From 1964 to 1995, the Chevrolet GMC van (along with its competitors the Ford E-Series and the Dodge Ram van) was a popular choice for all sorts of vocational workers, such as plumbers, florists, and caterers. Its size and options, along with the inexpensive upkeep made it a practical choice for many small businesses during this period. It succeeded the Chevrolet Greenbriar Sportswagon, later to be replaced itself by the Chevrolet Express/GMC Savana.
The Chevrolet/GMC van was a compact van with a forward engine design and a standard four-cylinder engine, and the choice between a 3-speed manual transmission or a 2-speed automatic transmission, as well as optional additions including a passenger seat and heating. Its boxy shape and flat windshield became a classic look for vans in the 1960’s and 1970’s, though as those decades passed, the Chevy/GMC was renovated to have a more modern look.
With production taking place in Quebec, Canada and Ohio and Michigan in the United States, the Chevy/GMC van made its rounds across North America, and became a popular van to convert with the likes of Curtis and Starcraft. Throughout the years, manufacturers also added onto the van, either to keep up with regulations or to modernize the vehicle.
The Chevrolet/GMC van not only became popular with the general public because of its versatility and capabilities, it garnered fame by appearing on the A-Team series. A 1983 version of the van was utilized on the show, customized to meet the characters’ needs. The 1983 van came with a 6.2 diesel engine, a revised grille, automatic overdrive, and a new steering wheel design.
In 1990, the van became the last van to be upgraded to 15-passenger capabilities, after the Dodge Ram Wagon and Ford Econoline did so in the 1970’s. It had to extend its wheelbase to do so, jumping up to 146 inches. This size was kept for the remainder of its five years in production. There was talk of an electric van from GMC, but because of safety concerns and the high cost of production, it was scrapped and never revisited.
As with all good things, the life of the Chevrolet/GMC had to come to an end. Though it was succeeded by the GMC Savana, the van continues to be fondly remembered by many people because of the nostalgia associated with its use. Fortunately, there are still people who have preserved their love of the GMC van by restoring vintage vans — replacing the windshields, repainting and reupholstering, and changing out various machine parts.
If you’re interested in joining a community of other people who enjoy vintage vans as much as you do, you can join online groups on Facebook, Ebay and Pinterest, as well as groups like the Vintage Chevy Van Club. There are a host of fans, around the world, who love celebrating these excellent vehicles, and they will be happy for you to join them in preserving these nostalgic vans. If you are interested, you can also purchase your own van and use these groups and forums in asking for help in rebuilding a van.