4 Mar 2006, Comments Off on Punchbuggy


Author: Helen

I’m sitting in traffic with the girl-child, fourteen (god help me) by my side. With no warning, I get a punch on the arm.
“Punchbuggy! Orange!”

This is my introduction to the arcane car game of punchbuggy. I don’t remember it from the old Hillman-and-kingswood days of childhood; I assumed it was another American import. Actually, it seems to be a Canadian thing, and there is an Ottawa band called Punchbuggy.

If you’re the first in the car to see a punchbuggy (VW), you can punch the person next to you. Then you “claim” the colour: eg: “Punchbuggy, green!” Now green is “out” and no further punches are allowed for green punchbuggies. I’ve been in trouble with S.O. for claiming that, for instance, sky blue and cobalt are two different colours; he says that’s cheating (and drove the point home thereafter).
“Punchbuggy, different shade of white!”

I’ve been in trouble with the boy, too, for claiming Porsches and Karmann Ghias as Punchbuggies. Kombis, Golfs and Passats are allowed,but girlchild reckons kombis are a kick (“Kick Kombi!”) Sometimes we drive past a VW dealership and I’m black and blue on those days. But what would you say for a VW like this one?

Photo from here: http://www.geocaching.com/seek/, which is a very weird site. And no, it's not my boychild.

“Punchbuggy, coveredinmirrors!”?

And how many years of bad luck would that bring?

(Note – that punchbuggy is next to the Yartz centre on the Maribyrnong in Footscray – not as hopeless a place as some would have you believe.)

The Balcony risks VW censure by publishing this image of a VW. This guy got a cease-and-desist letter. (Via Barista.) VW are inexplicably savage about using images of their car. Inexplicable to me, because it’s usually done with so much love, even with the VW’s rather murky origin.

Lovers of Kombis will get much joy here, too.

Comments (0)

  • Gianna says:

    nice link…i grew up in a Kombi (kickkombi! orangewithpaintedonflowersandsurfers) so am a bit partial.

    i hadn’t heard of punchbuggy. wonder why it isn’t called punchbeetle?

    seems pretty ridiculous for them to argue breach of copyright of the image. it’s not like you’re using it to sell something, rather to comment or look at the image for its iconic art?

  • Phil says:

    I got introduced to punchbuggy by the female offspring when she was about 10 or so. I’d never heard of it either. Now she’s 25 and she’s still punching me, including when she sees a VW.

  • TimT says:

    We played a variation of that without the punches. We called it ‘Spotabug’. You had to yell ‘Spotabug’ for every volkswagen you saw – we weren’t exclusive about the colours. The volkswagen vans were in a different category, but still allowed.

    When we travelled to Newcastle on holidays, there was one garage near Swansea that serviced volkswagens, so we always had to keep a close eye out for it; the first person who saw it usually yelled out several ‘spotabugs’ in succession, and won the game.

  • Helen says:

    Whoa, girlchildren going overseas, that’s a whole new thing to stress about. I did it myself and had some narrow escapes.

    No Gianna, I will never understand VW’s attitude to IP, since most depictions of VDubs are a celebration and only calculated to increase sales, if anything.

  • My kids were doing punchbuggy a few years ago when they were in primary school. They still do it occasionally when we’re out in the car.

  • Helen says:

    If it’s a canadian thing, it may come via the ABC. When my kids were little, I noticed there was a lot of program swapping between Canada and Oz for the childrens programming. The punchbuggy meme probably snuck in here in that way.

  • cfsmtb says:

    I saw that VW stored at Autopsy in Whitehall St years ago. Was wondering what happened to it.

  • Helen says:

    I delved further into Google (as I said, no expense spared here on the Balcony.) Here’s a reference to Punchbuggy on the Simpsons. I’d bet that’s where they got it from.

  • Phil says:


    I don’t stress about the girlchild travelling as she’s done it every year for about 5 years. There’s been some scary stuff but she got through and shows no sign of tiring of it. Mum eventually got used to it also.

  • alphabitch says:

    I grew up in the mid 1960s in Minnesota, (in the US but not all that far from Canada). We called that game “Slugbug,” but it was otherwise identical to what you describe. Except that if you didn’t say “No Slugs Back” the other player(s) could see the same VW and call it out and hit you.

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