VANNING IS BACK: CHARIOTS OF THE GODS 2018

Sidepipes, mag wheels and murals of wizards were once the hallmarks of the ultimate vehicular form of self expression of the 1970s and ’80s. This summer, on the hottest day of August, we explored this subculture at the Chariots of the Gods Custom Van and Vintage Camper Show at Vinyl-Lux Upholstery.

Brown G10

Sidepipes, mag wheels and murals of wizards were once the hallmarks of the ultimate vehicular form of self expression of the 1970s and ’80s. While the vanning craze of the malaise era eventually fell into obscurity, around the world the culture carried on. In Japan you can find custom vans ranging from wild bosozoku builds to even track built vans, Europe has a subset of van culture as well and Brazil, well let’s just say the Volkswagen Type 2 stayed in production until 2013 for a reason. Meanwhile in America, if we fast forward 35 years from when van culture left off, we began to see some millennials seeking adventure rediscovering what they called “#vanlife” and traveling the country while working remotely. Over the course the last few years the stigma of the clapped-out ex-plumber owned Chevy G20 “Rape Van”  began to dissolve as a rediscovery of classic vanning bubbled to the surface of pop culture.

Bill Jaap Van Collection

This summer, on the hottest day of August, we explored this subculture at the Chariots of the Gods Custom Van and Vintage Camper Show at Vinyl-Lux Upholstery. We started our journey accompanying Bill Jaap from Good Carma caravaning his personal fleet of Volkswagen vans to the show. The fleet included a water-cooled Vanagon Westfalia, and a pair of Type 2 bay window vans in Riviera and Westfalia form. Good Carma is a shop that specializes in Volkswagen, Audi and Subaru repair and is one of only a handful of shops in the midwest that are well versed with Volkswagen aircooled and waterboxer engines.

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Once at the show the vans were parked with tops up with the exception of the Riviera which was clad with a well suited surfboard. There was even a Volkswagen themed game of cornhole was set out as well. Even Jordan from Van Go, came by the Good Carma camp to join in the fun.

Mellow Yellow

Second to the Americans, Volkswagen’s offerings were the most prevalent. This wasn’t a coincidence though because, in the hands of hippies during the 1960’s the Type 2 became the catalyst to what would become American van culture. While the American vans fell out of favor with the general public, the classic aircooled Volkswagen van has always been one of the most iconic cult classic vehicles and have only become more sought after now that vanning is becoming popular again.

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As we’ve stated on the podcast, the Vanagon is one of the most popular Volkswagen vans and can be very desirable if you can come across a properly cared for example. It’s just modernized enough to be a viable roadtrip vehicle on American highways but isn’t so modernized that it loses the allure of the classic Type 2. While the original Vanagon was aircooled, there are diesel and watercooled variants as well so take your pick. This van shown above is a watercooled version kitted out with larger steel wheels from GoWesty and a Fiamma awning for a superior camping experience. Note the swing away cooler in the rear of the van, likely from GoWesty as well.

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Once we worked up the courage to exit the functional air conditioning of the Vanagon we began to walk around. The vast majority of the vans in show were the American full sized vans you typically equate with American vanning culture. Something made in the 70’s or 80’s by The Big 3 modified in period style. This is not without precedent since the Twin City Vans club has been around since the 1970s, which makes them a strong contender for oldest car club in Minnesota, along with the MSRA.

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With a number of long time members still rocking 70s era vans, the newer members have plenty of guidance. The shocking thing about this show is the amount of well preserved vans, even modern builds follow the preservation of the original style largely. This Orange Dodge Tradesman looks the part with its Cragar wheels, body kit, sun visor and mural. In fact there are matching murals on each side.

While the driver side mural features the van venturing into the sunset, the passenger side shows the van coming out through a mountain pass. Creative paint work like this is rarely seen these days on builds. Before anyone asks, no that is not a vinyl wrap or anything, it’s an actual airbrush work which is even more impressive.

Orange Dodge Interior

Wood covered walls, a solid sound system and a tucked and buttoned velvet roof with matching seat cushions make this Orange tradesman a bad ass mobile living room. These vans come from an era when you didn’t build your car for instagram likes, then move onto the next project, your van was your form of self expression.

Etheral Goat Van

The van was your Instagram page, people saw it and they saw what you were about. Did you like Rush? Why not paint the 2112 album cover on the side. Was Dungeons & Dragons your thing? Then you had better deck out that van with couches and a table with a dice tower built in it. A van was a mobile living room for anything you could think of, from adventuring through the world, to tailgating at concerts and everything in between. Many of these had couches, beds, TVs, CB Radios and everything, sometimes even including the kitchen sink.

