The past few years have produced some new darlings of the collector car world when a new path is blazed through unknown collector vehicle territory.


The list has included vintage pickups, station wagons, VW micro buses and terminally cute cars like the Isetta or King Midget.


Last summer a local car guy in our region pointed out a vehicle that may well be on Barrett-Jackson radar very soon: the customized van aka the 1970s boogie van.


We believe our local car guy Gary Davis is likely ahead of the prediction curve with his crystal ball on vans.


Most car guys of a certain age have some very fond memories of the custom van craze that occurred during the 70s and 80s. Even if we didn’t actually own a van, we wanted a van in the worst way because of the endless possibilities offered by vans, intoxicants and the all-important hormonal phase of youth.


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The vans were a rolling party zone for a generation of then-young Baby Boomers who wanted to combine captain’s chairs, Madman Muntz sound systems and thick pile or shag carpet for the ultimate fun wagon.


Ideally the fun included romance because many of these four-wheeled sin bins also had giant beds that were either permanently ready for love or disguised under a foldout bench seat. Most young van pilots decked out their chariots with a colorful array of offset lighting to heighten the romance in a red light district kind of way.




The custom van exterior was an impressive combination of porthole windows, giant windows and wild paint-brushed murals that were a seamless blend of arena rock concert fire and lightning, plus the occasional semi-nude chick who looked like she would be Conan the Conquerer’s favorite bedmate.


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Over-the-top murals were a fundamental part of the plumage on these vans because their owners were in a heated battle to win the “my-van-is-much-cooler- than-your-van” competition. The winners would likely attract a few interested female admirers of the van, but it still boiled down to strong social skills to make it to the more difficult and highly desirable don’t-come-a-knocking phase of the competition.




All of the nostalgia and mythology behind the boogie van era points to one important fact: Gary Davis is right; the custom van from the 70s and early 80s will likely catch fire as a collectible in the very near future.


Most of them have long since disappeared from the planet. Many of them were likely crushed and re-molded into minivans as a generation of Baby Boomers became parents and bought smaller, more practical vans that went to soccer games or the grocery store instead of the beach or bush parties.




The purpose of the custom van movement was actually pretty similar to the hot rod movement because both participants wanted to run with a fast crowd during their youth.




MSCC believes that the custom van from the past will be one of the next best things at Barrett Jackson in the near future.


Jim Sutherland

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