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Unhinged: Ok, Survivors Of The 1970s, Let’s Have A Talk About Vanning…

Unhinged: Ok, Survivors Of The 1970s, Let’s Have A Talk About Vanning…

At the time of writing this, I’m more or less thirty-four. That means that I was born in 1983, which means that I was lucky enough to miss the custom van craze. By the time I was a kid who was learning all he could about cars, I knew that vans were something to be avoided (unless they played a jingly tune and cruised up the street at five MPH…then I was to gather up my money for some ice cream.) I heard the stories, the “stranger danger” lines, and all of that. Basically, full size vans were either for people who used them for work, churches that used them to move people around, or were the ideal platform to make fat little kids like I was in the late 1980s disappear forever.

I’m not going to say that I’m in love with vans now, either. I’ve driven plenty of them, older and new, and they aren’t for me. While I would be down with a big van with two seats and a camping-type setup, on the whole, I’d rather use a Suburban…or pack a tent and some sleeping bags in the car. For the most part, they are just another part of the automotive landscape, a section I’ll stay out of. But after finding the Craigslist listing for this 1976 Dodge Tradesman, I feel like I need some education. So help me out here.

From this angle, I understand the appeal. The chopped roof looks bitchin’ and whoever molded in the 1971 Charger hideaway headlight bumper and grille deserves an award. Sidepipes, mags, and the flares are all 1970s kitsch and work well. Here, I have no issue whatsoever.

The cockpit area might be a bit dated with materials and designs, but it works. Aftermarket wheel, two comfy captain’s chairs, a CB, and a good sound system all make for a great time. The giant hole in the roof might be a bit much though…after a while, the sun will turn the interior into a sauna, air conditioning be damned.

The huge side door is cool and can be extremely useful, but the rock wall motif and mirrored ceiling are a bit concerning. Outfitting the wall, I get. But the mirror?

Ok, WTF. Up until this point I was on-board with about 80% of what was going on. But what is this? Did King Arthur pull the sword from the stone, show it to the fair maiden, and then convince her to hop into his sweet Dodge for some medieval action? I’d be afraid to look behind those doors…who knows what is hiding back there. (Besides a bed, anyways. Yes, there’s a bed back there.)

Have you been alive longer than I have? Can you fully explain what this is all about to me without making me picture¬†good drugs, great rock music and bad clothing styles? Please, help me out here…

And if you’re interested, you can check out the van HERE.

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11 thoughts on “Unhinged: Ok, Survivors Of The 1970s, Let’s Have A Talk About Vanning…

  1. Chevy Hatin' Mad Geordie

    A van fit for 2017 would NOT have fender flares – particularly when the wheels aren’t wide enough to warrant them. Fit Ride Tech suspension, 17 inch alloys and a subtle interior with an all-digital entertainment system – but keep the Charger headlamps. Then slot in a blown Hellcat Hemi and take it to the Nurburgring!

  2. RockJustRock

    McTaggart my dear young lad, Custom Vans were products of teenage fantasies and fulfilling them. A mobile place to do what you couldn’t do with old folks about. Primarily this consisted of partying. In the best fantasies the partying would lead to sex. This example is weak on the party side (no fridge) but seems to have the sex part going on. I just don’t understand the sunroofs over the bed and seats (make-out territory) and the mirrored ceiling over the un-padded section.

  3. Matt Cramer

    Between the bare rock walls and the medieval looking doors, I’d imagine the owner’s favorite pick up line is “My dungeon or yours?”

  4. Loren

    Had buddies w/ vans and what they were was, yes, rolling party central. On whatever night, the guys would meet at the van owner’s house and then drive around to the girl’s houses to pick up a more-or-less equal number, than stop at the liquor store where the one person who was 21 would collect the funds and do the deed, then drive-in, skating rink, go raid an abandoned/haunted house or just drive to the hills overlooking the city and park. All the guys had whatever musclecar but on a regular basis everyone went out in the van, I tended toward two separate social groups and each one did about that.

    Once people started getting to the age to pair off more, the whole van idea got old and faded. Sometimes the old vans became living quarters then when that clearly sucked, got sold off for apartment deposits.

    So a van like this one was probably not the first one the builder owned, and he was shooting for ultimate show vehicle, but eventually fell short when it came to pony up for the acres of airbrush work outside and in on those walls and by that time he was too old and too married anyway to care to finish details. It’s stuck around as a curiosity and memento.

    Worth? Subjective. The seventies were a blast but It’s could’a-been-golden days are long past. What would young people do now, go pick up a bunch of guys/gals and have them sit in there looking at their phones?

    1. Loren

      BTW that’s not a mirror over the central area, that’s some-type home-built lighting fixture, probably w/ blacklights and other colored stuff to make the mood with the fake rocks. Pics are just showing the reflection off the glass/plexi. Four tiny windows on the whole van, it would have needed something there.

  5. Piston Pete

    I got my 1st van when I was 19. I’m 64 now and driving my 6th one. Way cooler than a pickup and can haul just as much, The pictured van is an atrocity even for back in the day. My current 01 Astro has a 320 hp/350 tq 4.3 with a B+M 4L60E and a 300 watt Pioneer stereo, so it’s good in many ways. Don’t criticize what you can’t understand.

  6. Scott Liggett

    The vans of the 1970’s were a product of the time. They were getting more and more popular as people haulers. But, just like many of the hot rods of the time, they became the canvas of endless imagination.

    The second part of that generation was how cars and cruising was an extremely popular way of socializing, and finding a girl. There were no cell phones, or social media. If you wanted to meet girls in the 1970’s, you either went to the local disco. or go cruising if you had any kind of affinity for automobiles.

    If you are out cruising for girls, why not have a totally tricked out, comfy van that can double as a party wagon/hotel room? Just a mattress and shag carpet a way from a plumber’s van to shaggin wagon.

    Times have changed.

  7. Tanglefoot

    The van pictured is an abomination , and outside the normal for the time-more of a “show” van . I had a 74′ Chevy van in high school , and it was a load of fun . It wasn’t the pimp mobile with shag carpet and fum fur everywhere , but it did have kind of bench seats along the walls ,a built in cooler and a table that collapsed down between the benches that made a fine bed . The exterior was black with a big ol’ set of Rolling Stones lips painted on each side , aluminum slot mags , fender flairs and side pipes finishing it off . Grown up , responsible people hated it , which was perfect for a rebellious teenager . I had a lot of fun with that van , it was a mobile party shack , but I never got laid nearly as much as I thought I should lol .

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