Going Retro: Before There Were Minivans….


Back in the day (yeah I said it) we had a van. Sure, now people drive SUV’s and minivans…but back in the day — we had a van.  We were cool.   My father, being the industrious, inventive man that he is (and frugal) decided to convert a 1979 Ford Cargo Van into the family automobile.

“FORD stands for fix or repair daily” –  Dad.

Dad, just thinking about the van...

Not exactly the same, but real close to the van my Dad "remodeled."

This cargo van was a beauty!  It was baby blue with no windows, no carpeting and no siding. Because I was so little, I distinctly remember it’s massive sliding door. But, he was a man with a dream! He had a vision!

He sawed.  He chopped. He nailed. He took a beer break. Then he glued. He sewed (really?). Then he took another beer break. He worked and sweat some more… and then, voila! The family van was complete!  It was fully loaded, like a mini-RV.  My Dad was way before his time.  It was Pimp My Ride of the 1970’s! Benches that converted into a bed, wood paneling, carpet, sink and a mini-fridge!  We were riding in style.

We did a lot of camping and road travel so this was a hot set-up for our family. There was no toilet, so we always had a coffee can on-hand for long trips.  Do you know how hard it is to pee in a coffee can while going 65 down the freeway?  Needless to say, we have a lot of great memories with Dad’s “Baby Blue.”  We traveled to Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. We went on camping trips several times of year.  It was where Dad sat when he broke his ribs while camping.  It was where I had a fish bone pulled out of my foot (yuck!) It was where my Grandma joined us on one of our great big adventures across America.

The van was just another home away from home. In it, we ate fried chicken. We sang songs by Willie Nelson (“On The Road Again” is forever burned into my brain).   We watched movies and had cold drinks. Many naps were slept upon the benches. It was a cool place to be a kid.

So today, when I climb into my fuel-efficient, bucket seat vehicle with more gadgets and buttons than I know what to do with,  I will think in great fondness of that giant, gas-guzzling, window-cranking, cup holders clinging-to-the-door, Big Baby Blue Van.  I am glad my Dad was such a visionary.  Great memories, great times.

[An apology to my life friends whose father also had the great family van dream, though unattained: I am sorry for the years you had to bounce around in your van while sitting in lawn chair holding bungee chords. You should have ridden with us!]
Retro cup holder. These attached to our doors at the windows. Sometimes, they would fall out of the doors with our drinks. I remember one hanging from every window!
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2 thoughts on “Going Retro: Before There Were Minivans….

  1. Guess we werent as cool …
    We had a station wagon – that I got to throw up in if I was put in the back seat where I could not see …
    We also had an International Scout ( sort of a Range Rover thing to Canadians )
    I didnt throw up in that …
    We left it at the summer house though which – even the the ride was a bit “rough” I would have appreciated down in the city !
    As for camping – I went to camp
    Looking back now I realize I was probably just “shipped off” because I was somewhat precotious ( as a child ) but for me – then – it was FUN
    As a late in lifer ( might as well have been only child ) it served me well
    Anyway
    THANX for the RIDE Down Memory Lane
    I Heart You Moose Lady
    xoxoxoxox

  2. Yeah, I was the one of the ones clinging to dear life with the bungee cords holding up our lawn chairs in the back of our “converted” cargo van. Except your Dad’s conversion was way better than ours. Our Dad threw in cheap paneling to cover old insulation found in an attic somewhere. Slowly the insulation hung from every corner where the paneling wouldn’t stay down. Our carpet was ripped from someone’s house, was all shag and old and matted before installation. It got worse from camping, peeing in coffee cans during long trips and carrying all of us kids and dogs everywhere. We did get smart about the chair situation and eventually brought in our bean bags to make the ride a bit better. Still couldn’t see out though, no wonder I got motion sickness all the time. The great “coveted” seat was when my Mom wanted to lay down in the back, then we would fight for her vacated position in the front. Memories….that new Aerostar bought afterwards was pure LUXURY!!!

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