Oh, yes, vans of yesterday are still roaming the earth.A perfect example is this well-preserved '73 Chevy 10 van of Frank Villarreal from Lomita, California. Villarreal has been cruising his van through the streets of Southern California for the past 17 years. During its earlier years, it made numerous trips to the Colorado River, with Frank's 18-foot Manta Ray jet boat in tow. Once the boat was launched in the water, the van doubled as party and sleeping quarters. Whenever the river was glassy, the boat would be seen and heard, making numerous bonsai runs up and down the Parker strip.
Today, Villarreal's Orange Crate has been retired from its lengthy river trips, and it now transports band equipment to and from gigs. You see, Villarreal is a band manager and drummer for a classic rock band, Unlimited Source, which consists of six members, age 52 to 62 - no I.D. checks for these dudes. These crusty rockers still crank out the best tunes of yesterday and today, and this shaggin' wagon of the '70s still turns heads today. There's nothing like a resto van of the '70s to haul around a vintage band's equipment. The Orange Crate has also become very popular on the show-'n'-shine circuit in SoCal. Its current simplicity doesn't reflect the average van of the '70s with all that psychedelic hippy eye-candy. This '73 Chevy van resembles a more modern version of today's Sport Vans.
One of the most contributing factors to the overall appearance of any custom ride is its stance. The lowered aggressive stance was accomplished by cutting one coil out of the front coil springs, and the rear leaves were de-arched and teamed with Gabriel shock absorbers on all four corners. Stopping power comes from the factory front disc brakes with drums in the rear. The Orange Crate previously rolled on 15-inch American Racing polished aluminum Torq-Thrust II spools. Just recently, the wheel and tire combo was kicked up a notch by bolting on a set of 17x8-inch American Racing polished aluminum Torq-Thrust IIs, wrapped with Falken P225/50R17 front and P245/50R17 rear rubber.
The rebuilt 350ci engine is backed up to a 350 transmission, and a pair of Hedman block-hugger headers are bolted up to the stock heads and flow into a pair of Flowmaster muffs. This powertrain/transmission combo is going to be yanked in the near future and updated with a 383ci stroker motor, mated to a 700-R4 transmission.
What makes this van so appealing is its simple, clean-cut exterior appearance. Frank's brother, Ronnie Villarreal, is known in Southern California for his immaculate customs and frame-off restorations. He is a one-man builder and does everything from bumper to bumper. His shop, Angelo's Turn the Key Body Shop, is located in Torrance, California. Needless to say, Frank and his brother have spent many hours refurbishing the old van. Its body panels were straightened, filled, block-sanded, and massaged, then painted Hugger Orange, color-sanded and cleared with multiple coats, then buffed to acquire the paint's endless depth.
Just as simple as the exterior is the interior, with re-covered factory tan seats, using short pile tan carpet with the traditional paneled walls and door panels. The interior is going to be completely gutted and redesigned with a more updated dcor. A Kenwood head unit and equalizer transmits the audio impulses to a pair of powerful 150-watt Kenwood amps, and the tunes are fed through Monster cables and connectors into 6x7-inch JBL speakers in the doors and side panels, with a pair of stout 12-inch JBL subwoofers, one in each rear door, which are powered by their own 150-watt amp. They produce bone-crushing thunderous base tones.
Villarreal's Orange Crate is a perfect example of simplicity done well. One thing about vans, you don't have to do much to accomplish a cool styling ride. Set the stance low or lower, bolt on a set of 17-inch wheels, clean paint, and you're ready to cruise, tow, and party.