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Frankly the interiors of these vans are more important than the exteriors. While it’s cool to look at them, you spend your time inside of it rather than the outside. They’re made to be used. While the Orange van had an excellent interior, some were even more wild. There was a brown Dodge van with a shag interior that was honestly more comfortable looking than my own house. Note the stained glass sconces in the corners and the rotating captains chairs.

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The table in the back looked infinitely comfy to chill out at. The lighting in the van is also something to behold with a swivel spotlight in the cabin and mood lighting throughout. The interior of this exudes the 1970s from the color palate to the shag carpet on everything.

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I believe this van was an original van from back in the 1970s but was either restored or perfectly preserved. The porthole window in the back was one of dozens of styles you could get from circles to hearts and I’m not even kidding but that footprint gas pedal shape was an option as well.

Barn Find Van

Nate Van Hofwegen, the showrunner of Chariots of the Gods, picked up this 1974 Dodge Tradesman from the original owner who received it from his parents as a high school graduation gift. They had purchased it new in 1974 and had it modified before giving it to their son, this may go down as one of the coolest graduation gifts of all time. The mural, by Bruce White, is quite well preserved for it’s age and we can all be happy that this van is in good hands with Nate.

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If you’ve noticed there was an abundance of Mopar vans being featured, that was true, there were a lot of Dodge B series vans. While it was the last brand to the van party, they were ready to embrace the trend offering a plethora of engines ranging from 225 slant-6 to the 440 Magnum V8 and options of manual or automatic transmissions.  After muscle cars were strangled with emissions devices, the rules weren’t as strict for trucks and vans so Dodge started to put their performance engines into those platforms. They had a line called the “Adult Toys” line most famously making the Lil Red Express and Midnight Express trucks, but they also featured a trim level of the B series called the Street Van. In the mid-1970’s this van had it all with options for custom interior patterns, chrome wheels, porthole windows and an official owner’s club called the “Dodge Van Clan.”

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It wasn’t just Dodge that offered factory custom vans. This more modestly built Chevrolet G20 was a very well preserved example of an upscale trim of the first face lift the third generation G series van. The third generation G series van, much like the Dodge B series, embraced van culture and from 1973-1977 offered an extensive catalog of customization options with shag interior and even side pipes from the factory. GM had a deal where a company called Van-Tastic supplied custom accessories through their dealerships. Later on it’s lifespan the G series would become famous for becoming the A-Team van.

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Although there were factory supported custom vans, seeing just how wild people could get when they put their minds to it shows just what you can do with these American vans as a platform. This green Dodge van caught my eye from across the show with it’s gullwing door, custom interior and body kit. This van really had it all, the vertically mounted window between the gullwing door and front door is just an additional added touch that set this van apart too.

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Although the third generation Chevy G series vans were the most iconic GM vans, there was a single second generation G series van that was in show. While it was unique because of it’s model, it also had the best name of any van in the show.

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It’s name was the Road Toad. Maybe I’m the only one that finds that name immensely entertaining. What I think we can all appreciate though is that excellent work they did with the stained glass rear windows. I really wish we still gave our cars such excellent names publicly.

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The G series wasn’t GM’s first foray into the van segment however. That honor would have to go to the Corvair based Greenbriar van. This was the most unique domestic van in show with more in common with the Volkswagen Type 2s than anything else due to it’s aircooled flat 6 engine. The modifications to this van were minor but with the tinted high beams, mag 5-spoke wheels and custom antenna, it looked like it had driven out from the background of a Steve McQueen movie.

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Today, if you’re trying to find a classic American van, the Econoline is likely your best bet to find. These stayed in production until 2014 with a direct timeline that didn’t end until the English Transit van took over it’s position. It wasn’t a fall from grace like the other brands either because the Transit is one kick ass vehicle. The classic Econoline however, has a place in the hearts of FoMoCo loving van aficionados everywhere though. The third generation Econoline was unique in that it was the only full size van until the 90s to use a body on frame construction, in lieu of a monocoque design. While the lack of a monocoque made it’s cargo floor taller in comparison to the other domestic vans, it likely added to the longevity of the van because it was more modular for fleet use. That being said, a slightly higher floor has in no way stopped vanners from doing what they do.

