Viewing 10 posts - 1 through 10 (of 10 total)
  • Author
  • #212009
    V8 Staff

    Oeste Van Cliff Guinand 1

    Art by Cliff Guinand – https://www.burnouts.net/

    It’s no secret I’m a Muscle Car fan, as well as a Kustom fan, a Hot Rod fan, a Classic Car fan… heck, I like just about all of them.   In fact, there are a few surprises in my closet full of automotive skeletons, including some non-American cars that I really dug owning.   But there is one ride from my youth that left a long mark on me from the 5 years we owned it, and although this story started in 1985, the nostalgia embers are once again fanning into an extended-length flame.

    Our family enjoyed camping, and we owned a pop-top camper in the 1970s that we took on many trips when I was a little kid.    My Father was a police officer, and he could take days off during the week, so we’d take advantage of regional campgrounds close enough to reach in a few hours, and were also usually empty on weekdays.    The longest was a trip to Estes Park, Colorado, when I was not even 2 years old.   In those days, my Dad drove the retired 1970 Chevrolet Biscayne police car he bought from the department where he worked.   The 400 small-block Chevy pulled our 1970 Trade Winds Bahama camper with ease, and the car was big enough for a family of 4 with 2 small kids.   My Dad really liked that car, complete with “a cop motor, cop tires, cop shocks…” You get the idea.

    A coupla quick camping throwbacks.. the first pic is our 1970 Trade Winds Bahama pop-up camper all set up in my Great Aunt and Uncle’s cottage in Silver Lake, WI, 1975. They had a weekend and we camped by the garden. NOTE… the Coleman lantern box on the ground… I still have that lantern, but the box is long gone. It was a fun weekend with family, I have a couple memories of the trip, even though I was only 3.

    Kevin Oeste

    V8 Staff



    Here’s some vintage footage of the Chevy, the camper, Big Al, and in the background you can spy the blue Coleman cooler we used to have.  My Mom shot some Super 8 film on occasion, this was one:

    I dig the camping attire… Hanes tee-shirt, brown slacks.   You know, real outdoor gear!


    This pic is camping in Moraine Park Campground in Colorado, 1973. Same camper, and the 1970 Chevy Police car my Dad bought that we used as a tow rig. I don’t know what I was so unhappy about, we were camping in Colorado!

    I don’t remember this trip but have heard many stories over the years of the heavy storm and snow.   That’s Big Al and my sister Karen under the awning.  Dig the cool folding lawn chairs, too.

    Some people collect license plates for various reasons. I’m lucky to have some plates that are part of my family history.  The car is long gone, and my Dad has passed on, but I still have the plates. It’s kinda neat that this piece of stamped tin was there that day with us!  I have only one guess as to why my pants were hanging on the car mirror drying out…

    One day, A Hendrickson Tree Experts truck backed into the Chevy, triggering my Dad  to replace it with a 1967 Ford Galaxie 500.   It was white with a black vinyl top and interior, and I’m guessing it had a 390 V8 engine, but I don’t really know.    We used that one to haul the camper for a time.

    Entering Silver Springs campground in Wisconsin

    Silver Springs Campground Today

    Eventually, the camper started to wear out and my sister and I were growing up, so my Dad sold the camper to our neighbor.    Our family vacations evolved into road trips and hotels, but I know my Dad always liked to camp.


    Kevin Oeste

    V8 Staff

    Looking back, I think it was in 1983 or so on another family vacation road trip, from the Chicago area to California and back, that my Dad got the idea that a van would be a better vehicle than a car.. or at least better than the compact 1981 AMC Concord wagon we were driving at the time.   No piece of tape was strong enough to create a “my side” wall in the back seat of that little wagon to separate my sister and I.    I’m sure we drove my parents crazy on that trip.

    Sidebar – this was the first time I ever went to the Bonneville salt flats, and although I wasn’t really up to speed on the history or current goings-on of land speed racing, I knew what the Blue Flame was and thought that stuff was super cool.

    Decades later, I re-created the photo of my Dad from that same day… this time when I was the same age as him.

