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1970s Hotrod Van Culture Needs to Make a Comeback

1970s Hotrod Van Culture Needs to Make a Comeback

Combining the power of a muscle car and the utility of a full-size van

Full-size vans aren’t cool these days. Something like 99.9994 percent of all new Chevrolet Express, Ford Transit, and Ram ProMasters are sold to businesses or fleets for the thankless job of hauling stuff or mobs of people from point to point. Nobody buys vans for personal use anymore. But back in the 1970s, vans were the psychedelic alternative to muscle cars, boxy sedans, and fuel-sipping imports. Guys even modded their rigs performance parts, side pipes, Cragar wheels, and custom paint jobs. Oh… those custom, air-brushed paint jobs.

Even Mr. T of the A-Team drove a muscle van. You can’t argue with Mr. T!

The thing is, I’ve always admired the muscle van, but the stereotypes surrounding van ownership just isn’t appealing – well, except for Mr. T, of course. Still, it’s just a cool and different class of vehicle. Add in the practicality of being able to haul stuff or people around, and the appeal grows even stronger. And it’s not like they handle much worse than muscle cars of that era, anyway. Thankfully, Hot Rod Garage saw the beauty within a Chevy van. The only problem, the Chevy G10 van wasn’t the right year. By the mid-1980s, the Chevy van had taken on a new, more straight-laced persona with a new grille, bumper, and larger side mirrors. But rather than dumping this otherwise clean van, the guys swapped those parts for ones from the right era. They also swapped in some suspension and brake upgrades, the necessary side pipes, retro graphics, and of course, a bubble window in the walls.

The result is nothing short of amazing. Check the video then tell us if you think muscle vans should make a comeback.

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2014 Chevrolet City Express

2014 Chevrolet City Express

Chevy has graced visitors of the Chicago Auto Show with news about its new 2015 City Express van. While we traditionally have a good idea about what is going to be revealed a few days ahead of time, this came out of left field.

The Nissan NV200-based van is little more than a Chevrolet rebadge, but it gives Chevrolet a tool to use against the Ford Transit at a minimal cost.

If you are looking for a smaller way to haul your kids, you are still going to need to look at the Mazda5, as City Express is purely a functional machine. It has two seats, and a load of cargo room; that is it.

Still, there is a lot to love about this little Chevy, so click on through to find out all the details from its drivetrain to its max cargo capacity.

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2015 Chevrolet City Express

2015 Chevrolet City Express

Next summer’s new small commercial van from Chevy leverages the Nissan NV200’s tough-but-cheap new platform with hopes that the powerhouse Chevrolet fleet network can work its magic in delivering significant commercial sales volume.

Called the Chevy City Express, the new small van has twin sliding doors and a massive load bay – all while driving the front wheels and offering an overall 24 mpg.

The small commercial van segment is heating up since the arrival of the Ford Transit Connect. Despite the Transit Connect’s popularity and niche-filling role in the Ford empire, bringing it to America from Europe has been a labor-intensive process that also means the vehicle offers much slimmer profit margins than the old-school Econolines that were previously Ford’s only answer for van shoppers.

The Chevy City Express path is a shortcut to gain access to this growing market segment without a huge investment in a new platform or assembly line. Nissan’s NV200 is the ideal candidate for a shared model because it offers federalized engines and crash structures, yet can also be sold globally with a variety of tiny gasoline and diesel engines.

As catchy as the old ‘badge engineering’ description is, it does not really apply in this case across the two unrelated companies. This is more like R&D engineering, or supply chain engineering – a rapid way to get this car into dealers with a Chevy badge without any of the risks associated with a years-long, multi-billion-dollar engineering program to build one from scratch.

Will adding some bow-tie grilles and Chevy’s huge network of existing fleet customers to the Nissan package be enough to deliver results for American businesses? Does the new City Express’s efficiency and maneuverability outweigh its lack of towing, off-road or heavy hauling stats?

Update 8/15/2014: Chevy has announced official EPA fuel economy ratings for the 2015 City Express. It gets 24 mpg city, 26 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined.

Click past the jump for the full preview of the 2015 Chevrolet City Express, including full specs on the shared platform dimensions, features and mechanicals.

