New documentary film retells story of broken-down Volkswagen van

A Volkswagen van on a cross-country jaunt in 2007 broke down in Oklahoma City. The story of the multistate journey is told in a new documentary film, “Circle The Wagen.”
by Robert Medley Modified: July 29, 2013 at 10:00 pm •  Published: July 29, 2013

The journey started in Iowa. On the drive to California, the van broke down several times, the first time in Tulsa. Torstenson left it there and returned to California. He later retrieved the van with Pecoraro and continued the journey, documenting the whole thing on video.

When they got to Oklahoma City, it broke down again. In the Paseo District, artist Matt Josef — then known as Matthew J. Wiens — painted a mural on it.

Josef now lives in Prescott, Ariz.

Once the van was repaired, they set out for California again. They got as far as Tucumcari, N.M., before the van broke down a third time. They left it with Bill Kinder, owner of the Blue Swallow motel.

They left it there for four years.

Torstenson said, “There were periods of times there we were firing on all cylinders. Then life happens, and other things come up. We hit a standstill on production of the film.”

Final destination

When Kinder decided to sell the Blue Swallow, he called Torstenson and told him to come get the “The Croc.”

Torstenson said his passion for the project rekindled.

In winter 2011, Part 3 of the story began. The van was repaired and made it all the way across the deserts to California with help from other Volkswagen enthusiasts along the way.

Pecoraro said plans are underway to show the documentary in Oklahoma.

“It was surely a difficult journey both on camera and off camera. It was a long time for young guys full of energy to spend on one project, but it has definitely been a rewarding journey,” Pecoraro said.

“It was an awesome movie,” said Triebel, who is featured in the film making repairs to the broken-down van.

“The coolest part about it was we were involved in the first part of the story. It was amazing that this movie was made.”


by Robert Medley
Breaking News Reporter
Robert Medley has been a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1989, covering various news beats in the Oklahoma City metro area and in the Norman news bureau. He has been part of the breaking news team since 2008. A 1987 University of Oklahoma...
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