The Game of Slug Bug or Punch Buggy

For you youngsters you may not have heard of a game called Slug Bug  or Punch Buggy. This is one of those fun, ridiculous road trip games that came about because the VW Beetle used to be so incredibly distinctive and there had to be some way to play a game that involved punching your siblings, right? 


First let’s define exactly what constitutes a Punch Buggy:

A Punch Buggy is:

  1. A vintage Volkswagen ‘Type 1’ or ‘Standard’ Beetle

  2. A vintage Volkswagen Super Beetle

  3. Any of the ‘Beetlesque’ coach-builts such as a Hebmuller or Karmann Gutless, er, Ghia Cabriolet (the Classic Convertible)

  4. A non-German air-cooled Beetle of more recent manufacture

  5. A modified but still recognizable Beetle based on any of the above

  6. A Volkswagen New Beetle. Yes, they do count.

A Punch Buggy is NOT:

  1. Any Beetle modified beyond recognizability such as a Bradly GT or a HumBug

  2. A non-Beetlesque coach-built such as the extremely rare Rometsch. This would also include any other cars built on a Beetle pan that look nothing like a Beetle, such as a Volkswagen Type 181 “Thing” and its WWII predecessor the Kübelwagen.

  3. Or any other product of Volkswagen beyond those listed as qualifying above.

One of the best things about Slug Bug is that Beetles are easy to spot and very unique. That right there is a large part of what makes looking for them fun! If you insist on expanding the game to allow any old (or new for that matter) Volkswagen, then you may as well play TickleMe Toyota. 

If you insist on playing a game that allows punching for other cars besides bona fide Slug Bugs then you are not really playing Punch Buggy. And besides, since so many of the others look like Toyotas how can you tell the difference? In fact, to me, the new Fiat 500 (piece of crap) looks a lot like a Slug Bug but it’s definitely not one. 

Standard Game

Now that we have established what a Punch Buggy is - what do you do when you see one?

You say “Slug Bug” while simultaneously belting the person you’re with on the shoulder. Not hard. Just enough to make contact felt. It is not necessary to add “no punch back” when calling a Slug Bug. Punch-backs are verboten (not allowed) and will cost you one point for each punch thrown - not to mention show you up as a spoilsport and may get you grounded.


One point is awarded to the first person who calls it for each Punch Buggy seen. If you wrongly identify a car as a Punch Buggy and call it, one point is deducted from you score. If you have already hit the person with whom you’re playing and then the misidentification is confirmed the person wrongly Punch Buggied may at his discretion double punch the offender immediately or he may save the mis-punch until the next time you have a legitimate Punch Buggy and he can ‘take the hit away from you.’ To do that the victim of the misidentification and hit says “Save it for later.” The next time you spot a legitimate Punch Buggy you can still call it however you are banned from following through with a hit. If you forget and hit anyway you forfeit the game and the other guy wins.

Time Outs

You have the option of being a party pooper and calling a time out. This will suspend a game in progress, which may be resumed at a later time. However you may NOT call “Time in - Punch Buggy - Time out!” all in one sentence just as you see a punch buggy. This will result in a fine of twenty-five (25) points for the first infraction and your parents get to choose how much the fine goes up for each additional infraction. You may also be risking great bodily harm depending on with whom you’re playing…

Any and all Volkswagen Dealerships are automatically on time out as are all of the cars on the lot. When a Punch Buggy drives off the lot, as they all must sooner or later, it has exited the ‘zone of disallowance’ and is fair game. Punch Buggies on non-Volkswagen car lots are not under this restriction. So if there’s a used car lot down the street with three used New Beetles on the lot - go for it! This is called the Punch Buggy Prime Directive. Violating this rule will get you in deep do-do.

Note: Punch Buggies being moved from a car-carrier parked in the street in front of a Volkswagen dealership to the lot or vice-versa may or may not be fair game. This remains tied up in the rules comity. A decision is expected any day now…

The “NON-CONTACT” version of Punch Buggy

It is possible to play a non-contact version of Punch Buggy. The rules are exactly the same as for the conventional game with the exception that you don’t get to hit the person you’re playing with. This can be advisable if there are only two of you playing and the other person is driving. Getting hit while you’re driving could be bad. Another time when you may choose to play the non-contact version would be on a school field trip where the authorities (teachers, bus monitors, or whatever) may not be Punch Buggy friendly. Use your best judgment here. I will not be held liable for you getting grounded on the bus instead of seeing the National Air and Space Museum or where ever else you may be going because the bus monitor thought you were getting too rowdy. OK?

The Punch Buggy in the Family

The ‘owner’ of a Punch Buggy and members of the owner’s household may not be punched for a Punch Buggy that is a member of their family.* Likewise, others cannot be punched by the ‘owner’ or any member of the owner’s household for the family Punch Buggy. However, anyone who is not a member of the Punch Buggies immediate family are allowed to punch each other, provided all of the other rules of the game are being adhered to. So your annoying cousins from back east are allowed to punch each other for your Punch Buggy, but they can’t punch you and you can’t punch them (no matter how much you may want to…) if the Punch Buggy in question is a member of your household.

* You don’t really “own” a Punch Buggy. You adopt them and they become members of the family. If you have a Punch Buggy in the family you will understand what I mean…

A Note of Caution

Have fun, don’t hit anyone harder than you want to be hit, and don’t make too much noise. Dad doesn’t like too much noise from the back seat while he’s driving! ;-)


Tony Barthel

Tony Barthel has been writing articles and blogs since 1996 with reviews of new cars, stories about old cars and the people who love them and finding the best car shows around for the Curbside car show calendar. He is also author of a book on event planning and public speaker on business and tourism marketing plus a YouTube creator of travel videos. Tony loves RVing and is the co-publisher of the StressLess Camping blog.