Truck driving and motor sports were very different in the 70s. There was a real sense of freedom and individualism in truck design and custom van design. They tended to attract the same type of people – people who loved freedom, artistic expression and the open road.
Custom vans of the 70s certainly offered plenty of opportunity for expression (some say a bit too much). There were custom van designers who probably had nicer rolling interiors than they had at home. Many customizers spent up to $200,000 dollars (70s dollars, mind you) on their visions. Whether it was all worth it is in the eye of the beholder, of course. Some conversions were industrial design wonders, some were straight up disasters.
Sometime around 1974, van customizing went from being a cultural cottage industry to a full on frenzied movement. There were custom shops on every corner back then that would customize your ride with a kick-ass sound system, lighting, shag carpeting, Captains chairs, beds, bubble windows, louvres, spoilers, mag wheels, custom horns, CB radios“ and don’t forget to top it all off with a one-off airbrushed paint job depicting your choice of Wizard, Warlock, Wave or Western scenic.
Let’s face it – there were maybe two reasons that custom vans existed: sex and drugs (maybe rock n’ roll). Major automobile manufacturers like Dodge were more than happy to play along. They promoted the sex and drugs theme in their van advertisements with little room for misinterpretation. However you look at it – it was mostly for fun, and it truly left behind some wonderful memories for fans of American culture.