“Good Morning America” must draw great ratings in Southwest Florida, judging by the reaction Pam Rambo and her seashell-encrusted Volkswagen received at the Cape Coral Yacht Club on Tuesday, June 21, to commemorate the 1st National Seashell Day. “That’s the car from Good Morning America,” strangers and passersby call out with glee, then stop to snap photos. “There she is,” another shouts at recognizing Pam. A couple comments that GMA was never better!
“That car” is the Shell Love Bug, a 2005 Volkswagen with 55,000 miles that Pam and others decorated with over 20,000 seashells of 65 varieties held in place by marine glue. “It took over 60 volunteers in excess of 1,200 hours,” Pam relates, “and that does not count the time collecting the shells! We began on May 12 so it took six weeks, ending just in time for National Seashell Day.” The car has a different design on each side, with the first shell placed at the top of the heart on the hood, and the last ones the worm shells on the rearview mirror – Pam’s favorites.
The Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau owns the car, but it was Pam’s concept. “We actually approached Pam to kick off National Seashell Day because she is a shell-ebrity,”exclaims the VCB’s Stephanie Wharton. “I had a couple of false starts,” Pam offers, “then suddenly it hit me that it had to be a convertible covered in seashells!”
Work began with Pam’s collection, “though my husband Clark says he found three-quarters!” All are local, with donations from across the region. “The Shell Love Bug is a symbol of our area’s love of shelling,” Pam reiterates. “An excellent example are shells from Carolyn, a well-known sheller who passed away several years ago. The person keeping her collection was relocating, so we received them in Carolyn’s memory and now she lives on in the Shell Love Bug. There are many stories like that, making the car sort-of a patchwork quilt for shelling.”
Pam says everyone has their favorite, with kids finding it especially fun and interesting. “Everything that washes up on our beaches brings a beautiful natural Bling,” Pam says. “We use shells as a family learning experience, to teach children and adults about sea life. The beach can be extremely therapeutic, making shelling, like fishing, a wonderful hobby that allows you to experience the entire beach. Like the kids say, ‘Shell-zam!’”
Pam and Stephanie took the Shell Love Bug on a mini-tour this week, to Bailey’s General Store on Sanibel, the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, The Shell Factory, Edison-Ford Estates, Downtown Fort Myers, Alliance for the Arts, Love Boat Ice Cream and Times Square.
GMA weather anchor Ginger Zee set up at the Sundial Beach Resort & Spa on Sanibel on Monday, June 20, promoting not only National Seashell Day, but the Shell Love Bug and Pam, the National Shell Museum, touch tanks, parasailing, sand sculptures, and other island treasures. In scouting the program, they took Ginger to Cayo Costa, and “she could not stop picking up shells,” relates Stephanie. “That is the magic of shelling – to see someone go from a casual interest to falling in love with it in a matter of minutes!”
Pam describes public reaction to the Love Bug as “shell-sational! We drive down the street and the other cars honk, and people take shell-fies with it, exactly as I hoped would be the reaction. This is a mobile symbol with which everyone can relate. It will be all around the community because the community made it happen.” The most common comment is that it has so much more detail in person than on television or in photographs. Pam says future plans are to be determined, “as we just finished it last Sunday,” but confirms it will be a viable and visible VCB promotion and in Sanibel’s 4th of July Parade.
For more information on the Shell Love Bug or shelling, contact Pam at iLoveShelling.com or the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau at 239-338-3500 or www.leevcb.com. Whether a novice or experienced veteran, discover that this hobby is “shell-errific!”
Photos by Gary Mooney
- Stephanie Wharton and Pam Rambo with the Shell Love Bug.
- Over 20,000 shells decorate the 2005 Volkswagen convertible.
- The Hood Heart! The project’s first shell is at the top of the heart.