Punch buggy, Chamberlain style

Back in the seventies when I was a youngster and just a bit shorter than I am now but with somewhat the same wardrobe, we had a punch buggy, otherwise known as a Volkswagen Beetle, otherwise known as Dad’s car.

It was red, except for the driver’s door. That was black.

I have no idea why.

It had a white leather interior with little dimpled air holes all over the upholstery. The seats kind of looked like mutated golf balls threw up all over them.

It had an odd floor on the passenger side. We called it pavement.

One time we went to Wegmans and when we came out, another Beetle had been parked in the spot right next to us. It was red all over too, except for the passenger door. That was black.

I have no idea why.

But I remember staring at the both of them and thinking “Whoa.” Because my thoughts were fairly deep, even back then. That’s what the seventies were for, wasn’t it? To think deeply?

Or inhale deeply. One or the other.

Our red punch buggy bit the dust not too much longer after that cosmic experience, and never again did we own a vehicle with such character.

We did, however, subsequently own both a gremlin and pinto, but thankfully not at the same time. Apparently, my father was bound and determined to get from Point A to Point B in the most fuel efficient, ugliest manner possible. Bless his heart.

I’m sure anyone who has ever ridden in a car with a child is familiar with the punch buggy game. The rules are simple:

  • Whoever sees a punch buggy first shouts out the color while simultaneously slugging everyone in the car, preferably in the arm but the rules are somewhat fuzzy on that point.
  • Lurching and heaving your body into the front seat is optional. My kids do it when I’m not looking.
  • Lack of aim is directly proportional to the enthusiasm behind the slug. Carry bandages.
  • Once you’ve been slugged, you cannot claim the punch buggy for yourself. Not that you could anyway, being unconscious and all.

I’m not sure who invented the punch buggy game but whoever it was, I bet they never dreamed it would eventually become a rite of passage for children everywhere. Well, with the exception of the little Greek boy/girl twins born to Peter and Dee Psyhos in 1967 because if I had slugged my mom while she was driving, I’d be sucking dirt and typing this from six feet under right now.

However, my kids and I play it almost every single time we’re in the car and it’s not until you play this game with my kids that you wonder what the hell the executives of Volkswagen were smoking when they decided that eleventy million punch buggy colors weren’t enough, they needed somewhere around umpteen different shades of each color as well.

Who knew? Not me.

You also don’t realize the sheer number of punch buggies there are on the road. They should call it the Volkswagen Bunny – the thing breeds like it’s mainlining Viagra and Clomid.

My kids really get into this game and tend to forget their own strength in the excitement of spotting a buggy of the crimson red persuasion, not to be confused with cardinal red, which itself is vastly different from sangria red. On our last trip down south, you could connect the bruises on my arms and come up with a reasonable facsimile of Argentina.

Back when my youngest still lovingly referred to me as Mommy instead of She Who Sucks the Fun Out of Everything, this is how it would typically go down in our car:

Punch buggy, don’t hit me.

Mom! It’s “punch buggy green, no punch backs.” You gotta say it right or it doesn’t count.

Awwwww, Mommy! That’s not fair! I didn’t see it!

But that’s the point, honey. I saw it first, so I said it first. Punch buggy don’t punch back.

MOM! C’mon! It’s “punch buggy green, no punch backs,” so now yours doesn’t count. Geez.

Well, that makes no sense whatsoever. Why …


Ugh. Please don’t scream. And did you just kick me?

I can’t reach to punch you, Mommy.

Oh. Ok, sweetie.


Is it really necessary to body slam me while I’m driving? Can we stick to simply punching?

It was just a touch, Mom! Geez, you need to lighten up. You’re becoming a wimp.

You CAN’T be serious? Me, a wimp? Are you out of ….


OW! Wait a minute, I don’t think …

Gotta pay attention, Mom.


It is too fair! I saw it first. Not my problem you’re a shrimp.


OK, no name calling. New rule. And let’s try to use our indoor …


OK, enough! Let’s play statues! Who’s with me?






