MARCH 29, 2013 (APRIL 2013): TORONADO VAN-AN EXERCISE IN IMAGINATION ON WHEELS

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There’s no defined blueprint for custom vehicles because they’re all products of individual imagination.

 

Custom vehicles have often been described as works of art wrapped in metal and riding in wheels.

 

That would be a good description for this creation.

 

 

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Dan Bernhard was a shop teacher “I taught trades for years, I’d cross Saskatchewan and live in dilapidated hotels” but when he retired he decided to apply his skills to a unique project.The idea of the Toronado van was born, “I decided I needed something that would really be my own”.

 

Obviously this van has a connection to a Toronado as Dan explained, ” It’s Toronado underneath but it’s built around a Chevy van”.

 

 

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Clearly this was not a simple job and Dan ran into a problem right away, “The 455 was pretty wide so now it’s a 350 Olds Cutlass motor and that pulls it just fine”.

 

The Chevy van sat on an acreage for twenty years and Dan struggled with the idea of bringing it back but eventually he met the challenge to build a Chevy van around a Toronado.

 

Dan explained how it worked with a very basic explanation, ” You start with the front wheel drive and then you build a subframe behind it. It’s lot like a modern car in terms of engineering”.

 

The van is definitely beyond factory specs to accommodate the modifications, ” this van is much wider, in fact I just used the wall panels from the van and built the rest”. That has to be the understatement of the year because this Chevy van is so wide now that Dan carries an old Austin Mini in the “garage area“.

 

 

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There are other non-factory improvements in this unique build as Dan explained, ” It used to have a central vacuum system but the new portable vacuums are so good that I didn’t need it anymore. The 8-track still works because I cleaned it after it ate a tape”.

 

Dan stuck to his plan of retro-fitting with old tech because it even extend down to the phone, “It’s one of those really old mobile phones, I wasn’t even sure it would work but I clicked it and the operator came on”.

 

 

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There was on exception to the old tech theme because Dan admits that he charges his batteries with solar panels.

 

 

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This van has clearly been modified externally beyond the wider stance because its nose is not a factory Chevy van as Don added, “ It’s a 1972 Chevy truck nose and the hood has been lowered because I changed the angle. It’s better for the aerodynamics”.

 

 

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The real key to this van is that it’s a radical custom but it’s far from a trailer queen because Dan is constantly on the road in his creation, ” It’s great on the highway and it handles a lot better than a van because it’s lower and wider. It actually gets great gas mileage in the area of 18-20 miles per gallon because I don’t go over 60 miles per hour. It’s like the old saying during the war ‘don’t drive too fast, save a lot of gas’. That’s how you get good mileage”.

 

 

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Dan spends a large part of the summer behind the wheel of this unique vehicle on the car show circuit because he has the time and the public relation skills to explain the story behind his van.

 

 

He loves to talk about his rolling “exercise in imagination”.

 

 

Jerry Sutherland

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