In the early 1980s, a magazine was born. Called “Van Wheels”, it had a short life. After just ten issues it was renamed “Street Machine”. The van movement itself also had a relatively short life but has never completely disappeared.
In April of 2019, in the town of Charters Towers, Queensland, the 44th “Van Nationals” was held. The first event was held in 1975, the same year a film about a shark terrified audiences around the world. The next event, by the way, will be held at the home of “The Dish”, Parkes in NSW, over the Easter weekend in April 2020.
There were the “Big Three” makers with Holden, Ford, and Chrysler. Known as “sedan delivery” in the U.S., Australia’s first panel van may have been the Holden FJ. Ford’s first panel van dates back to the 1960s XM model.
Vans also came in the shape of Ford’s classic Transit, a more boxy shape than a utility based van. The van scene allowed owners to use the broad sheetmetal of the sides as a canvas for murals, and to customise the bodies with body modifications. Even the Commodore ute with the Holden designed add-on van section, featured.
Some of the vehicles featured would be well over fifty years of age, with Holden having the EJ available from 1962.
Ford had entries across many models including an EF/XG XR6 style. There was never a factory built XR6 van option however the dual headlight looks suits the Falcon van style admirably.
Vans that enter a competition can be judged on areas such as the quality of the mural work, or the best restored and unrestored. They can also be judged under their name, such as Holden’s “Sandman” or Ford’s “Sundowner”.
At this year’s event, a red Ford Escort van was adjudged as the Top Show Class Van. Clad in a deep red gloss, and with contrasting black stripes, plus a massive bonnet scoop, this little machine did its owners, Russell and Susie Slocombe, proud. It would also win Best Interior and top Engine Bay in the Show Class category. There’s history in this machine, with wins for the three years from 2010 to 2012.
Susan Kelly’s superb green painted Holden van, named “Medusa”, won the Top Mural award and it’s easy to see why. The bonnet, doors, and flanks are adorned with some intricate details thanks to Wayne Harrison at Advanced Airbrush in Penrith. Her van would also place 4th overall.
Simple, clean, elegant. Three appropriate words to describe the look and lines of Brad Thomson’s van, being declared the Best Street Van. With front and rear spoilers, teardrop windows in the rear upper sheetmetal, and stylish chromed wheels stamped this one as an eyes-on vehicle.
Like vinyl, vans may have fallen out of favour but they’ve never gone away either. The numbers that show for the Van Nationals is proof of that. www.vannationals.com.au is the home of information and booking details.