Van Go: When Art Collides With Utility
A box with stance

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.



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This is on another level!


This is the most complete feature I've seen of Van Go by far, amazing stuff. Thanks guys.


Holy Jesus...


I want one!


Glad to hear this. Van Go has been featured in magazines already, but we really tried to do something different than what's been done.


Hey Speedhunters! Please, please, please make a Van and Bus month. Yeah coupes and rollcages are cool, but some of the readers are quite a bit more practical than that. Loved this thread and would love some more. 


KeithCharvonia I concur. Best online photos I've seen of it.


I second the motion. 
This is a really cool build and it would be nice to see what other vans are lurking out there.




That thing must be like a furnace in there


the interior reminds me of yacht furniture. so very cool van


Now that is beautiful. One question, how loud is it to travel in? Seeing as you're sitting right next to the v8?


Aaron B xKZx  That's something I'd really like to see


More van features - family vans would be awesome to see - this thing is just too cool. Church!!


wow! this van is just immaculate.


Van Go is one of my favorite customs (or kustom if you're so inclined), not to mention my favorite custom van. I've been waiting for this feature, and was not disappointed. I'm with the rest of the folk here asking for more van features.


Amazing custom build. Love the use of different materials through out the interior. Super exterior body work as well. Good stuff


Van-tastic! Alright, I'll get my coat...


Great to see a van featured.


xKZx If you want that, go to STANCE|WORKS.


When did this site turn into STANCE|WORKS?


Amazing. Just amazing. I second Dino in wanting one.


I've always thought of the Mystery Machine from the movie was cool. :D


I guess you could say it's tall, dark and Van-some!


You should be arrested for Van-dalism


3nigm4 I haven't gotten to ride in it YET, but I know Coby does indeed drive it all over the place. Couldn't be that loud if he's willing to drive it so much.


reno808 I didn't get into this in the article, but that doghouse that they built is double walled with Dynamat trapped inside. I bet it keeps the heat out.


japanophile25 I was reluctant to call it a kustom with a 'k'. Someone noticed. :)


Haha, I've read so many lead sled rags that it gets hard for me not to spell it that way sometimes. Is there any particular reason you were reluctant?


japanophile25 Because to many people a kustom is only a '40s to '50s car. This is a '63 van built in the style, but very much a modern build at the same time. I would be interested to hear what Coby would deem it.


Very true, though I'm of the mind that kustoms are more of a larger style that could apply to just about any classic modified as such. I would also be very interested in hearing that.


KeithCharvonia japanophile25  To me, it's a custom that happens to be a van. When I debuted it at the GNRS, I BEGGED them to put it in a custom class and not with the other 2 or 3 vans. They wouldn't do it. I followed by asking why a convertible can be in a custom class rather than only compete with other drop tops. They had no answer. I bet when a big name kustomizer builds one (and I guarantee one will), it will go in as a custom.


@Church KeithCharvonia japanophile25 Ugh, stupid show politics. Van Go definitely should have been in the custom class.  So I would guess you took 1st in the van class then?  Thanks for chiming in Coby!


This is brilliant.  Great ingenuity in the concept and the execution.


Wow, thats so messed up. I hope you took best van, it deserves it.


The craftsmanship on this van is incredible!!


amazing work.


@Hardparker Is this stance working for you? ;)


my god thats sexy!


mural painted monstrosities? YOU TAKE THAT BACK!


Great job on this feature ! Love the detail photos that haven't really been featured elsewhere. Vango has been featured on the cover of Traditional Rod & Kulture, in Autocult and several other magazine as far away as Japan, France, Australia ...   Coby has helped to convince thousands of car guys that vans are kool. It even caught Chip Foose's eye at the Grand National Roadster Show, he gave it his design award there in 2011 !  It has to be seen in person to truly appreciate it though. It is one of the top custom vans ever built.


BlackJacket Haha, what kind of mural do you have on your van?


Looks like it has a license plate... How did he road-register it with no turn signals??? Or are they just well-hidden?
Is "Dog-house" a common/technical term, or just some clever description you came up with on the spot?


Speed bumps would be a pain in the arse


It makes sense that its asymmetrical since Van Gogh was missing a ear  too like the hinges LOL


@B Dog house is an industry term referring to engine covers inside a vehicle's cabin room.


Interior looks like the floors of a bowling alley


@B The turn signals are in the headlight. They take  up maybe the bottom 15%.


vector52787 If it wasn't for the massive blind spot on the passenger side, I would have gone with only one side mirror to honor Van Gogh. :)


very nice van with excellent craftsmanship...but why why why a Chevy engine?!?!?


@DCLXVI1967 It's always hidden (except for when Sean asked to snap the photo). Easier to get parts. Half the price..... and if Ford sends me a something cool, we'll change the motor mounts!


Aaron B xKZx Third


@DCLXVI1967 It's pretty commonplace and acceptable in the custom world to swap motors like this. The SBC is very prevalent due to availability, reliability and cost. Think about it this way - most custom guys will never pop their hood at a car show, Coby and myself included, so who cares what's under the hood?


vector52787 Ha, nice!


KeithCharvonia only because most custom guy have nothing to show.


Best coverage of this incredible van I have seen yet. I have a '64 A-100 which gets "thumbs up" cruising down the street and has been in Hot Rod a few times, but VanGo is truly the pinnacle of how beautiful and functional these early vans can be. Check out the Van Jockey lifestyle necessities...


Absolutley B E A utiful, thanks heaps for the feature, have been hunting Vango from OZ for a while now, well done, as you say a piece of art. Love it!


The most beautiful machine on the road. Would love to see it in person one day.


Dat is one nice van


yo, thats amesome!


This van is a piece of art. Stunning.


I liked his van so much i painted my tracker the same colors!


I liked it so much i painted my tracker the same colors!