Editor's Note:Steve Stanford is well known in the automotive field for his creative and well-executed renderings. Here, in his own words, is the thought process behind the impressive van renderings you see here.
It's very late in the evening, and I'm in my studio with five concept renderings spread out in front of me. As I scan the images, I start shaking my head in disbelief - not because of the late hour (it's when I do my best work), but because of what I spent the better part of a week and a half rendering. Sheesh, maybe I have lost it this time, I'm thinking. But maybe the idea isn't so crazy after all. The only way to find out is to show these drawings around and find out what other truck enthusiasts think.
Let's start at the very beginning. Five years ago, when I had my office at Pete Santini's legendary custom paint emporium in Westminster, California, I would occasionally spot this mid-'70s short-wheelbase Chevy van in local traffic. Faded original paint, old mag wheels, slab sided (no windows), kind of cool actually. What grabbed my attention, however, was this van was lowered - a lot! Now I'm sure there are other lowered vans out there, but this was the first fullsize van I'd seen on the ground. Of course, there have been countless Cal-Look VW buses built and lowered. But to me, this Chevy was something completely new, and it got me thinking of new van ideas.
However, if I were to sketch up some of these ideas I had, people would think I've finally gone around the bend. However, it may not end there. Unknown to me, the van scene had existed on the truck fringe for some time, but it was just that, a fringe thing. Occasionally, custom vans would be brought up in a bench-rodding session, but we wouldn't dwell on them; it was a fleeting reference and nothing more.
Those of you who were around in the '70s for the original van craze remember the scene well. Custom vans, in the hands of hot rodders and surfer types, started out as a cool, hip, new idea. Vans were tastefully modified, with accent pinstriping, fat tires on flashy mag wheels, and imaginative new interiors revolving around custom cabinets, wood paneling, built-in beds, and custom stereo systems, with the rest filled with tuck-'n'-roll upholstery. We'd seen woodies and panel trucks of all types, but these custom vans were something else. What happened next was to be expected; no good idea goes uncopied.
Vans went from an idea to a craze to a lifestyle, as enthusiasts nationwide (and later, beyond our shores) jumped on board. Van happenings, clubs, mile-long caravans snaking their way down city streets and canyon roads, pop songs ("Chevy Van"), and, of course, the new Truckin' magazine appeared to help spread the word. Life was good.
Of course, it couldn't last. First, the car dealerships cashed in on the trend with their pre-fabricated van conversions, complete with stencil paintjobs; a large portion of these vans slowly morphed into RVs. These were definitely not hot rods.