In this post we look at a van made up as the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine, a funky 1970s Champion motorhome (painted green no less) and lastly, a strange and wonderful homemade RV. All these were found in Calgary, completely by chance, as we walked or drove about town. We find a lot of interesting things that way it seems.
First up is a mid-1980s Chevrolet van. Purists will say it’s a little too new to accurately stand in for the Mystery Machine. The cartoon version was introduced in the late 1960s and so used a stylized version of a van from that era. Those back then were more flat-faced. Even so, it looks good, so who cares. All those bright colours sure make it stand out.
This is short wheelbase Vandura model which was built from the early 1970s until the mid-1990s with little change. This one lacks any side windows behind the front doors which means it was likely used by a contractor or some such business. Passenger models, of course, had additional windows along the side.
From the 1960s until recently, full sized vans were very popular both as people carriers and cargo haulers. They seem to have fallen out of favour now and fewer and fewer get made each year. In the 1970s the “Boogie Van” was quite the trend. They’d be done up with shag carpets and powerful stereos on the inside. Outside they’d be painted in wild colours, often with mythical or western themed airbrush painted murals on their sides, or with elaborate stripes or crazy geometric patterns. Metallic paint was big. Typically, a small bubble window, in the shape of say a heart, teardrop or diamond (or some such thing) was added to the upper back panel. Louvres on the rear windows would complete the scene. At the time, this was the epitome of cool.
There is a not a person from the 70s or 80s who would not recognize this van. The show, and it’s trademark Mystery Machine, was that iconic. We’d all wake up early on Saturday morning, to watch cartoons and the highlight was always Scooby-Doo. The original series, “Scooby Doo: Where are you!”, was launched in 1969 and in one form or another the cartoon remains in production to this day.
Everybody knew the line “I would have gotten way with it, if it wasn’t for those darn kids” (or some such variation of it), which was loudly stated by the villain at the end of each show when he was found out. Typically the monster or ghost was unmasked and revealed to be a criminal trying to cover up his nefarious activities by creating a ghost legend to scare people away. It was a simple premise that made complete sense to a young kid.
Up next is the big green motorhome, aka the Green Machine. We’ve actually explored it before, but this time it’s been moved and was more out in the open, which afforded us better pictures. It’s an early to mid 1970s Champion Motorhome. It was also sold under the name Titan by Champion. This wonderful example of 70s style is painted in a none-too-subtle colour, one that was cool at the time I guess. Regardless, it’s a real head turner.
Big slab sides, a blunt front end and a stiff truck chassis means it likely handled as well as an aircraft carrier. It must have been quite the ride if there was a crosswind. And the gas mileage…I can just imagine how bad that could be.
It says “Handi-Van” on the side and in front is a plate saying “Chassis by Ford”. These are the only identifying marks. Interestingly, our readers have come across a few of the these motorhomes, and at least some of them are GM powered instead.
It’s not known if the Green Machine is road worthy although it must run to some degree, as gets moved every now and then.
A rather novel feature of this motorhome is the large drop down door in back, which can be seen in one picture. It has an integrated ramp which allowed you to load either a snowmobile or motorcycle INSIDE. An old copy of Popular Mechanics (1974, I think) shows how it’s all set up and used, but is not clear how the machine then gets stored once it’s in. From what I could see peering into the window of Big Green, the ski-doo or cycle, all gassed up, and perhaps muddy, wet and greasy, was simply plopped the middle of the living area. Hmm, how is that a good idea? Maybe that explains why, apparently, these did not sell well.
Champion also made more conventional motorhomes, which seemed to be quite popular in the 1970s and early 80s. These are instantly recognizable by their very dated looking clad slab sides (much like this one). It’s not completely clear what happened to Champion, although it appears they were bought up by another company and the old designs phased out, replaced by newer more contemporary looking ones under the name Ultrastar or Ultrastar by Champion. From what I can find, this operation closed in the mid-1990s. These later motorhomes, which share nothing in common with the old Champion line, seem to be well regarded.
This motorhome was sold by Southern Car and Trailer Sales of Medicine Hat, who according to the sticker also sold Datsuns (now Nissan).
Last up is a real oddity, what appears to be a homemade motorhome. At least it sure looks that way. That’s quite a project and someone sure was ambitious. Nothing is known about it other than it was built on an old (60s or 70s era, I think) Chevrolet truck chassis – you can see the Chevy symbol below the driver’s window. Maybe the owner’s will come forward to tell us more. We’d love to know!
As far as home made motorhomes go (and there are some we’ve seen), on the outside it’s not that badly executed. It’s odd looking, certainly, but nicely streamlined and appears reasonably well constructed. Instead of slab sides, they made an effort to round them a bit. Inside is much rougher looking from what I could see, although maybe it’s a work in progress and it’ll get better over time. I love the front “cupboard door” access panels, which presumably can be opened or closed to allow more or less airflow across the radiator.
It has a valid license plate and was parked on the road, so it must run. I can say with all certainty, that when this one hits the highway everyone who sees it is sure to give it a second (or third) glance. I love it, it’s so funky! Ugly, yet cute, just like the green motorhome but in a different way. The large expanse of glass in the front must act like a greenhouse on a hot day. Hopefully because of that it has air conditioning – not the old school “put the windows down” air conditioning, but the real deal.
Stay tuned for more reports likes this. On our adventures we always stumble across old or unusual trucks, cars and motorhomes and love to share them with you.
To see some other interesting vehicles we’ve found in our travels, go here…
Old trucks and vehicles – August and September.
Vintage vehicles found on a wonderful long weekend.
Deanz Garage – with Sharpshots.com.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: May, 2014.
Location: Calgary, AB.