I don’t know what it is about them, and I know I’m not alone here at BangShift in thinking this (or maybe I am, who knows!), but I’ve always been fascinated with the 70’s custom van craze! We all know the story: when the decline in factory built muscle, the rise of insurance rates, coinciding with the OPEC-fueled gas crisis of the early 1970’s, many people began finding other ways to get entertainment from four wheeled things. One of these ways was to build a bitchin’ custom van. There was an entire culture that came with that decision, and for a brief period in the mid-70’s, there were “Van-In’s” all over the place and van culture flourished. Then, at some point, it became uncool and trends moved forward. As time marched on, custom vans have become the butt of many gearhead jokes, as well as in popular culture.
As a kid growing up in the late 80’s and 90’s, I always thought these vans were cool. I cited The A-Team’s GMC van as well as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Party Wagon as the correct way to have a sweet custom van, and I remember a few 70’s derelicts that used to roll around town, like the all black 70’s Chevy Van with skulls and crossbones on the rear doors, right under the sweet louvered windows. I also remember hearing the Stoner Rock band Fu Manchu for the first time, and having bought their album King of the Road solely on the album cover alone. People still thought these were cool? Was it OK to ever think that custom vans were cool?
Anyway… as you can see, I’ve always had an eye on the Custom Van movement. There have been flashes of it “coming back” in the past 10 years or so, and I’ve read other publications in the past 10 years that have claimed it to be “back”, but it would fizzle away quickly. In the past year or so, I have not only seen multiple “survivor” vans posted up on websites such as eBay and Hemmings, but I have also seen (and joined) a few interest groups on social media that cater to the Custom Van culture that didn’t exist a short time ago. And those dudes are dead serious about vans! But the real indicator is the multiple eBay auctions listed in the past year or so for old customized vans, and they are getting some real attention and selling for real money. Let’s have a look at four different vans that have been on eBay in the past week alone:
So, now you have the evidence. These vans are starting to come out of the woodwork and are selling for decent chunks of change! Are they still a novelty? Of course they are! Think about it: I don’t think anyone built one of these back in the day without having a smile on their face the entire time. These were built as mobile hangouts (and mobile motel rooms, if you know what I mean) and some of the “van people” that were loafing around in these back then are probably nostalgic for their old rides. They were built for fun, plain and simple. Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t think you will see these trading hands for six figures anytime soon, but I never thought I’d see one of these go for nearly $20k or more in my lifetime. And there are people out there that are doing all van shows again. It took 40 years, but custom vans just might be cool again. Will we ever see one roll onto the stage of a Barrett-Jackson auction and sell for insane money? Who knows. Then again, I never thought a 1979 Trans Am would sell for $187,000.
What do you think of these sweet vans making a comeback? Let us know in the comments section!