Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

Kiwi adventurers take beloved Beetle on final expedition

Beth and Ivan Hodge have toured the world in their beetle. Photo / Supplied
Beth and Ivan Hodge have toured the world in their beetle. Photo / Supplied

Elderly Kiwi adventurers Beth and Ivan Hodge have set off for their final expedition in their beloved Beetle, with their first stop being the Waikato.

Mr and Mrs Hodge, who are now in their 80s, toured the world in their iconic beetle during the 1960s after snapping it up for £439.

They then set off around Europe, through communist countries, the Middle East and into the Asian subcontinent with their possessions strapped to the roof.

The beloved Beetle has clocked up an impressive 190,000 miles to date.

The couple documented their travels in now what is a celebrated chronicle, For Love and Beetle, after retracing their steps in 1996.

The couple toured the world during the 1960s. Photo / Supplied
The couple toured the world during the 1960s. Photo / Supplied

Now, married for 57 years, they are embarking on their final journey in the Beetle, this time around New Zealand.

Their first stop will be Cambridge this afternoon arriving at Laurenston Park Retirement Village at 3.30pm, before hitting Taumarunui tomorrow, followed by Marton, Wellington, Levin, Rotorua then arriving back in Auckland on March 28.

Mr Hodge says it will be an emotional journey.

"To take the Beetle on the last drive is incredibly emotional because it has been such a big part of our life - from within a year of our marriage, with so many highlights and exciting things we've done along the way. And now we have come to our last ever drive, which is very important to us. We are sharing the happiness and the New Zealand story with as many people as we can."

Volkswagen New Zealand was also supporting the couple on their tour.

"They are a fantastic couple," says Volkswagen New Zealand general manager Tom Ruddenklau, "who have seen and done so much in their Beetle, and they are always giving back to the community."

The couple have documented their journey in For Love and the Beetle. Photo / Supplied
The couple have documented their journey in For Love and the Beetle. Photo / Supplied

The Hodge's, who now live in Sydney, have decided to donate the 'love bug' to MOTAT, New Zealand's Museum of Transport and Technology, at the end of their tour on March 28, where it will be open for public visitation and enjoyment.

Mr Hodge says after seeing many wrecked and rusting cars, he doesn't want their beloved Beetle to end up like that.

Beth and Ivan in Turkey. Photo / Supplied
Beth and Ivan in Turkey. Photo / Supplied

"Our Beetle has travelled the world and lived an exciting life. To end up in a wrecking yard would just be terrible. We decided we would like to donate it to an organisation that would respect it. So we turned to MOTAT.

"I personally retired at 50 to do the exciting things that we wanted to do as a couple - and we are continuing to do this. I feel sorry for the Beetle going into retirement - and we're not."

The beetle travelled around the Middle East and Asia. Photo / Supplied
The beetle travelled around the Middle East and Asia. Photo / Supplied

Mrs Hodge says with the Beetle retiring at MOTAT, it gives many others the opportunity to enjoy it, just as they have for the past 50 years.

MOTAT's chief executive Michael Frawley says MOTAT is honoured to become the custodian of the couple's vehicle.

The couple will journey around NZ as their final trip. Photo / Supplied
The couple will journey around NZ as their final trip. Photo / Supplied

"This vehicle has become a symbol of endurance, dependability, loyalty and innovation. We intend to relay these noble qualities on to our visitors by showcasing the VW Beetle at MOTAT and inspiring them to become like the Hodges - true trailblazers."

- NZ Herald

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