It seems a topic that just won't go away in the forums and in letters to the editor is why vans aren't featured more prominently, and more frequently. That's a darn good question. I take some level of responsibility for bringing the wayward van enthusiasts back home after the greater part of two decades of being essentially forgotten.
Those of you younger readers may not know that Truckin' actually originally started back in the late 1970s primarily as a custom van magazine. As time progressed, the focus shifted more toward custom pickups and SUVs, but once in a blue moon, you'd see a van featured.
Knowing this history, as the web guy, I made some overtures toward the van enthusiast community by contacting some webmasters and administrators at some other van sites, and inviting them to come join our forums. I also showed up to some custom shows and did some video features on some restored and customized vans. I know these efforts were greatly appreciated by those in the van community.
Thankfully, it seems the print editorial staff likewise is starting to pay more attention to custom vans. And yet, the effort still seems somewhat symbolic and ever-so-slightly cynical. There have been one or two nicely-done late-model vans featured. However, it seems most of the features up to this point have been revived 70s customs that play to all the stereotypes of being over-the-top, with tufted velour interiors, mood lighting, and liberal use of the Tiki god motif.
Now, I don't mean any disrespect by bringing this up, as I'm sure the owners and builders of these vans put a lot of thought and effort into their projects, and they get my wholehearted respect for it. But my main point is...why don't you see more late-model vans fixed up? I have yet to see one Dodge Sprinter that I'd genuinely call "custom." I've seen a few Chevy Express vans laying frame on 24s, but haven't seen a newer Ford Econoline or Club Wagon fixed up. I'm not saying they're not out there, but I just haven't seen one up close. And although it's received a mixed reception among the van traditionalists, I'd love to see a customized Ford Transit Connect.
Frankly, I'm somewhat perplexed at the custom community's seeming neglect of vans. They seem like the perfect canvas for customization. Lots of sheetmetal for some truly eye-catching custom paintjobs, and cavernous interiors for creating "wall of sound" audio systems powerful enough to cause an earthquake in China.
What I'd like to see is some late-model vans fixed up with contemporary style. I know shops are capable of some radical creations, and it seems like vans would be an awesome showcase to show what they're truly capable of.
And although I know it's unlikely to happen as long as our fearless leader Dan Ward is at the helm, but I'm even holding out the faintest glimmer of hope that a shop will build a custom van awesome and significant enough to make it onto the cover of Truckin'. But I know to make the cut, it would have to truly be unique, and not just another 70s throwback, or a shop's plain-Jane parts runner dropped on 24s. So my call goes out to both van enthusiasts, as well as contemporary, cutting-edge custom shops. I want to see a van built that will blow everyone's expectations and van stereotypes out-of-the-water with impeccable attention-to-detail and awe-inspiring artistic creativity.