Herbie Goes Bananas (1980) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Pete Stancheck inherits from his Uncle Jim Douglas a race car being stored in Puerto Vallarta. With his friend Davy Johns (D.J. to his friends) accompanying him to P.V., Pete is dismayed to learn that the car is an older model Volkswagen Beetle. But when Pete and D.J. see what the car can do and learn that it somewhat has a mind of its own, they decide to enter it into the Brazil Grand Primeo formula one race. En route to Rio de Janeiro, Herbie, the car, gets Pete and D.J. into one predicament after another as it tries to help its new friend, a streetwise orphan named Paco, who Pete and D.J. encountered in P.V. and who stowed away in Herbie's trunk. Because of these predicaments, Pete and D.J. end up requiring a quick influx of cash and slyly enlist the help of wealthy Louise Trent and her bookish niece, anthropology doctoral candidate Melissa, to be their financiers. Pete's role in the scheme is to woo the shy Melissa, about which he feels guilty. But initially unknown to all of them, Paco, who picks pockets to survive, is being chased by criminals from who Paco inadvertently stole some film which shows the whereabouts of some Incan treasures. As they collectively and individually work their way to Rio, Herbie must ultimately protect Paco, Pete, D.J., Louise and Melissa from the bad guys, while conversely prevent the bad guys from pillaging the treasures. Through it all, will romance bloom between Pete and Melissa, and between Louise and the object of her affection, a cruise ship captain named Blythe, who is more reminiscent of a captain of a ship called the Bounty than of a cruise kind?

  • The adorable little VW helps its owners break up a counterfeiting ring in Mexico.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, two American tourists, Pete Stancheck (Stephan W. Burns) and D.J. Johns (Charles Martin Smith), claim a Volkswagen car that is a gift from Pete's uncle. After learning that the living Volkswagen named "Herbie", with the number 53 stamped on it, has won the Monte Carlo Grand Prix years earlier, D.J. discovers he has been pick-pocketed by a local boy named "Paco" (Joaquin Garay III). The friends recover D. J.'s wallet while three American smugglers, Prindle (John Vernon), Shepard (Richard Jaeckel), and Quinn (Alex Rocco), pursue Paco after they are pick-pocketed by the boy in front of a hotel. Paco hides under Herbie's hood with Pete at the wheel, as Prindle and Shepard chase after the car.

    Later, the local police return Shepard's wallet, and he realizes that Paco has stolen some microfilm that displays a map of South American Incan treasures. The smugglers arrive at the dock just as Herbie is loaded onto a ship bound for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with Paco still hidden inside the front trunk. The men decide to meet the ship at its first stop in Panama.

    On board the ship, Pete and D. J. meet and join Louise Trens (Cloris Leachman) and her scholarly niece, Melissa (Elyssa Davalos), for dinner, and Pete reveals he will race in the Brazilian Grand Prêmio.

    In the ship's cargo hold, a crewman, Armando Moccia (Vito Scotti), finds his dinner is missing, hears the sound of chewing, and demands the culprit surrender. Instead, Herbie drives off, and other crew members help trap the runaway car. An angry Captain Blythe (Harvey Korman) has his dinner with passengers interrupted, and sees an erratic, driverless Volkswagen knocking over cargo. A net stops Herbie, while Paco is removed and confined to a holding cell. When Pete refuses to pay for Herbie's damage, Captain Blythe confiscates the car. The two friends realize that they cannot afford to pay for Herbie's return so Pete and D. J. convince Louise to sponsor their upcoming race.

    Some time later, Herbie rescues Paco from his locked cell, and they crash the ship's costume party. Captain Blythe is knocked off his feet, and he orders the crew to toss Herbie overboard.

    When the ship docks in Panama, the captain throws Pete and D. J. off the vessel and Paco escapes before Prindle captures him. Herbie floats along the currents and survives the ocean voyage. Later, several Panamanians help Paco drag Herbie to shore. Herbie surprises Paco by springing to life, and taking Paco on a ride.

    After Paco decorates Herbie like a taxi, Prindle appears and threatens to turn Herbie into scrap unless Paco finds the film he stole. This causes Paco to pick Pete's pocket to regain possession of the film. Separately, Louise and Captain Blythe mistake Herbie for a taxi and accidentally share a ride. As they pursue Paco, Pete and D. J. join Melissa, who buys a local bus to search for Herbie and Paco. Soon after, the chase leads to a bullfighting stadium, where Herbie rams Prindle's car in the middle of a bullfight and the bull chases Prindle out of the ring. Herbie imitates a bullfighter waving a cape it has borrowed and defeats the bull. After the bullfight, Herbie and Paco escape as Prindle and his associates approach.

    Meanwhile, the bus carrying Melissa, Pete, and D. J. reunites with Captain Blythe and Louise, but before long it breaks down and needs repairs. Pete drives the bus for a short distance before it breaks down again. Soon Prindle and Shepard track Paco's whereabouts from a small charter plane, and Paco is captured and taken aboard. Herbie hears Paco's cries for help and chases the plane but it escapes.

    Prindle and his partners find a large dish made up of pre-Columbian gold in the forest and abandon Paco. Meanwhile, Herbie locates Melissa's bus full of passengers, finds Paco and rescues the gold from Prindle. With Herbie disguised as a banana truck, Pete. D. J., Louise, Melissa, Paco, and Captain Blythe drive to the office of Dr. De Moraes, an expert on Incan ruins, to donate the gold, but Prindle steals it back. As the smugglers take off in their small engine plane, Herbie and Paco break the plane's fuselage. The chase continues on the ground, where the police join in and apprehend the smugglers.

    In the final scene back on the ship, Pete admits Paco is the right driver to win the Brazilian Grand Prêmio. In her stateroom, Pete and Melissa drink wine with Herbie parked nearby. D. J. tells Paco, dressed in a racing suit and helmet, to start his engine. Everyone toasts Paco and Herbie's future victory.

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