    Another sidebar… this was the same trip where I discovered CARtoons Magazine at a grocery store in New Castle, Colorado.   And thank heavens, too… because pouring over CARtoons helped me keep my sanity for the long drive home in the little AMC!

    I got a subscription to Hot Rod Magazine as a kid, and I’d always hang out at the mag rack while my parents went shopping, reading the magazines I didn’t have the coin to buy, like Motor Trend, Road & Track, and Rod & Custom when I could find it. This time, however, I spied a new kind of car magazine… a cartoon book! Can it be? I grabbed the July / August issue of CARtoons and the world became a better place. I read, re-read, re-re-re-read, and eventually memorized that whole issue to the point of nearly destroying it. (I still have it, or what’s left of it, BTW. This one is not mine… the cover is long gone.)

    I was super stoked to eventually find CARtoons at my local grocery store in Park Ridge, IL, and I absorbed every issue until the late 1980s.   Fast forward to 2001 or so when I am producing Hot Rod Magazine TV in LA and I’m able to put together an episode on.. you guessed it… CARtoons Magazine history!   I had the amazing opportunity to interview some of my childhood cartooning heroes… George Trosley, Pete Millar, Steve Austin… all my favorite artists who drew the magazine to which I was glued as a kid.  It was awesome.   David Freiburger is in that episode as well.    Cool stuff!

    OK.. where were we?    Oh yeah, my Dad was thinking about a van.   He was looking for something that would be a great family hauler that he could drive daily, not an RV or a camper.   The “Conversion Van” market was just gaining momentum, with new car dealers now selling family-friendly, crisp, clean custom vans with plush interiors and smart striping outside.   They were nice, but they carried hefty price tags.    My Dad would have to get a used van to fit the family budget.

    Kevin Oeste

    V8 Staff

    Meanwhile, I was about 8 years old when he first mentioned he wanted a van.   Now I couldn’t get him one, naturally, but I did convince my mom to get me a model kit that I would build and present to him for his birthday.  Heck, a little model van is better than no van, right?

    The chosen kit was made by MPC and it was a custom 1978 Ford Econoline called the “Sunrunner”.   It featured custom graphics, wheels, roof rack, interior… all the things my Dad was interested in.

    Here’s the problem.. it was a higher-skill level glue-together model kit, and I’d never built one.    I had some experience with snap-together kits that didn’t require paint or glue, but this was a whole new ballgame.    It was all molded in yellow, and it was waaay beyond my feeble abilities to correctly assemble.   Looking closely at the box the instructions say “ages 10 to adult”.   I was neither.




    I tried, however,  and succeeded in creating a giant fingerprint-riddled glue bomb that was all kinds of messed up.   It didn’t fit right, didn’t sit right, with no paint, so it was all yellow… no details, no decals… not even close to the box art!

    I gave it to him anyway, and I think I recall it sitting on his dresser for a bit before disappearing.   I imagine it was tossed in the “gar-baaadge”, his fancy way of saying things were shit canned.

    The Sunrunner faded off into the sunset… for at least 4 decades or so.    More on that later.

    Kevin Oeste

    V8 Staff

    But that didn’t deter him from seeking out a full-size van of his own.  He set out to find a custom van that was a few years old, but not a ‘70s home-built hippy hauler.  He was a respectable member of the law enforcement community, after all.    He couldn’t be seen in something that had a… “loose lifestyle” connotation.   It took a couple years, but the solution rolled into our lives in the spring of 1985.   A 1979 Dodge Maxivan, fully customized by an RV company called Concept Engineering in Goshen, Indiana.

    A friend’s T-Bucket takes center stage in this pic, but you can see the Van across the street… this is how it looked when we got it.

    If I recall, it had about 35,000 miles on it, and the seller wanted $8,000.00 or so for it.   A new custom conversion van was like $18 – 20 large, so this one was a lot of machine for far less of a hit.    And this one was a LOT of van!   I seem to recall him bringing it home on a test drive, then having to wait a few days until it arrived “for real”.  I remember enthusiastically telling friends about it before it arrived, which seemed to take forever!