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34 thoughts on “Punch buggy, Chamberlain style”

  1. Avatar

    When we get bored, and there aren’t enough punch buggies around, we play pinch mini, push bike, and occasionally, on a very long trip, kick truck. That never lasts long though, and always ends badly.

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    We called it “Herbie Car” instead of Punch Buggy in my family (though we were well aware that outside of our family car rides, the rest of the world did Punch Buggy, or at least the rest of New Jersey…). One summer, we went to the UK and every other car was a VW Beetle – it was Herbie Car Heaven. My parents had to revise the rules for European Herbie Car: No punching a person, instead punch the ceiling. Then that got too annoying (and they were afraid we were doing damage to the roof of the rental car) so it became just keeping track of how many were seen. You’d think that this, a mere points tally game, would pale in comparison to the classic, do-great-bodliy-harm-with-no-consequences version, but my family? We are competitive, so keeping score worked just fine. We eventually had a sheet dedicated solely to tallying the score, kept by Mom in the interest of fairness.

    I have yet to teach Kiddo about Punch Buggy. Hubby started to tell her about it once on a road trip, but I shushed him. Because, you know, she’s an only child, and still restrained in her booster seat to boot, so there’d be no easy punching except for those of us in the front seat.

    Not that I don’t sometimes want to punch my husband…

    Love that layout!

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    Exactly why I’m not teaching my boys that game. The older one is let’s say, wimpy, and the younger one, while only 2, can certainly hold his own against the 7yo, even making his older, more sensitive brother cry. They don’t make those travel swaddle blankets big enough for my kids because that’s what they really need. Those travel swaddle me blankets are really just a baby straight jacket, and they’re marketed to the wrong age group. It’s those of us with older kids who need them, not parents of infants.

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    Coming here via the blog train…

    I’m so thankful the game never caught on in my household growing up – I would have been pulverized! (I’m the youngest by 4 years.)

    As always, you make me laugh! Thank you!

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    We called it slug bug as well. Although I don’t actually remember playing it . . . my memory kinda comes and goes.

    But I do remember the red gremlin we had. With the street showing through on the passenger side. And the gear shift that slipped. And while I was waiting in the car for my parents, bumped it, and had me rolling down a parking lot.

    Oh memories of the fuel efficient, ugly cars of the 70s!

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    When I was a little girl we called it slug bug. Now my family calls it punch buggy. Either way, it’s a fun game.
    Love your layout, can I have a copy of my own, I love bugs!
    My dad had two Beetles when I was a kid. Both white, doors were white too. hmmmm. Guess he didn’t know how to be cool.
    As far as your dad’s Beetle………..

    Punch buggy red, no punch backs! 🙂 I got it!

  7. Avatar

    “like it’s mainlining Viagra and Clomid”—bwahhahhahahahhaha!

    Girl, you get me every post. Every post.

    Caffeine up the nostrils.

    But we may be on to something–you know all those sinus washing kits at the drug store? Well, this coffee sinus wash thing you’ve got me on through your sheer brilliant comedy is extremely, um, refreshing. Maybe we should market it….

    Hugs and Blessings!!!

  8. Avatar

    Oh. My. God.!!!! I can’t believe that three word term has so entrenched itself in my vocabulary when I simultaneously cringe at the cornyness of saying it and hesitate from actually typing it incase it offends anyone. But screw that it’s just too appropriate.

    I cannot believe this is some universal game!!!!

    I’m a 32 year old with a 11 year old half-sister. I’ve been witness to, as well unwilling participant (read: punch-bag) in this game, for the past few years. The sheer enthusiastic joy of the game annoyed me so much for the first year that I couldn’t even bring myself ask what the hell they were both saying every few minutes.

    Bunchbuggygreennopunchback just sounds like pushpukeyblahblahbankbash to anyone who doesn’t know what’s going in. I don’t care to know what’s going on. It’s freakin’ dangerous!

