1998 Pikabugs

Country and/or Category: [ Promotion ], USA | VIN range: not known | S-code(s): not known |
Extras/Options M-code(s): not known

After the success of Pokemon in Japan, Nintendo decided to get America hype about the 1998 introduction of Pokemon with a huge marketing campaign, which included to use of 10 Volkswagen New Beetles.

Nintendo purchased 10 New Beetles from a Volkswagen dealer in Washington State, where Nintendo is headquartered. They bought whatever they had on the lot, with no specific model, colour, or transmission. They were taken to body shop in Missouri, Pro Body Works, who then painted all the Beetles ‘thundershock yellow’, painted on stripes, eyes, and cheeks. Each Beetle had unique stripes to differentiate each car from each other. Mouth, feet, and logo decals were added. Tail and ears were sculpted from wood and were mounted on each Beetle and painted. The original tails were later replaced with a different design for their tendency to break when the hatch was opened and closed during the first few weeks of the tour.

After the exterior customization, the Beetles were fitted in the rear hatch with a television screen, speakers, and a Nintendo 64. This was for kids to play Pokemon games during the tour. It was powered by a separate power supply. Each display was a tad different, some with different speakers and some with the Nintendo logo vs a Pokemon logo.

Atop of the gaming rig, some Pikabugs were equipped with exterior speakers located under the rear wheel well, which played Pikachu sounds via a switch installed in the interior

This is the only known video of the Pikachu sound that the Pikabugs made (sound at 0:15). Note that not all Pikabugs were equipped with this feature. It was incorrectly reported in several articles that the horn made this sound, but it was this aftermarket installed system.

Initially, Pikabugs had regularly issued tags of random numbers and letters, as seen in the Pikachu sound clip above. But tags were later implemented giving each Pikabug a number, “PIKA1-PIKA10”.

“Poke Patrol” was coined the term for the fleet of Pikabugs promoting Pikabugs. The launch began in Topeka, Kansas, where all ten were together to start the promotion on August 27, 1998. Topeka was rename ‘Topikachu’ for the day of the event.

Kids could track the location of Pikabugs on Pokemon’s official website. Unfortunately, the internet archive has none of these location pages archived.

PokePatrol gave away tons of Pokemon merchandise, and let kids sample Pokemon games with the Nintendo 64 set up in the trunk of Pikabugs. They came to malls, drove in parades, toy store events, and went to Pokemon promotions like movie premieres, Pokemon tournaments, etc. They would change decals depending on the promo. Other decals have included the Pokemon 2000 Movie logo, the Hey You! Pikachu logo, and Pokemon the Movie 3 Logo.

Nintendo did several contests where kids could win a ride to events in the Pikachu car. One contest was called “the Ultimate PokeMom” where a Mom and her kids won a ride in a Pikabug to NYC and win a shopping spree to Pokemon Center New York.

Nintendo started to give away the Pikabugs as the years went by through several different contests to keep the Pokemon hype going. Contest sponsors included KidsWB, AOL, Kelloggs, and E3. Contests giving Pikabugs away spanned from the late 90s-mid 2000s.

Those that were not given away Nintendo had sold at auto auction, where one dealership in New York picked up a few. All were stripped of ears, tail and decals and then sold on eBay. It is unknown the exact number that was given away vs what was sold at auction.

And that is the rough history of the PokePatrol Pikabug fleet. There area ton of unanswered questions and missing pieces to the true story.

– pikabugs.weebly.com

This page last modified: 2024-04-24