    The Dodge B200 van was a full-size van that was produced by the Chrysler Corporation from 1971 to 2003. It was available in a variety of configurations, including cargo van, passenger van, and cutaway van. The B200 was powered by a variety of engines, including a 3.7L V6, a 5.2L V8, and a 5.9L V8. The Dodge Maxivan was an extended-length version of their popular B100 and B200 vans.  There were three different sizes available, a 109.6” wheelbase “shorty” van that measured 179.1” long.   Then there was a mid-length version that had a longer wheelbase of 127.6” and a 197.1” overall length.  However, the Maxivan measured out at 223.1” long… over 18.5 feet!

    The B200 was based on the Dodge D Series chassis, which was also used for trucks and SUVs. The B200 was a popular van for businesses and families alike. It was known for its reliability and durability. The B200 was discontinued in 2003, but it remains a popular choice for van enthusiasts.

    Here is a more detailed history of the Dodge B200 van:

    • 1971: The Dodge B200 van is introduced as a 1972 model. It is available in cargo van, passenger van, and cutaway van configurations.
    • 1974: The B200 is redesigned with a new front end and a new interior.
    • 1978: The B200 is available with a new 3.7L V6 engine.
    • 1981: The B200 is available with a new 5.2L V8 engine.
    • 1984: The B200 is available with a new 5.9L V8 engine.
    • 1989: The B200 is redesigned with a new front end and a new interior.
    • 1993: The B200 is available with a new 3.3L V6 engine.
    • 1997: The B200 is available with a new 3.7L V6 engine.
    • 2003: The Dodge B200 van is discontinued.

    Our new ride was powered by a 360 cube “LA” series V8 breathing through a 2-barrel carburetor.  A Torqueflight 727 3-speed auto transmission backed the engine, spinning the 68” long driveshaft back to a 9.25” rear axle loaded with 3.20:1 gears.

    The Maxivan was a windowless work / cargo van, while the Maxiwagon was the passenger-carrying counterpart with windows and rows of seats.   Maxiwagons were advertised as being capable of transporting 12 passengers and all their luggage.

    However, legit custom vans all started as windowless blank canvases, allowing customizers to configure the side doors (1 double-wide sliding door vs. dual hinged doors), and install windows wherever they’d like… or not.

    The 70s were known for “bubble” side windows, lexan pieces made in various shapes like circles, hearts, and other shapes.   Oversized flat glass bay windows were also popular.   By the mid ‘80s, some vans had a giant whole-side translucent panel appearing to be one giant window, cleverly supported by hidden bars inside.

    Ours started life as a Metallic Sable Brown windowless Maxivan, but the Concept Engineering folks didn’t leave it like that for long.

    The eye catcher was the total custom paint scheme, originating from a midpoint on the van’s flanks with tri-color fade “rays” emanating outward.  These were outlined in a nearly-white pinstripe, and they extended across the hood and rear doors.  Airbrushed murals depicting a mountain waterfall scene were painted on each side and faded into the color fades.  It was a larger than life, late 1970s earth-toned custom painted  feast for the eyes!

    Another shot from across the street… this is my Grandma and her husband Gunther posing by the Tee.  The van colors really popped that day.


    (Me in 1989.    This was 5 years into our ownership, and it lived on the Chicago suburban streets, and was getting a bit rusty by this point, but it was clean when we got it.)

    The driver side was fitted with two Guardian tinted glass bay windows, with another on the passenger side behind the double side doors.  The rear doors featured windows containing sliding vent windows in the lower ⅓, and there were two pop-up vents in the roof over the rear couch.  A fiberglass visor was mounted over the windshield, with a corresponding body-colored fiberglass air dam and fender flares all around.

    Kevin Oeste

    V8 Staff

    Extruded aluminum running boards ran between the front and rear 15” American Racing JET aluminum 40-spoke turbine wheels shod with General Steel Radial outlined white letter tires.   Oversized side mirrors were mounted to the doors, while a roof rack surrounded the Wintenna boomerang-shaped TV antenna.   A ladder was mounted to the rear passenger door in case you wanted to put luggage on the roof, or just needed to mess with the antenna.  The spare tire was mounted on the driver rear door housed in a steel shell.    The obligatory CB antenna mast pointed skyward above the cockpit.