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The fourth generation Econoline remained largely unchanged from 1991 until 2014. Existing completely beyond the vanning craze, these have largely been ignored but they can be just as solid of a platform as any other van. This late model Econoline was one of a handful at Chariots of the Gods and was definitely the most eye catching. That mural was hand painted as well, it’s amazing how much these can transform.

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Although hand painted murals were king at the show, there was a place for vinyl wraps as well. This Dodge Tradesman had one of the best vinyl wraps I’ve ever seen at any show, not just van shows either. Although too wild for some, I think this van was a good example of blending classic and modern.

Outside of classic American vans and offerings from Volkswagen, there was a sole Japanese offering, in form of a Mitsubishi Delica. If there was ever to be a single van to represent Japanese vans, the Delica would certainly be on the shortlist. Mitsubishi has historically had a penchant for offroading so of course the Delica would come with 4WD, lifted suspension and knobbly tires from the factory. Mitsubishi’s other penchant in the 80’s/90’s was for technology, so feeding into that, the Delica is loaded to the gills with the tech of the era including an ice box for keeping drinks chilled, front and rear climate control and plenty of other gadgets for trekking through the wilderness. Of course I would be remiss to not mention the four sunroofs you get as well.

Stretch Tandem van Side

From mild to wild, domestic or import, new or old, Chariots of the Gods celebrated everything that makes vanning great. The popularity of custom vans is growing despite the hiatus they took in the American car culture’s eye. Chariots of the Gods also keeps an open mind to other styles of van culture as well, so if it’s a Mystery Machine Econoline or a Van Kulture VIP-style Sienna, all are welcome at this show. So far every year that we’ve been to Chariots of the Gods it has been growing and we look forward to being there next year.

FORMULA E: IS THIS THE MOST EXCITING MOTORSPORT?

FORMULA E PRIX PADDOCK
Photo Credit: Formula E, FIA

Formula One isn’t what it once was, it’s entering the realm of boring, or has entered, depending on your point of view. It wasn’t always this way, F1 used to be serious wheeling at insane speeds, massive crashes, a technological arms race and rivalries between drivers. Now days it’s more a matter of how exactly will Louis Hamilton win this race after qualifying for pole position. You can watch the first corner then go about your business for the day now that you’ve seen the whole race. This isn’t much of an exaggeration either, do you know how many passes there were in all of Formula 1 last year? 435. Between 20 races and 20 cars on the grid, that means that only about half of the cars do anything during each race.

If you were hoping to find entertainment elsewhere in F1 you will be sadly dispirited since crashes rarely happen, any actual drama that occurs is in the backroom politics, and the technology is stagnating. F1 truly has become Bernie Ecclestone’s jejune dream come true.

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Photo Credit: Formula E, FIA

What if I told you that there is a race series out there that is as exciting as the 1500 HP turbocharged glory days of Formula 1? A series where the names Prost and Piquet still ring true, and what if I added that you don’t require an 88 MPH DeLorean to see it? Madness, I know, but it really does exist.

Formula E offers everything we would all want from Formula 1 that the powdered wigs of Formula One Group refuse to let us have. I know that everyone has universally been singing the praises of Formula E but, I personally don’t pay much mind to that. You can’t really tell how much is genuine and how much is noise from the hype train. I do have to say that this is real hype though.

I popped on Race 1 of the 2018 Hong Kong E Prix a while back on a whim only to be pleasantly surprised. It is a bit cheeky to call their grand prix the E Prix but don’t let that dissuade you from actually watching it because this is some of the best actual racing I’ve seen in quite some time.

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Photo Credit: Formula E, FIA

Some of this might be a by-product of the track since the Hong Kong harborside street course is very narrow and technical, even F1 would have a hard time making boring. That being said, these cars were being flung around a track by mad men and women. That made for a good race with some really spectacular mid-corner passing and least a half dozen spin outs.

With Formula E you get a relatively short races of only 43 laps, a break, then some more racing, which means you can sit down, watch it then get on with your life. You also get a sense that these races matter, these cars are test beds for manufacturers to experiment with EV technology. Brands like Mahindra, Renault, Citroën’s DS brand and Jaguar all have a stake in this series, in addition to other racing only brands such as Penske and Venturi. As much of a touring car and drag racing fan as I am, you don’t get the technology trickling down to standard cars like you do with these top tier motorsport ventures.

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Photo Credit: Formula E, FIA

With the traditional big names in racing, namely NASCAR and Formula 1, becoming excruciatingly boring these days it’s refreshing to sit down and be legitimately vested in motorsport again. Yes, I know we have WRC Rallycross and Stadium Trucks which are just as exciting but there is something to proper asphalt racing without having off road sections or a bunch of jumps along the track. This is pure driving in anger and it feels good to have it back again. So the next time you have a chance to pop on a Formula E race, I highly recommend doing so because you will not regret it.

