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42nd Van Nationals

IMG_7358_1Each year Van Enthusiasts from around the US and abroad gather at a location in the US to show off or just plain enjoy our lover for the Van. We are commonly referred to as Vanners. What is a Vanner? Well here is the definition in a nutshell: I don’t try to explain why I am a Vanner for those who understand no explanation is necessary.  For those who don’t no explanation is possible.

The event or commonly referred to as “eVANt” began officially on July 16th with the ribbon cutting ceremony at the gate opening. During the next 4 days there were games, bands, Van Cruise, Van Classifications, Van Show with Judging and Public Van Show. Wednesday was pretty much move in day and camp set up. We camp on site since the vans are able to be slept in, etc. Various clubs stake out their spots and set up their canopies, tents, displays, etc. Each year the Van Nats usually has a theme. This year was a Halloween based theme. Many sites were set up with spooky decorations, inflatable’s and even a graveyard.  The National Truck-In board gave a class on judging vans and certified judges. That evening there was a gathering of the attendees who chose to participate for a Vanner’s Night-In meal. The evening was capped off with entertainment by a great singer. Thursday there was van classification for the show and shine and then a Van Cruise through town ending at a local pub. In all about 100 vans participated in this cruise.  There was also a Haunted Pub Crawl on the grounds at the various participating campsites. We made our way to a few of the “Pubs” and graciously accepted their offerings, even stopping off in “Canada” for some Canadian hospitality.

On Friday the Show and Shine was held in the show field.  There were various categories from street and mild Custom to Full Custom to Radical. Approximately 125+ vans were in the show it included the top customs by some of the top customizers in the business. One of the show stealers was a van called Mo Fo. She is a ’69 Chevy that is hardly recognized as one anymore. Complete tilt nose cockpit that is remote controlled. Owners Marty and Joyce Sooby fired up the motor the weekend before and decided to trek the 1500+ miles from Texas to NY for the Van Nats for her unveiling. She turned heads where ever she was, it is an unbelievable feat of engineering.  Other vans of note were a 1970 Dodge A108 owned and built by Greg Cooper. It was called Surf-Fink. The van was shortened with rear doors removed and paneled over. Only 1 side door remained.  Side view mirrors removed and replaced with cameras. Great paint job.  Coop was trained by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth in his painting style. Hence the Surf-Fink design.

The Pirates of the Caravan van was there owned by Cool Rides member Donnie Noone. She was in the best of the best category already having won Best of Show twice before. She was up against Alpine Express who also won twice before. Once a van wins Best of Show twice it goes into this classification.  We had our van Nautique showing as well. She was set up in all her glory thanks to my wife Wendy who is the designer for the display we use.  There were many vans that are further worthy of mention but not enough space to do so.  Later in the evening there was a wedding of two long time vanners from Canada. It was a great time. They even got into theme of the event by dressing as Chuckie from Child’s Play and his bride Tiffany. They rode away in the back of a hearse.

On Saturday there was a public show and shine of which we entered again. We had approximately 60-70 vans in this show. The public really enjoyed looking at the vans. The comments were overwhelmingly positive.  There was also a swap meet of which people brought van parts, collectibles, toys, etc. to trade and sell.  There were slow drags which could have been timed with a sun dial. It is hard to believe that they could go so slow without touching the brakes or stalling. Also there were burnouts as well. One participant dedicated his burnout to his late brother and promised to smoke them right off the rims. He lived up to his promise by blowing out both tires.  Later in the evening there were Hot Wheels races in which we participated.  I came in third but unfortunately there was only an award for first and second. Next time! The awards for games and the van shows were presented. We won First place in our class as well as Best Theme for our van which is a 1978 Dodge named Nautique. Many other awards were given out with specialties as well. I am attempting to obtain a complete list of the winners and if able will have them included later in this post. The Best of the Best award went to Donnie Noone’s Pirates of the Caravan. The People’s choice award went to Marty and Joyce Sooby’s 1969 Chevy MoFo. Best of Show for the 42nd Van Nationals went also to Marty and Joyce Sooby’s van Mofo. It was well deserved.

All in all the Van Nats was another for the history books. The attendance may not have been what was hoped for but the attendees and the quality of the vans in attendance made up for the lack of vans there. Next year’s 43rd Van Nats will be held in Altamont, IL. Our plan is to attend and hoping to see more attend as well. Perhaps members of Cool Rides will want to obtain a van and be part of history.

By Phil Martin – nautic1

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