The `70s were known as the golden age for custom vans, and their lifestyle was rampant with clubs organizing and promoting Van-Ins and Happenings that attracted thousands of vanners. Unfortunately, the popularity of vans was short-lived and, like the dinosaurs, vans just seemed to have vanished. But if you ask a diehard vanner they will tell you; vans and their lifestyle never did disappear. They have continued to cruise the earth's crust since those golden years. The van phenomena seems to have been mummified over the years and has recently been unraveled. Vans have been around for so long their timeline is measured by decades.
We attended the 32nd Van Nationals in Harrisburg, Michigan, which was a weekend full of vans and vanners with endless stories. During the show, we captured a selection of colorful van features. Recently we decided to expose them on Truckinweb.com in our blog section and within a couple of hours we had received over one hundred comments! With that much excitement and dedication, we decided to take it another step and post the feature van images from the 32nd Van Nationals for our website vanatics to vote on. This was the winner - a `79 Dodge Tradesman 100 owned by Scott "Woody" Clause, from Berkeley, Illinois.
Scott has been an avid tie-dyed vanner and member of Mid West Vans LTD. for 20 years. He has accumulated thousands of cruising miles on his van's odometer. The chopped and multi-colored Dodge van took Scott seven years to complete.
Larry Keller from Durango, Illinois, lowered the van. Larry dropped the nose four inches by eliminating a couple of coils from the front coil springs. To provide front suspension dampening, Larry installed a pair of Monroe shocks. To allow the rear suspension ample negative travel, the rear framerails were C-notched. The Dodge 8-inch rearend with 3.90 gears and posi-unit was then flipped and placed atop the rear leaf springs. A pair of Monroe shocks were mounted to the brackets that protrude through the van floor. A set of Billet Specialties GTP 51 polished billet aluminum 17x7-inch front and 17x8-inch rear wheels have been wrapped inside Kumho 215/50R17 and 245/45R17 tires respectively.
A `69 Dodge 340ci engine was removed from a willing donor, which was then disassembled, cleaned, and machined at Adrian's Competition Motors in Berkeley, Illinois. Ron Watts from West Chicago, Illinois, performed the final assembly of performance components. A custom 2-inch exhaust merges into a pair of Flowmaster mufflers. The '79 Dodge 727 automatic transmission was built with the appropriate GER pro-street shift kit, reversed manual shift, and valvebody for stronger and firmer shifts. A pair of heavy-duty Diehard batteries were installed under the floor in the rear.
The Dodge Tradesman roof was lowered eight inches, the back doors were removed, and a sheet metal panel was then formed, fitted, then welded in place and ground smooth. A massive gull wing side door was hydraulically activated with a handheld remote. A custom phantom mesh grille hides the four headlights, while the rear taillights were frenched into the rear corners. All of the door handles were shaved smooth and the body was primered, then block-sanded over and over to achieve a straight, smooth surface. The van was then driven six hours to Magnuson's Custom Paint in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, were it received it's incredible multi-colored PPG paint scheme.
The audio, or period correct, "stereo" system was headed up by a Kenwood 625 head unit and amplified by a Blaupunkt GTA 480 amp. A large subwoofer enclosure houses four 10-inch Blaupunkt subwoofers that deliver the thunderous bass. A Blaupunkt amp powers the Blaupunkt mid/high audio signals. The entire stereo system was wired and installed by Pete Rosedale, from Des Plaines, Illinois.
The exotic velvet interior was designed and created by the crew at Paradise Motor Works in Berkeley, Illinois. The van's interior walls, floor, and ceiling were covered with lavish gold, red, and purple button-tucked velvet. The bed loft features four ceiling spotlights and a side mirror.
If you qualify for an AARP card and still can remember names of classmates during your high school years of the `70s, then you will remember Van mania....