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2013 Chevrolet Express

2013 Chevrolet Express

The full-size van segment is facing a big shakeup at the moment. Mind you, the standards for improvement are pretty low – these vans skipped all the manners and refinement courses undergone by their pickup-truck siblings, like the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Silverado.

New competition from the Nissan NV, Ram CV, Mercedes Sprinter and the upcoming full-size Ford Transit means the Express will have to work harder than ever to maintain its huge 44-plus-percent market share in the segment.

In addition to far more modern options from Dodge and soon Ford, the full-size segment is under assault from above via pricier pickup trucks and from below via the Ford Transit Connect and other urban commercial runabouts. Despite the challengers, the Express logged nearly 77,000 sales in the U.S. in 2012.

So, the Chevrolet Express is long past its glory years where it represented the most sophisticated and modern full-size van available in the U.S. Despite seeming like it’s been around for eternity and beyond, the Express debuted in 1996 to rave reviews by thousands of contractors, conversion van companies and Church groups happy to have (slightly) more refinement than the previous models and the competition of the time.

No one will argue that 17 years is a long time on the market, but its tenure on dealer lots means the Express is both super affordable and also mechanically customizable with four engines, passenger or cargo setups, multiple wheelbases and a myriad of other options.

How does the Chevrolet Express stack up to the latest buyer priorities, and comfort and safety demands? Can its low price and spray-clean cargo area overcome the harsh ride, unbelievably bad seats and almost complete lack of modern interior tech?

Click past the jump for the full review of the Chevrolet Express.

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2013 Chevrolet Spin Minivan

2013 Chevrolet Spin Minivan

Chevrolet has just announced that a new minivan will make its way into the “Global Market,” which is the PC term for developing markets. In addition to announcing the upcoming debut, Chevy also teased us with a rather revealing image, for a teaser anyway.

This image depicts a minivan that boasts much bolder styling than your average people-hauling minivan. It features wrap-around headlights that come to a sharp point near the halfway point of the fenders. The windshield rakes rearward at a very shallow angle and its roofline actually has a slight curve to it. Really, this “minivan” looks closer to a crossover than an SUV.

Considering that the developing markets that Chevy has in its targets, Indonesia and Brazil, it is no wonder that it would bear the minivan classification instead of crossover. From personal experience, I can tell you that the term “crossover” is not a well-known one in Indonesia and only a handful of cars, including the Nissan Juke and Suzuki SX4, bear that classification. We would assume much of the same is going on in Brazil.

The Spin will be available in both a five- and seven-seat capacity, but unlike American minivans, this one will boast hinged doors – again, bearing more resemblance to a crossover. To remain competitive in these developing markets and allow buyers to be able to fuel this new minivan, it will likely boast a sub-2.0-liter engine as its base level, with its smallest engine likely being the 141 PS (139 hp) 1.8-liter four-cylinder in the Chevy Orlando and Cruze.

Given its size and the fact that its closest competitor will be the 2.4-liter-powered Honda Odyssey, which is far smaller than the American Honda Odyssey, Chevy may offer it with an optional 171 PS (168 hp) 2.4-liter found in the Captiva SUV.

Chevy is set to fully unveil this upcoming minivan/crossover in the next few weeks and it’ll hit showroom floors early in 2013. We’ll update you once Chevy releases this additional info.

Click past the jump to read Chevy’s official presser.

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2011 Chevrolet Orlando

2011 Chevrolet Orlando

Chevrolet unveiled the Orlando concept at the 2008 Paris Auto Show two years ago. This concept was their first seven-seat multi-purpose vehicle (MPV), and now, at the same show, the company will unveil the production version Orlando. Sales in Europe will begin in early 2011.

The production version will receive a lower roofline and a crossover inspired silhouette, but it will also get a recognizable Chevrolet ’face’ that is illustrated by the split radiator grille and bow-tie badge. The interior of the car will also feature a Corvette inspired dual cockpit and ambient blue backlighting in the center console.

Under the hood there will be a choice of three of Chevrolet’s latest fuel efficient engines: a 1.8 liter gasoline engine with power output of 141 hp and two diesel units, the latest version of Chevrolet’s 2.0 liter engine with outputs of 131hp (low output) or 163 hp (high output).