MOTORCULT EPISODE 41 IS LIVE

On this episode of the MotorCult podcast, Ryan is in Monterey with Jana and  special guest, Ben Hsu from Japanese Nostalgic Car!

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This week on MotorCult, Ryan is in Monterey with Jana and  special guest, Ben Hsu from Japanese Nostalgic Car! We discuss what is going in the Japanese Nostalgic Car world, what Japanese Nostalgic Car is, how we came to love Japanese cars and Ben gets tossed the standard gauntlet of questions including the Mondial Challenge.

IMSA 240SX

We recap what we saw over the weekend and our views on how the car week went, the overall state of Japanese collector cars in the public eye and how big of a deal it is that Datsun was the first Japanese featured marque at Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.

JAI 2000GT

Another event we cover is the Infiniti Japanese Automotive Invitational. While not in Concours D’Elegance proper, it is still within the walled city of Pebble Beach. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but when you consider that the entire city of Pebble Beach is closed to outsiders, the provenance of this event begins to sink in.

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This leads us to ponder what is going to happen to Japanese collector cars once the 1% begins to take more notice of them, for better or worse. We also have a primer on JCCS, Japanese Classic Car Show, in September and the changes that will be made.

Click the link below to check out Episode 41

MotorCult Episode 41

MOTORCULT EPISODE 40 IS LIVE

In this episode we mix it up because Ryan and Jana are in Monterey for Car Week so our producers stuck Berger in a room alone with Brian May of Trueform Technologies and Nick Johannes take’s Ryan’s place.

In this episode we mix it up because Ryan and Jana are in Monterey for Car Week so our producers stuck Berger in a room alone with Brian May of Trueform Technologies and Nick Johannes take’s Ryan’s place.

Brian on MotorCult

Berger gives Brian the standard interview questions and the episode becomes SpaceCult since Nick and Brian are nerds, it is probably for the best that Ryan wasn’t there because it would have just become Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk radio show. Should we mention that Brian forms sentences consisting of. One. Word. At. A. Time? That might be an effect of the endless Redbulls he drinks, regardless Brian is one of the most interesting guests we’ve ever had on. Brian talks about his builds he has going on, what Trueform Technologies does and direct injection on a standalone ECU.

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Our Patreon topic is about the best cars for a new driver, what you would look for if it’s your kid and why. Airbags get a pass as does the manual transmission and it should be easy to maintain. Just don’t have a car made of driving aides so they actually learn to drive, in fact a really good idea is to take them out to some autocross days or advanced drivers training classes.

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In news a crashed Porsche 959 sold for a massive $425,000 at Mecum in Monterey and Maserati makes a performance version of their Levante and they named it after the coolest Oldsmobile of all time, the Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo. Since we don’t like CUVs here at Motorcult, we have used a picture of the Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo instead.

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We round out the episode with Brian and Nick discussing ECU technology and ending up babbling on about the space shuttle.

To listen to episode 40 of the MotorCult Podcast click the link below.

MotorCult Episode 40

MOTORCULT EPISODE 39 IS LIVE

On this episode of MotorCult Berger gets hassled by the police, Volkswagen discovers colors, the World Cup of Cars continues and we talk about the wheels on the Miami Vice Testarossa…

On this episode of the MotorCult podcast we start off with Berger’s story of getting hassled by a police officer, who turns out to be a very nice person. Ryan, Jana and Berger discuss if he was actually that nice though.

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Berger gives us a preview of Monterey Car Week when he went a week early. Despite being unintentional, he says the days before Car Week are a must see. Berger for possibly the first time, mentions a pre-war car not prompted by Ryan when he describes a Locomobile he saw at Laguna Seca. We prime the audience about what Ryan and Jana will be up to while they’re out there.
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In news Ryan covers an incredible barn find story, Brabus makes a 125 HP Smart FourTwo and Bugatti unveils their DiVo.Volkswagen makes cars with colors after the astonishing discovery that people like choices. They expand the color catalog of the Golf R from 3 to 43!

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Our Interesting Engineering topic is metric tire sizes, why they existed in the first place and why they went away.

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We come to the World Cup of Cars semi-finals with France battling it out against Iran and Japan taking on Sweden for a chance to compete in the final match of the World Cup of Cars.

To listen to the latest episode of MotorCult click the link below!

MotorCult Episode 39