    I could not believe my dad allowed this behavior in the car!!! Grrrrrr…The littlest siblings might always get away with murder, but do they get away with causing 8 car pile-ups too? Don’t anyone dare whack me out of the blue in the arm while I’m driving!

    Honestly, I’m not not usually such a scrooge… but the game to me was almost the equivalent of that thing where people come up an rib you while your not expecting it.

    The conversation snippet is verbatum. If you didn’t write so brilliantly I’d somehow sue you for recording the conversation in our car without our consent.

    Anyway – this post is just HILARIOUS!!!

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    LOL!! Jim’s 1st car was a neon yellow one, no black door hmm…come to think of it no door at all! Not much floor either! We didn’t do that game growing up. I don’t know why. Maybe outta respect for my uncle who had at least 3! lol

    Your dad had the little fuel savers while you were growing up? LOL We always had a BUICK. Tan and brown, red and white, always 2-toned and always huge! The pimp mobile! Red and white ’78 Buick Lesabre with white vinyl interior! The car I learned to drive in! LOL

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    We’re lazy. We just say SLUG BUG!!! before punching each other.

    We also play Cruiser Bruiser, which is basically the same thing, only with the PT Cruiser. We’re dysfunctional like that.

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    I loved playing that game as a kid, but I don’t remember the color part. I never said my memory was perfect, or even good. I’m going to have to start that one up with my kids. Thanks for reminding me! And thanks for sharing with BPOTW.

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    awesome! When I was little we also had a beetle bug. I can’t remember the color, but I do remember that mom’s door didn’t stay shut and it would just swing open when going around corners up in the mountains of upstate NY. And at one point the floor was made of wood. Not sure how that thing ever passed an inspection. With all the snow up there, anything that was once made of metal was eaten away by the salt on the roads. Come to think of it, I believe our bug was the color of rust.
    Yes, rust it was. of course, except where the wood was…

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    OMG!! My mom just slugged bugged me today on the way to walmart!! (yeah we call it slug bug too) I got to laughing cause she hasnt slug bugged me in forever!

    I am a complete slug bug lover, I totally love the game and couldn’t wait till my kiddos were old enough to participate. Baby girl just started, and we all got a big shock the day she spotted one on her own and screamed it from her car seat!!! What a proud mommy I was that day! LOL

    In my family (my kids and Hubbie), we can call a slug bug and store up numbers to punch later! LOL I started that when we got a suburban and my short arms couldn’t reach anyone. And my husband, he’s the best at spotting the bugs, I swear, drives me nuts! We also have phantom slug bugs, usually the vanilla or the really really light green ones… and it seems for months on end that the darn thing follows us and shows up every where. So the phantom slug bug gets two hits! LOL

    Another slug bug heaven is Seattle, I swear there were 5 of on every street we were on! Even when we were walking. My poor arm was sore and bruised by the end of our trip!

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    Oh my you are freaking funny. We play slug bug too and you get double hits for a yellow one. Oh and cruiser bruiser now for the pt cruiser. Your hubby was sweet to cook dinner on V day. And it did look delish!

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    Hi. I’m visiting from SITS. This is to funny. My best friend in HS had a green Gremlin. I’ve only seen a couple of them since then. I had a Mustang 2. We were so cool. My 15 year old daughter is car shopping and a bit particular. She is the type to walk before getting in a Gremlin, but wants a VW Bug badly. The new ones. She sees one every time we drive past one care lot, which is a lot because it is near our house. When the kids were younger I tried to ban the “punch your arm thing”. It sorta worked in that they did it secretly.

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    My spouse and I both own VW Bugs his is a 70 and mines a 2007 VW rag top both yellow. When we first met some 30 years age he had a apple green 72 and I had a apple red super bug back then we never saw anyone doing this but now I can not go any where without some one getting punched. Last Sunday my sister said it must be some anger people out today it seemed that every where we were someone was getting hit and I explained to her that I heard someone say punch bug. Thanks for giving me the answer to this crazy game.

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