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There are times I don't like myself very much.
~ Peter Throndyke
Are you presuming to tell me what to do in my establishment?
~ Peter Thorndyke to Jim Douglas.
You keep your eye on your friend in the Bug, my dear. I'm going to squash him.
~ Peter Thorndyke telling Carol Bennet his plan to win against Jim Douglas.

Peter Thorndyke is the main antagonist in Disney's 1968 live action film The Love Bug.

He was portrayed by the late David Tomlinson, who also played George Banks in Mary Poppins and Emelius Browne in Bedknobs and Broomsticks.

History

Peter Thorndyke was a car salesman and race car driver by profession. He first appeared greeting Jim Douglas who plans to buy a car from his dealership. However, Thorndyke decides to boot Jim out after the latter berated him for kicking a white Volkswagen Beetle that rolled into the dealership. Unknown to both Thorndyke and Jim, the Beetle (dubbed Herbie) is sentient and drives itself near the vicinity of Jim's house. Upon hearing of the event, Thorndyke initially plans to press charges against Jim for grand theft, but his secretary Carole Bennett proposes that he get rid of the car by letting Jim purchase it on a system of monthly payments.

At first, Jim finds Herbie to be uncontrollable, but soon warms up to it due to its vast skills in speed. As such, Jim takes Herbie in winning their first race together, an act witnessed by a surprised Thorndyke and Carol. Sensing that there's something strange with the car, Thorndyke offers to cancel the monthly payments by proposing a wager: Jim and Thorndyke will compete in the Californian racing circuit and that the winner will become Herbie's owner. Determined to take his chance to get even with Thorndyke for his previous behavior, Jim accepts the wager, much to Thorndyke's pleasure.

Unknown to both Jim and Carole, Thorndyke tried to cheat himself by using underhand tactics, but Herbie foils this and manages to win itself and Jim into several victories, leaving Thorndyke in humiliating defeats. Being on the end of his wrath, Thorndyke becomes more determined to find out what's going with Herbie. He eventually senses an opportunity after learning that Jim has invited Carole over for a date, so he deliberately allowed this while he snoops into Jim's house, getting Jim's friend Tennessee drunk on some Irish coffee while dumping some of it into Herbie's gas tank. Because of this, Herbie went out of control that allowed Thorndyke to win the next race, leaving an angry Jim to settle to buy a red Lamborghini and for a heartbroken Herbie to drive away after attacking the red Lamborghini. This event also drove a disgusted Carole to quit her job after realizing that she has been used by Thorndyke.

With Herbie out from Jim's reach, Thorndyke gets his right-hand man Havershaw and their men to tow Herbie back into his shop so that they can dismantle it for its parts. However, Herbie escapes from the shop, making Thorndyke and his men realize that it was sentient all the time. After a brief rampage in Chinatown, Herbie reunited with Jim, who formed a deal with Chinese businessman Tang Wu: since Wu's store was damaged by Herbie's rampage, Jim will give Wu the winning prize money to pay for the damages if he lets him use Herbie to win the El Dorado Race and that Wu will have to sell Herbie back to Jim for a dollar. Being a fan of Herbie and its racing techniques, Wu happily accepted the proposal and becomes Jim's sponsor.

Upon learning of this and being on the end of his wits, Thorndyke entered into a wager with Wu on the outcome of the race: if Thorndyke wins, he will gain ownership of Herbie and have it dismantled; but if Jim wins, Thorndyke will have to sell his dealership to Wu. Needless to say, Jim (with the help from Carole and Tennessee) managed to drive Herbie into winning the final race, leaving Thorndyke and his men in utter defeat.

Due to the victory of Jim and Herbie, Thorndyke is forced to sell his dealership to Wu while being demoted as a low-life mechanic alongside his other men as punishment for their actions. An annoyed Havershaw berates Thorndyke for entering into the wager with Wu in the first place, but an angry Thorndyke sprays oil on him, resulting an angry Havershaw to spray more oil on Thorndyke in retaliation.

Trivia

  • Thorndyke's most famous car is a yellow GT car with black stripes he calls the "Thorndyke Special", which is actually an Apollo 3500 GT. He also drives a red Ferrari and a black Jaguar in various races in the film. He owns and uses a black right-hand-drive Rolls Royce as a personal vehicle as well.

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