I’ve always liked the idea of having a utility van as a means of transport. They’re big, they hold a ton of cargo, they’re enclosed and secure, and they exist everywhere. They have been in continuous production for decades, and they are still available new from the factory, the design essentially untouched. They remind me of old episodes of S.W.A.T. where the the big black van screeches to a halt and the team jumps out to somersault through windows or rappel down the face of a building as the music swells to a crescendo. And, there’s something about having the entire door open while cruising down the freeway that reminds me of doorless Jeeps. I’ve had several conversations debating the merits of owning and driving a retired UPS van (apparently, this is all but impossible; Grumman Olsen custom-made these vans for the company and all retired vans are disassembled for spare parts) or a GMC StepVan as a work/hauling truck instead of a pickup.

I’d paint mine something harmless-looking, black out the wheels, and make sure the back section was enclosed. Inside, I could have a full workbench, or a mobile welding unit, or a set of bunk beds for travel. Of course, hauling around a wood shop, camping rig, or zombie survival outfit would be expensive on gas; a 6.9 liter diesel at 10mpg makes for an ugly Visa bill.

Which is one possible reason why Mr. Scout and I found a blue stepvan in a junkyard in West Virginia on Saturday.

Accept Food Tamps

This one was painted a light blue latex with a house roller, and accented with small pink handprints along the front of the fender. The windows were dirty and covered in old sticker residue, and the wheels were all mismatched retreads. All in all, it was a pretty sketchy vehicle, which made the silver reflective lettering on the outside that much more ironic:





Inside, it was a hundred times more molester than the outside. A mishmash of wooden and wire shelving still held buckets and empty cardboard cartons. One filthy cooler chest sat in the corner, which I avoided opening. a handmade plexiglas window stretched across the back of the van, with a crude square cut out for passing the “merchandise” through. Yes, that’s right, in order to buy stuff, small children walked up to the open back doors of the Big Spooky Van, cash in hand, to buy italian ices, bomb pops, cigarettes, pot, or whatever else this kook was selling. And, thankfully, the proprietor accepted both food stamps and Independence cards.

Looking at the dashboard, I was filled with excitement when I spied an electronic gadget stuck to the panel:

music machine

That’s right, it’s an ice cream sound machine! I don’t know if it will play the sounds and songs I remember from living in Canton (the “Hello!” song comes immediately to mind), but I decided it was coming with us in any case. A quick snip of dry-rotted wiring with the Leatherman and it was ours. But, looking back on the day, I can’t believe I was dumb enough to have left without taking the One True Prize:

Grumman Olsen

The stylized cap on that steering wheel is the fucking bomb. I’m considering making a T-shirt design out of that logo it’s so damned cool. Why I didn’t take two minutes to pry it out of the cracked plastic I’ll never know, but it sure does make for a great picture.

Date posted: August 5, 2008 | Filed under humor | 3 Comments »

3 Responses to Spooky Van.

  1. Mr. Scout says:

    Perhaps the junkyard fairy will pay you a visit the next time he zips through WV! Only if you are good, and you beleive in him very, very much.

  2. the idiot says:

    I believe! I believe!

  3. the idiot says:

    I almost forgot the best part of the story, too–the part where the mustachioed, mulleted cashier of the junkyard held the music machine in his hands, gave it a puzzled look, and said, “What the FUCK is that?”