Vanning. It swept the USA during the 1970s in an explosion of side pipes, murals, and velvet interiors before it disappeared just as fast as it began. For a long time after, custom vans were looked at as embarrassing pieces of the past rather than nostalgic classics. That is changing though. During the last several years, more and more 1970s style custom vans have been popping up at events and at this year’s Mooneyes X-Mas Party there was a separate area dedicated specifically to vintage vans.
The result was not a small smattering of vans, but sizable display with around 30 examples present. For those that were around during the peak of vanning in the ’70s it was nostalgic trip, and for the younger crowd it was a fine look at a movement that was long buried in automotive history.
While I can’t speak for the entire country, it appears that Southern California is becoming a hotspot of the vanning revival. There are even a few clubs dedicated just to vintage vans.
It was a difficult to tell which of the vans were actually customized during the ’70s and which ones were modern recreations, but either way all of the period elements could be seen. This Dodge has covered all the basics, graphics, sidepipes, porthole windows, custom wheels, and a few spoilers for good measure.
This Chevy meanwhile is sporting an aggressive set of fender flares and a big front air dam to match. Looks like it’s ready for the IMSA circuit, doesn’t it?
As an example of just how big the vanning craze got during the ’70s, Dodge actually released a factory custom version of its popular Tradesman Van known as the “Street Van”.
While they didn’t sell in huge numbers, the Street Van could be had with just about anything a van freak could want, including a plush interior, wide mag wheels, and wild graphics.
They were also identified by these awesome badges.
Having the right rear window design was crucial for your custom van. Some went with the classic porthole, while others went the diamond as seen on the Street Van.
The teardrop design was yet another popular choice along with the good old heart shape. These were the sort of tough decisions that vanners had to make back then.
Ask any vanner, any real vanner. They will all tell you the same thing. You can never have too many louvers…
The selection of vans also brought with them an array of vintage wheels to match. Some, like these finned jobs with Cooper Cobra tires looked like they’ve been mounted for quite some time.
The classic slotted mag wheel is another popular choice, not just on vans but for just about any car from the 1970s.
The same goes for the Cragar SS, which are usually fitted to vans in some very wide sizes both front and rear. This one also gets extra points for its Mickey Thompson Indy Profile tires.
The Keystone is another one of those cool old wheels that doesn’t pop up nearly as much it should.
For those looking to give their van a bit more of a Lowrider vibe, the Astro Supreme is another good choice.
This Chevy takes the Lowrider thing a bit further with wire wheels and a healthy amount of pinstriping.
Pinstriping is of course just the beginning when it comes to vans and paintjobs. At their wildest, they were less vehicles and more rolling canvases for elaborate murals. Are you the mysterious wizard type?
Or perhaps you are more into the flame-spitting dragon?
A proper custom van should also have its own name.
Only the best of the best could claim the elite” Vantasy” name. The same goes for the equally exclusive name, “Vantastic”.
You can sense the the increasing popularity of old vans when you see what they sell for these days. They are no Muscle Cars for sure, but sometimes it’s surprising to see how much early models like the Dodge A100 and Ford Econoline go for on Ebay or Craigslist.
I quite liked the look of this short wheelbase A100 with big and skinny Cragars. It’s simple by custom van standards, but very effective.
In most cases you can usually pick up on a few small differences between a modern build and survivor, but many of the vans like this Dodge look like they were came straight from the ’70s or early ’80s.
The National Street Van Association still exists, and based on their website they seem to be active as ever with a particularly strong presence in the UK.
Sometimes I’m highly disappointed that I didn’t get to experience the 1970s first hand…
Some of these custom vans grew to be quite large…
…in which case a double rear axle conversion is always a good choice. I’m not quite sure about the functional benefits, but it definitley makes for an unique look, and that’s what vanning was (is?) all about.
From the giant twin axle dodge to a tiny little Subaru mircovan. Vanning does not discriminate by size or place of birth!
In terms of both cars and fashion, it seems that everything eventually comes back into style. I can only see the vanning revival get bigger and bigger from here, so if you want an old van you better scoop it now before they hit Ferrari GTO price levels!
I just picked up this '87 GMC. I know it's built a decade too late and it's roof is higher than the normal "Street Van" but I'm planning on customizing it more than it already is. Cragar mags being first on the list. Would it be allowed into most van events and appreciated or would I be frowned upon by the short coming I listed earlier?
Many of us never left the vanning lifestyle. Twin City Vans in Minnesota held our 40th annual truckin in June 2015.
I got my club colors right out of High School (86) and was told back then that the Vanning "movement" was dying. It has seen It's numbers fall off over the years. But the reality of it all is that Vanning became a bit of a cult following or that of hidden secret. Prior to the Internet allowing people to see what was available for your Vans, we were limited to rags like Truck-in and Hot Rod. They want only to sell you anything that their advertising pages had to offer. If there wasn't a shop that they could promote or a parts list of products that were endorsed by the particular rag, the van was not going to be in the rag, no matter how spectacular it was. Vanning is more about the individual view of what is cool. All the Vans at the Van Nationals this year in Altomont Illinois were different from the next. The ability for a Major league sponsor is non existent due to the odds of selling enough product to justify traveling across the country to show up to what they see as a gigantic party.
