I do. I always liked the products of the “van craze” of the late 70s and early 80s. The concept of a slick mobile living-room without the excesses of a modern “Class B camper van” or the spartan cookie-cutter cheapness of a VW Westfalia. A trick custom ride that was also very practical and versatile. But, having owned a few “full size” American vans, I can attest to how cumbersome they are to drive in the city. And, lets not even talk about trying to parallel park one. . .
For me the sweet spot was the shorty van. That unusual creature which was effectively a full size van with a shorter wheelbase and about 5′ of the ass-end chopped off. Shorties were only made for a brief period — they were effectively superseded by today’s minivans (van shape on a car chassis — your basic soccer mom rig) and midsize vans (built on light truck chassis and exclusively powered by v6 endines: Aerostars, Astros, and the like). If you want a short van with full heavy truck running gear and availability of a 350 ci V8 engine and serious towing ability, you’re shopping for an older vehicle.
After looking at every shorty van to be craigslisted in the greater PDX area for many many months, I was beginning to resign myself to restoring a dilapidated beater. The notion of rejuvenating a once gloriously trick ride does have some appeal, but I must say it is nicer to find a cherry old vehicle which has clearly been loved and well taken care of.
After lots of looking and a few misfires, I think I finally scored such a rig — to my eye the perfect camping/car-show/festival rig. She is an old school custom shorty van which has been lovingly cared for. She is a 1979 Chevy G20 (3/4 ton) short wheelbase van w/ 350 V8, a turbo 350 transmission & a tranny cooler. This was a special order vehicle — she came from the factory in beautiful “Charcoal Metallic” paint and black high back vinyl bucket seats. Soon thereafter she was give a full custom interior by local van customization shop: wood paneling, wrap around bench seat which can become a bed (of course), custom rear windows, roof vent, and an icebox. Not the most lavish trick van, by any stretch, but simple, classy, comfy and very functional.
I am the third owner. She came with records going back many years — I even have the original dealer window sticker! She has 120K original miles on the vehicle and about 20k on a fresh engine. She got a very high quality repaint of the original color a few years back and the exterior is a perfect match with the painted interior portions. Even has the original bow-tie hubcaps in perfect shape — the paint on the hubcaps is perfect! She is so damn clean I might just have to show her this summer. . . everywhere I have driven her people want to talk to me about how nice she is. I have gotten as much attention on the road with the “little” van as with the ’69 Stang, and that is saying something!
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