    Inside, the van presented an alternate reality of comfort and style!   The three captains chairs and the couch were upholstered in a mesmerizing pattern of brown and nearly-white geometric craziness.  Carpet was sculpted shag, with double-thick padding underneath.   A rear-mounted A/C unit pushed cool air up through overhead fiberglass ductwork that ran back-to-front, with ball vents and aircraft inspired reading lights along the way.   A run of carpet was affixed to the overhead duct, with a disco-fabulous orange accent light mounted midship.   The rest of the ceiling was upholstered in padded, buttoned brown naugahyde.  Windows were dressed with brown velour curtains, and the walls were finished in a tan / brown / almond pattern contact paper of sorts.

    A wooden overhead console hung above the windshield, with the Tram D62 40 channel CB over the driver, its speaker above the rearview mirror, and a lighted 3 switch panel over the passenger seat.

    Entertainment came from a “Fuzz Fighting” Craig R3 “Road Rated Receiver” and cassette deck.  Four 6” speakers with “Whizzer cones” provided the noise, one in each front door, and a pair mounted all the way in the back of the van in the walls by the couch.  Whizzer cones are small, supplemental speaker cones affixed to the front of a speaker, and they are supposed to help with off-axis sound dispersion.   This was actually good in the van, as the door speakers were mounted pretty low.

    This Canadian band in the commercial was really not that far off of what I was listening to on ours!

    Another wooden cabinet was installed behind the driver seat, with a high storage cabinet, a small sink and counter, and fridge-like cooler below.   Behind the cooler was a water supply tank for the pump faucet.   Hidden below it all was a Palomar TX-75 linear CB signal amplifier.


    This was an illegal signal booster kicking up the juice from 3 watts to 75.   CBs are only good for 6-7 miles if everything is tuned properly, less range than that in the city.    The linear probably added another 10-15 miles, so not a huge thing, but not cool with the FCC.  4 watts is the legal max for Citizens Band radios.    We never really used the CB or the amp, probably because my Dad spent all day squawking on a police radio and didn’t want to deal with any more of that nonsense when he was commanding his personal craft.

    Here’s a video of a guy firing up a Palomar and measuring the output… turns out these cranked out more than 75 watts!

    These vans have the engine mounted basically between the two front seats, concealed under a removable cover commonly known as the “doghouse”.   The doghouse in this one was adorned with the same padded brown buttoned naugahyde found on the door panels.   On top was a very 1970s looking wooden 2-hole cup holder, featuring orange lucite columns for support.  It was rad.    Just above was a green LED clock mounted in a hole cut in the dash.  The numbers looked just like a clock radio or alarm clock, but it was pretty high tech for 1979.

    There was nothing really special under the hood, just your basic 360 / 2 barrel, but it did have a pretty cool air horn system.   The horn button fired a compressor that blew three high-pitched trumpet horns that certainly got attention.    Not like the train horn craze of today, but more like the horns popular on sports cars of the time.

    For the rear passengers, there was a wooden bar on the passenger side, complete with a hanging wine glass rack, mirrored back, lower wooden cabinet, two orange “mood lights” overhead, and a 13” black and white TV!


    Kevin Oeste

    V8 Staff

    My Dad drove that van as his daily driver, and we did take a few family vacations with it over the years.   One time, we were headed down to spend Christmas in Ft. Meyers, Florida.    All the local cops were looking to retire in Florida on the Gulf side, and I have to think this was a bit of a scouting mission as well as a vacation.

    My Dad liked to drive non-stop, so we planned on leaving at night to time the drive down and minimize traffic getting out of the Chicago area.   Bummer was that my Dad had to work his shift all day, and he was directing traffic at an accident when he got hit by a passing car!  It wasn’t anything major, his arm got smacked by some dope’s side mirror, but it hurt him enough to get it looked at.

    Big Al, in “costume” (Uniform) about 1989 or so.   He was a Commander at this point.   This was probably the same face he wore after being smacked by the passing rear view mirror.

