Circle the Wagen
directed by Ryan Syeven Green
starring Charlie Pecoraro, Dave Torstenson
If you’re going to operate a classic car, you need at least two of these three items: cash, time, or mechanical know-how. Dave Torstenson is short on all three, but he’s moving to L.A. and realizes he’ll need a car to get around. His choice? Buy a 1972 WV microbus, complete with rust and accident damage off the internet, and hope for the best. He picks it up in Tulsa and heads down Route 66 dreaming of an American Road Trip. But what he gets is a stream of bad fuel pumps, clogged gas filters, dodgy oil pumps and trouble with all those other greasy things underneath. There’s bad weather and bad food, but those are a given. Dave convinces his endlessly patient ex-roommate Charlie to tag along, and we spend the next hour or so underneath the microbus in many scenically remote corners of the great American West.
Some days they make only 10 miles progress, but they meet the most interesting people when they break down. Wisely assuming the worst, Dave hooked up with a network of WV enthusiasts called A.I.R.S. (Air Cooled Interstate Rescue Service). They are endlessly patient, and no level of vehicular decrepitude can dampen their spirits. The pair makes it to the Blue Bird Inn in Tucumcari, New Mexico,and there Dave runs out of money. The car sits for years, and eventually they resurrect it, limp it to Santa Monica, and turn it in to a non-mobile office.
Sure, it would have been cheaper and quicker to buy a used Toyota from a lot in Reseda, but where’s the documentary in that? Torstenson is bright, good looking and enthusiastic, and you’ll love his boyish charm. Charlie is a true philosopher; he smokes a pipe even as gasoline is pouring out of the tank onto Torstenson under the car. There’s some clever animation that occasionally appears although it’s largely absent in the middle of the film, but the dog peeing ribbons is worth the boredom of the endless repairs. Near the end of the film, Torstenson breaks down and admits he has no knowledge of car parts, but we had guessed that long ago. While the scenery and the people are interesting watching incompetents dealing with what was obviously a bad choice in motor vehicles becomes tedious. Even Dave Torstenson and Pecoraro Charlie abandon the project for 4 years, presumably while they were off raising funds. But if the film makers can’t stay interested in the project why should we? If you’re a VW nut you’ll love this, and if you’re married to one it’s one of those things you promised your honey you’d put up with.