This thinking is why the rags like Truck-in only show trucks with more "Sponsor stickers" than paint. Whereas an internet site that allows an individual to post a photo album to how they hand crafted their Van will have a huge following of people who truly appreciate what they did despite the limited amount of sellable products.
In turn the big name magazines stopped showing Vans in their rag. People assume that what's in their rags is all that's out there. No Vans in the rag=Vans aren't around anymore or no one important is building one.
Sooner or later The big Rags will come around and say that they were involved with Vanning from the beginning. But Vanners that watched them disappear will never want to support them again. Sorry Truck-in, you have nothing in your rag that interests me. I'll see what's in the real world where real Americans build what they like not what you sell.
Ace of Spades van club
I've been a vanner since 1971 vanning never died you just had to know where to look. After all we are on our 44th annual van nationals.. come to Lakeland Florida July 4 5 6 7 8 2016.. you will see vanning at its best
Had a 65' back in the mid 70's it caught on fire, and lost it. Found one on e-bay 2010, restored it, and cruising again.
I love this. I just got my 73 dodge and I am taking it back retro to the 70,s. We had lotsa fun in my buddy's van in high school back then and I can't wait to go back. Will get some pics posted later.
Hey Joe. Check out southeat van council (they are on the net).They can direct you to one in your area.I am in the Florida Van council and we all van a lot together.
There is a van event near you. Located in Cherokee NC October 2 3 4 at the camp grounds. There will be many Tennesee vanners there. Its called "GSVR" THE Great Southern Van Run.. I'll be there
Hope I'm not to late for the party.. But.. We're working of a different kind of "van". We're starting with a 2015 Ford Transit Connect XL SWB 2.5L I4 (The Smallest miniCargo van Ford Offers) Our plans?.. For one,, we're going to install 17x8 775 RockStar wheels (which are typically seen on off road vehicles) But we're not going off road. The Wheels will be powder coated "Midnight Blue" with Maxxis 225/50R17 tires.
We had hoped to create an overland.. but parts aren't available to us. So we're going to semi-Slamit. I was also going to wrap the van (in areas) with carbon Fiber, but this too because a nightmare.. so We're going to use Dupli-Color's Carbon Fiber Spray Kit and incorp a few of our own ideas and colors. The Attached Image is its projected appearance over the next few months if not sooner. The exterior will have a splash of color here and there just to break up the stark white and black areas.. while the interior.. We'll have to save that for a future blog post. But first those wheels and tires. For More Info: Toaster-Van Dot tumblr Dot Com or StanceWorks Dot Com (2 Lost In Transit's "Toaster Build")
Love it. Past owner Chevy Short Wheel base 6 cyl3 on the tree. Orange and yellow shag throught. Black outside with racks and scoope. Bed wall and bar with wine racks. " Mad Dog" is back! Or looking Hit me up. Im looking to buy 843-364-7028. Peace Jim m.
Desperately looking for a street an in descent running condition. Either original or custom. Will pay top dollar. Call Keith at 914.776.4890 thanks
Whats a fully restored 1976 Dodge StreetVan worth? Something similar to the pic below... I can't seem to find any numbers on fully restored examples.
This is all original 1979 van, looks like it did in79... Cavalcade custom winner, national winner. Looking to sell it now. Runs, all original, one of a kind!!
Do you have a picture of the back of this van? I'm trying to hunt one Down I remember as a kid
If you do please E mail it to email@example.com
darrylj I have an 84 Dodge full size van, and I am having problems trying to find accessories for, do anyone out there know where I can find these accessories.
@MrMace You should contact Kurk at CustomVan.com. Here is the website. https://s60.website-secured.com/~customva/catalog/ If that does not work for you, hit me up and I can put you in touch with him.
@Rü$╫ What's up! I am looking for spoilers, side pipes, roof vents and rear wing spoiler the old school style can you help me?
@Rü$╫ I'm looking for a rear wing and a Ventura roof air vent! Can you help me out?
Sorry for my delayed response time...I have my notifications from speed hunters go to a specific folder and I never look at them. Anyways check out http://mrvanparts.bigcartel.com I don't have the parts your sealing but this guy might!
It was a vantastic era when youth learned mechanics bodywork / painting and upholstery among other design skills. Then we got high gas prices, vandalized paint jobs and under Reagan working with your hands wasn't sexy.
Kids today are interested in the next level and High Score. <sigh>
I'm looking for a aftermarket grill for my van conversion I just bought I will be repainting it soon I like the first van grill and front shade part
I am a member of the Bluegrass Vanners out of Louisville.Ky.. We just had our 38 annual van jam in April and you are right the vannin movement is coming back strong. My wife and I both have shorties(full size, short wheel base chevy vans).
HI AM IN NEW MEXICO ALBUQUERQUE STILL HAVE MINE SHE 38 YEARS OLD
SHE A 76 CHEVY SHORTY BORN ,REBORN, AND TODAY GETTING READY TO RESTORE MAY NEED SOME CHROME PARTS
hello, i am in the midwest, st louis to be exact, i love the vans, i enjoyed many, of my own, in the past, i courntly, own a 89 f 350 4x4, i would like to find a street van ,ford chevy dodge, for sale,if anyone knows of one please let me know, my email, is firstname.lastname@example.org
Does anyone know of a classic can magazine or book that's good? Looking for a Xmas present for my guy who loves classic vans. Thanks!