American Pickers reunites Aerosmith with its first road van

Well, that’s one way to meet Aerosmith in person. In a special episode of American Pickers that aired earlier this week, the show reunited the Boston-based rockers with the van they drove during their earliest days in 1970. The reunion was met with amazement, some profanity, and plenty of appreciation, and it also unleashed a flood of memories.

Pickers stars Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz purchased the 1964 International Harvester Metro van for $25,000 last summer near Chesterfield, Massachusetts, about 100 miles from Boston. It was parked on a trailer in the woods, slowly rotting away. Pickers’ co-star Danielle Colby reached out to former Aerosmith band member Ray Tobano, who lived nearby, and he drove to the site and confirmed that it was indeed the band’s first road van.

Resurrecting the historic vehicle commenced almost immediately, and the preservation project culminated with a meet and greet in Las Vegas, where Aerosmith is in residency at Park Theatre. The van was completed in time for the opening night of “Deuces Are Wild” in April.

Upon seeing the van for the first time in decades, members of the band—Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer, and Tom Hamilton—reacted with astonishment and some words that can’t be said on television.

“I think it’s f****** amazing,” Perry said.

Tyler said he was “over the moon” and added, “To find the damn thing and bring it to us? What a handoff.”

“You guys did such a great job making it look like it did then,” Perry said.

Whitford agreed: “Some of my fondest memories are in this van… We spent a lot of time and hours traveling in this box, and it looks and feels the same.”

American Pickers Aerosmith

That was music to Wolfe’s ears. Because the van was in such dire straits, members of the Pickers team acquired a donor van and blended the two in such a way that it’s difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. Although Wolfe said that “everything that we could use from the original van, we did—meticulously,” a lot had to be replaced. The frame, engine, and front end (except the grille) are from the donor van, but the most important feature—the artwork on the side—remains intact. The cartoonish image is of Mark Lehman, who owned the van at the time. “He drove the van, he serviced the van, he set up our gear, and he ran the sound system,” Whitford said. Tyler said the band planned to reunite with Lehman, who they “haven’t seen in 40 years.”

As Wolfe was explaining the work that had been done to the van, he shut the side door, and the sound immediately triggered memories for Tyler and Perry.

“Did you just hear that?” Tyler asked. To which Perry replied, “There are two sounds that are memorable [from those early days]. One is the tape rewinding in the studio, and [the other is] that. Amazing.”

The band shared stories about traveling from show to show, sleeping in the van, stashing weed in the rug that hung from the ceiling, and enjoying “a few pops.”

Wolfe relished in the banter.

American Pickers Aerosmith
Lauren Dukoff for HISTORY

“They’re talking about this van in a way that they never talked about before, because when they were in the van they didn’t know at the time how important this was to them,” he said. “They were riding from show to show, trying to figure it all out, and it was just a utility vehicle to them. Now, with all the fame, all the fortune, they’re just five guys from Boston reminiscing about a van that literally changed their lives.”

He said the van is much more than a classic vehicle. It’s rolling history.

“When this van came into our lives, we knew it was something special. We’ve been having a moment with it for a long time through the whole process. Now seeing them have their moment makes it all worthwhile.”

Tyler summed up the reunion—and the band’s success—best when he said, “We’re living the dream.”

Dream On, Aerosmith.

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