Updated 10/01/2010: Chevrolet has just debuted the Orlando, a vehicle that won’t in the United States any time soon. General Motors once said that the vehicle would be making the trip overseas, but that didn’t work out so well. Still, a smaller minivan never hurt anybody and the Europeans sure do love these things. The Orlando uses a seven-seat configuration and a few Eco-friendly motors. The first is a 141 horsepower 1.8-liter petrol four-cylinder and the other two are diesel motors with either 131 or 163 horsepower. The interior is function and not to bad to look at. It uses stadium seating to give third row occupants a nice view of the road ahead, not that most adults could fit back there. With the rear seats up, it appears that there is little cargo room to speak of. The Orlando is scheduled to go on sale this month.

Press release after the jump.

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2009 Chevrolet Traverse

2009 Chevrolet Traverse

General Motors hopes to satisfy the needs and wants of both minivan and SUV buyers with the 2009 Chevrolet Traverse CUV. The crossover that debuted last year at the Chicago Auto Show has 10 cup holders, seating for 7, a potent direct injected V6, optional 4 wheel drive, third row seating and promises return on average 20 miles per gallon. Starting at just under $30,000 the Traverse is an attractable package that offers the amenities of a minivan with the outward appearance of an SUV.

The large grill is the first thing that you see on the Traverse and it is distinctly Chevrolet. The opening is cut in half by a horizontal bar that displays a bowtie front and center. The piece is almost identical to the grill of the Chevrolet Malibu and hints at a possible design theme for the future.

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World's tallest man gets special Chevrolet

World’s tallest man gets special Chevrolet

You may think that Leonid Stadnyk, 37 years old and 2.58 meters, is a very happy man. After all he was registered in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2007 as the world’s tallest man. But when you don’t have a proper car to drive then you are not that happy!

To solve his big problem he send a letter to the Ukraine’s president asking to find him a proper car. The president didn’t ignored the letter and with the help of the government they offered him a Chevrolet minivan, modified at the ZAZ plant, in Zaporizhia.

Although he doesn’t have a driving license at the moment, Stadnyk said he will solve this problem soon. Until then he will only be a passenger to the car.

Stadnyk start growing really high when he was only 14 years old, after a brain surgery.

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2008 Chevrolet HHR Panel SS Turbo

2008 Chevrolet HHR Panel SS Turbo

At the 2007 SEMA Show, Chevrolet revealed the HHR Panel SS – a customized vision that previews a forthcoming production model differing only slightly from the stylized SEMA concept. The Panel SS fuses the production HHR SS’s turbocharged powertrain and race track-bred suspension with the unique HHR Panel body style.

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2007 Chevrolet HHR

2007 Chevrolet HHR

Chevrolet presents exciting HHR in Geneva
Chevrolet HHR Brings Fun and Functionality to the Compact Segment Unique styling with functional interior Fun to drive and spacious Chevrolet Europe is considering bringing the HHR to Europe and will unveil the exciting compact model at Geneva motor show on March 6. The HHR is a unique vehicle that combines styling and interior adaptability to create a vehicle suited to all lifestyles and it has a distinct design that was inspired (...)

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2007 Chevrolet Express

2007 Chevrolet Express

Whether it’s a cross-country trip, a weekend getaway with the family or the daily commute, the Chevrolet Express Conversion Van is the ideal vehicle. It can accommodate up to nine adults in luxurious comfort and delivers plenty of convenience, space, versatility and safety. For 2007, Express Conversion Van also delivers more power from its standard engine and more environmental benefits.

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2006 Chevrolet Express

2006 Chevrolet Express

The 2006 Chevrolet Express is the leading full-size van equipped with 4.3-liter V-6 capable of producing 195 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque.

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2006 Chevrolet Uplander

2006 Chevrolet Uplander

A standard-length model, available 2nd-row side airbags, and a new engine option mark 2006 for Chevrolet’s minivans. Uplander mimics Buick Terraza, Pontiac Montana SV6, and Saturn Relay as an SUV-flavored update of GM’s 1997-2004 minivan design. Only Chevy offers a regular-length version, which comes only with front-wheel drive in LS trim.

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