I want you to name every cool van you can think of off the top of your head…
What did you come up with? A bagged Astro from the ’90s minitruck craze, a mural painted monstrosity from the ’70s, one of those crazy Japanese builds, maybe the A-Team van? Vannin’ will probably always be a niche scene, but I’ve found one that really doesn’t fit into any of the aforementioned categories. Coby Gewertz’s Van Go is a proper custom build – created in a traditional style, yet absolutely forward thinking in design. Once you understand the man behind the van, it even starts to kinda make sense.
Coby Gewertz runs a small magazine and clothing company called Church, of which I have been a fan since day one. He takes his own photos of hot rods and custom cars and creates fantastic clean layouts for a ‘little pages’ style magazine which he distributes via the web and car shows. I personally own quite a few of his graphic creations, and his stuff is pretty limited. Once it’s gone, it’s probably never coming back.
To say that Coby is talented in the graphics department is an understatement. He has an aesthetic gift most don’t even come close to, and it shows in everything he does – including this 1963 Ford Econoline. As you can see here, his van was built for a purpose: to haul around his swag so he can sell it at car shows. This sliding drawer holds limited edition prints, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. We’ll come back to the interior later though.
First we need to cover the general design of this, shall we say, box. The downside to building a traditional custom out of a van is that you’re basically starting with a rectangle on wheels; a toaster, a shoe box, a loaf of bread, a brick. You get the idea. Coby wasn’t set on building an Econoline, but while brainstorming ideas for a swag-hauler with some friends, his buddy Mike Gerry offered this one up for free. After giving it a closer look, Coby realized it actually had some pretty cool lines, so he set out to create a design that would make the original styling pop.
Emphasizing the lines of a car is something all good custom builders strive to do, and in this case Coby and his beyond-talented fabricator Tim Conder had some major work ahead of them to make the too-tall Econoline look streamlined and custom.
Just the front corner has tons of work, but you would never know it unless you were a member of some Ford Econoline Owners’ Club. The front turn signals have been shaved, the grille reworked, the area behind the headlight bezels smoothed, and custom split bumperettes were formed from four sets of 1970 Camaro bumpers.
Of course the stance was critical, but it’s not easy to fit the body down over the wheels when the driver sits on top of them. New wheel wells were created which actually protrude into the space the door formerly occupied. Kevin Francis and Steve Rose from KA Custom notched and bagged the chassis with a Mustang II front clip. The steering was converted to a rack and pinion set-up that uses a Steer Clear unit to connect to the steering column. That’s the short version: Kevin, Steve and Tim busted out a ton of engineering and fab skill just to drop the frame and body in a manner that would allow Coby to ever drive the thing.
One of Coby’s favorite features on Van Go is the lack of front door hinges. Econolines came with ugly hinges that stuck out, but they were simple and they worked. Tim and Coby quickly found out why they were designed this way from the factory, as the hidden hinge job became an enormous task. Tim pulled it off though, and Coby says it’s his favorite mod that nobody will ever notice.
Since the doors are open let’s have a look inside. I know that hardwood interior caught your eye earlier…That wood interior
As you can see, there are slots in the doors to hold Coby’s magazines. The hole theme continues elsewhere…
… onto this stainless seat brace. Remember how the wheels moved so far up into the body that they are now sitting inside the doors? Well, that also made fitting seats an interesting challenge. Inspired by the bent plywood furniture of mid-century designers Charles and Ray Eames, the guys came up with these thin, contoured seats.
The woodwork was handled by artisan Pablo Perez under Tim’s watchful eye. Beech, ash and teak were combined into sculpted forms to tie in with the rounded box shape of the exterior. The stainless arches and rods on the headliner are not just a great design detail – they also hold Church-branded shirts.
Pablo also shaped the wooden armrests which mimic the stock shape but in a much cooler way. I thought wood steering wheels were for vintage European sports cars, but it sure looks the part here.
The wood panels are also great for hiding things like air conditioning and compressors for the suspension. Tim Conder formed this custom sheetmetal dog-house to hide the engine before painting it to match the exterior.
It lifts off to reveal a trusty 350ci SBC.
Another hatch opens to fill the fuel cell.
Some Classic Instruments gauges are laid out in a traditional pattern on the flaked dash.
Just as Tim worked his craft on the Econoline’s tin, Pablo did the same on the interior. It’s a monumental fusion of two materials into one cohesive design.
This looks like a great place to spend the day hocking shirts and magazines to me.The Watson-style paint job
There’s just one feature we’ve yet to review, and it’s one of the most striking. For me the paint job is the last part of the stance/interior/graphic trifecta that makes this build whole.
Coby went with a Larry Watson-inspired job, which means the lines in the graphics follow the body’s features to make them pop. He calls the color Green Tea Metallic and it was chosen for its earthy, utilitarian feel, but spiced up with lots of pearl and flake to bring it into the custom realm.
Designing a paint job like this is a huge graphic design project, perfect for a guy like Coby. As you look at the paint, notice how it lays out to draw your attention to the styling of the body.
It’s actually an asymmetric layout, since one side of the Van Go has doors…
… while the other is blank.
With so much real estate on the roof it was only natural to continue the theme up top. Coby says you can actually see it pretty well since Van Go is so slammed.
Coby set out to create a rolling store-front for his Church branded wares. I suppose an old mini-van would have done the job just as well in a functional sense.
But that’s not nearly as cool as riding around in this.
It’s really just a testament to hard-working guys like Coby, Tim, Kevin and Steve, who are fueled by a passion to make bitchin’ stuff.
For some guys, everything is a design project, and the bar is set so high that they end up making a Van Go.