    The good thing was he didn’t feel it warranted canceling the trip, but it did delay our departure.   Looking back, I certainly didn’t appreciate the guy putting in a full day, getting injured, but still taking his family on a 1300 mile Christmas road trip without missing a beat.


    Kevin Oeste

    V8 Staff

    We loaded up the van, and I remember having the time to read my January 1988 Hot Rod Magazine cover-to-cover… again.   This was their 40th anniversary issue, after all, and it was a good one.   I still have it!

    A cross-country trip in a van like this is exactly how you would expect it.   Reclining captain’s chairs, plush accommodations, individual lighting… like a disco-fabulous personal jet on wheels.  We had plenty of space inside, snacks, drinks, music… half the vacation was the ride!

    At one point, my Mom abdicated her navigator’s chair in the shotgun position and wanted to go in back to take a nap.    It was late, and we had been driving all day.  I gladly assumed the Navigator role, in which my first order of business was to route us incorrectly off the interstate outside of Chattanooga, TN, and up to the top of Lookout Mountain!   It wasn’t so much that we were lost, it was performing a 3-point turn with a disco bus on a mountain 2-laner in the dark that my Dad didn’t dig.    Once my Mom woke up, things went further south… she wasn’t happy with our detour at all, and I can only imagine what was going through Big Al’s mind at that point.   He was tired, his arm hurt, he was lost, and getting yelled at.   Not to mention his son was an idiot with a map.   Sorry about that one!

    The night wore on, and the white stripes in the road did their hypnotizing magic.  The ride was quiet, save for the occasional sound of the driver quarter window opening, followed by the flick of Big Al’s lighter as he burned through his latest pack of Barclays.   Just outside of Atlanta, I nodded off for a little snooze.   So did Big Al.   Wait, wasn’t he driving?   YOU BETCHA!  I woke up and looked to the left to see him driving at 65 MPH through Atlanta with his head straight down damn near snoring!    I think my shout woke the whole rig, he “came to” without putting us into a ditch, a median, or another car, looked at me with a confused and relieved look on his face, and we rolled on.   No more sleeping!   Not much was ever spoken about this event.

    Kevin Oeste

    V8 Staff

    The van was functional as well.    Here, we’re moving my sister into her dorm at Illinois State University.   The van was big,  but completely jammed with her stuff.  I had to lay on the floor!

    When unloading, Big Al (of course) befriended a Normal, IL Police Officer named Tom something… who was bigger than him!

    Kevin Oeste

    V8 Staff

    And then there was the time when I rallied to have a float in the Maine South High School Homecoming Parade representing the station’s radio and TV station, WMTH.    I enjoyed being on the air on the 8.9 watt blowtorch burning up 90.5 FM!   The station didn’t have much range, but living near Chicago, we actually reached a good amount of people.    I was the DJ for the “no rock, no pop” hour weekday mid-days during what would be a study hall for me.   That means Country or elevator music.  But the real fun was after school on Thursdays, when I had a free-for-all show with my friend and classmate Charley.   He went on to be a bigshot at a radio network in Texas.  We’d play whatever we wanted, have friends on the air, take calls… it was the berries, man.   So much fun.

    Here’s a rare recording, the “Blues, Jazz, and Guitar Rock” show, co-hosted by my buddy Tom Gawne.  This is from 1989 or so.

    The WMTH studio was pretty basic, but had all the required FM radio goodies at the time.   The centerpiece was an outdated and donated Gatesway 80 mono radio console, complete with knobs rather than sliders.   Music was on broadcast cartridges (“carts”) just like real radio stations, and we had a cassette deck, cd player, and a Teac reel-to-real.   Here’s our hero at the helm of the Gatesway.    Note the Surfer’s Alliance tie-dye getup – we had big waves in Park Ridge.


    And just listen to dat kid’s Chi-town accent… it’s like Dennis friggin’ Farina protecting Old Style Beer from dem lousy New York and LA punks trying to steal our great beer!


    Gatesway 80 demo:


    Kevin Oeste

Viewing 10 posts - 1 through 10 (of 10 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.