Phil Martin purchased his 1978 Dodge Van in 1980. Being that his father was a charter boat Captain, and that Martin grew up by the sea, it was only fitting that the van’s theme resembled his connection to the ocean. He named his van “Nautique” and went all-out with the nautical theme. Martin said that getting the van just right has “been a labor of love.” The interior of the van was made to resemble an old clipper ship. The wood used is stained but has been left rough for effect. There are also a few less noticeable modern features. The dashboard is even covered in actual sand from a beach in Lewes, Delaware – where Phil and his wife vacation and where his parent’s had their charter boat. Originally, when Phil’s wife, Wendy, brought up the idea for using actual sand to coat the dashboard, dog box, and trim in the cockpit, Phil was skeptical. It took a month of work to get the final result but it was well worth it and only enhanced the theme. “Nautique” has won “Best Theme” at Van Nationals six times.
Phil’s love for vans has always inspired him to stay active in the vanning community. So, when he decided to sign up for Cool Rides Online, he saw it as an opportunity to be notable presence the greatly underrepresented van community. Martin figured that, because he already went to a lot of shows, he had a lot of knowledge to share. He understands the van community to be like a family and laden with respect for one another. He still hopes to be a voice that dissuades the public from stereotyping van owners as sex, drug, and rock ‘n roll junkies. He wants to bring glory back to the vanning community that was once so prolific but then seemed to fade away in the 70s and 80s. “We don’t want the van community to die out,” Martin said. “A lot of us van owners and enthusiasts grew older, but we didn’t grow up.”
“Nautique” is a testament to Martin’s passion. His efforts have not only brought him awards in competition but an unexpected call from Burger King as well. In November 2014, he received a phone call asking if he would be interested in having “Nautique” featured in a Burger King photo shoot. “To say I was shocked would be an understatement,” Martin said. “I had signed up for a movie-car website ten to twelve years ago and they called out of the blue”. Burger King had been looking for a van from the 70s or 80s to be featured in a photo shoot for the re-release of their “Yumbo” Sandwich (popular during that time period). Martin excitedly agreed and it was a whirlwind from there. He drove “Nautique” the three hour drive from his home in Pennsylvania all the way to Brooklyn, New York for the photo shoot. After over 500 pictures of “Nautique” and the actors, the shoot was done and scheduled for a week-long campaign on Burger King’s Facebook page that kept up with the 1974-era vibe. Martin had a great experience that he hopes to repeat in the future.
Martin’s contributions and involvement have also allowed him to become a Cool Rides Online Champion. The Champ Program allows a handful of selected Cool Rides Online forum members to become leaders for their online community. Champs participate in continuing education and outreach for the Cool Rides Online community by bringing their knowledge of cars and fuel products to the public. They do this by attending car shows as Cool Rides Online ambassadors, hosting events, and spreading the word about the online car community, which often lacks in-person representation.
“I was honored,” Martin said about his Cool Rides Online Champion application being accepted. “It is the greatest thing that Cool Rides Online is actually recognizing me”. Martin enjoys the aspects that come along with being a Champ. He likes being able to visit car shows, taking the time to walk around and talk to people, as well as having the power that being a Champ affords him. In the Champ Program, a Champion can select a car at a show that they think is worthy of the “Sponsor Award”. He liked being able to pick a hidden gem that wasn’t in the show but who he thought was deserving of the award. Even more so, Martin simply likes being able to experience the different levels of community. “I like representing the community, whether people have cars, trucks, Corvettes, or Mustangs, it’s a whole different car culture,” Martin said. He hopes that as the Cool Rides Online Champion program evolves, it will keep the same level of communication while raising involvement and awareness.
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