The 1970s van was not your mother’s soccer van of the 21st century.
Most vans of the 70s decade were not meant to cart the kids around from place to place.
Rather, many vans of the era were seen as party vehicles that could accommodate large groups of friends who were – often – up to no good.
Others were converted to motor homes and were used by families on summer vacations.
Customized 1970s Vans
Customized vans were the chosen vehicle of those in their early 20s who hadn’t yet settled down and were hoping to enjoy life on the road (or just around town) with their tricked out vehicle that made them the epitome of cool. They were often the symbol of the “bad boy” though that certainly wasn’t always the case.
A customized van started out as just a regular van, often a Dodge vehicle like the A100 or a similar Ford van. This was a basic vehicle that began as a blank canvas and could be designed especially for the new owner.
Custom shops were everywhere and it wasn’t hard to find someone who would work on your van and make it the coolest thing on the road.
Customizing occurred both inside and out. On the outside, you could have your van painted in your favorite color or colors. But the piece de resistance was the airbrushing you’d chose to complete the look.
1970s Van owners put just about anything on the exterior of their vehicle from simple stripes to very elaborate beach or western scenes, pictures of wild animals, psychedelic patterns, patriotic images, and more.
Inside the van, most people weren’t content with the standard bench seats and radio. Instead, many van owners put huge so-called “captain’s chairs” inside their vans. These were large single seats that usually swiveled and were generally overstuffed and designed to be extra comfy.
Many vans had as many as four captain’s chairs inside. Some owners also put beds in the back and louvers on the windows for lots of privacy. Shag carpeting was also placed on the floor.
The other important item in a customized van was the stereo system. Young owners looked for the biggest and loudest sound system possible and often added popular features of the era including 8-track tape players, cassette decks, and/or CB radios.
1970s Camper Vans
Volkswagen was building camper vans as far back as the 50s, but in the 1970s, many individuals or families bought regular work vans like the ones mentioned above and converted them to motor homes for travel.
Converting a van usually involved adding a top section that would pop up for more head room, usually made of canvas. Also the back of the standard van may have been removed and replaced with a part that stuck out a bit further, adding a few additional feet of space.
Camper vans might have also included a fridge, sink, and toilet, depending on the cost of the conversion.