years later, the game is still around and going strong! In 2009, a marketing campaign by the auto maker claimed that the game was started over 50 years prior. It was implied that the VW brand had started the trend but, in fact, that isn’t the case.

The VW Beetle went by many other names.

The Beetle went by many other names which included beetle bug, punch bug, punch buggy, punch car, punch bug, punch dub, piggy punch and slug bug. Not many other cars have ever gone by so many other names. The name punch buggy became popular after the popular game, “punch buggy, no punch back,” caught on.

“Punch buggy, no punch back,” was a popular game that started in the 60’s and is still played today!

The rules of the game are that participants punch each other in the arm as soon as they see a punch buggy or slug bug. The objective is to be the first one to spot a bug and throw the punch, while saying, “punch buggy (or slug bug), no punch back,” before the other player can. Another variation is to say the famous tag line and call out the color of the bug. If you get punched first, that means you weren’t fast enough and have to take your lumps and not punch back.

Punch buggies were popular with the groovy counterculture and were very popular with hippies.

The VW Beetle were designed to be mechanically user friendly and reliable; hence the term, “people’s car.” It was able to be fixed with a simple and basic set of tools which was very appealing. Better yet, parts could be interchanged with other models. Any automobile that can be fixed at home, without paying an auto mechanic, is attractive to all consumers but more so to hippies because they focused on the division of labor. 

The VW Beetle has gone through very few design changes over the years.

It is funny that, still today, the game lives on! There are actually websites where you can now find the official rules of the game. Young and old alike still punch each other when they see a punch buggy. Just be sure, before you punch someone, that they are actually in" the know" about the playful game!

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.