Spotted in New Orleans – a contractor’s van with a cat personality:
Cars were the symbols of the 70s – the Mustang, the Corvette, the Firebird. But those were muscle cars – and then there was the van. It wasn’t for speed demons or for showing off its colours by slow driving down the main streets – the van was a symbol of freedom. It was a home on wheels, the way the band got to gigs, the secret spot for a party in the parking lot. You had the ability to go anywhere and do anything.
If you were a cool guy, you would have a dark blue, red or brown van – with a tear drop or oval window on the side. For those who wanted flair, they went the extra mile for airbrushed art. Scowling from the side or back of the van was always a scantily clad woman in an exotic bikini outfit, holding a weapon, crawling towards something (or someone) or standing tall. I never understood the images of the women, so unlike any women I ever saw. I assumed then it was a like a comic book – made up. I was right, but not quite yet understanding the power of fantasy, and the stereotype that men wanted of their ideal woman, displayed on the side of the van.
Long before Pimp My Ride became a pop culture phrase & tv show, van lovers prided themselves on tricking out the interior of their Econoline with shag carpet and padded sides. Items were hung from the rear view mirror – fuzzy dice, army tags and the ever popular feathered clips. Bumper stickers were de rigeur additional jewellery for vans – declarations of where the driver had been travelling: camping spots, rock concerts or just flippant comments on society, politics and life. From radio station preferences like “The Fox Rox!” to “I Heart Fishing” to “If this van is a rockin’, don’t be a knockin” was a popular bumper accessory, adding to the van’s caricature as a salicious den of iniquity.
Even animation embraced the van – Scooby Doo’s Mystery Machine transported Scooby, Shaggy, Thelma, Fred and Daphne from town to town, crime scene to haunted house, in the multi-hued van. Now vans are practical transportation – the infamous mini-van or delivery vehicles. Standard white issued vans, used by delivery men, as the lone monitoring station for spies, police and bad guys or the satellite hook-up for tv crews, instead of the potential road trip, party spot and music listening space all in one.
I never wanted a van, but I understood its allure.