Rolling Heavy: Do you really want to join the A-Team?
What’s another name for a custom van? How about “The Personality Vehicle”? That’s what I learned in a semi-famous book by Paul R. Dexler that was published back in 1977. I remember hitting my grade-school library for study period, and immediately “book”-ing over to the automotive section to grab said volume, just drooling over those candy coated chariots known as “Custom Vans.”
I wasn’t the only person paying attention. During many TV shows and movies from the ’70s and early ’80s, custom vans found their way into the story lines and the vans themselves almost took on a character of their own. The Hardy Boys had their 1971 GMC Vandura, Bill Cosby had his 1975 Chevy Sportvan in Mother, Jugs & Speed and Annie Potts had “Vanessa,” her 1971 Chevy van that she did “business” out of in Corvette Summer. One of the all time most memorable vans that basically any Dick or Jane on the streets will remember from that period, however, is the GMC Vandura driven by B.A. Baracus in the hit T.V. show The A-Team. The show aired from 1983–1987 on NBC and is still currently in syndication.
To this day the A-Team van is probably the most copied iconic van out there. If you breathe air on this planet, chances are you’ve seen someone who’s painted their van like it or built a tribute van to it, either online or out in the wild. It doesn’t stop there; toy company Funko currently has a Mr. T Pop Doll with matching van available for purchase online. The Canadian catering company “BBQ PARTY in a BOX” has a full-size recreation of the van that’s also a fully functional commercial BBQ grill capable of catering up to 300 people. Hell, Vantastic-Limo.com out of Pittsburgh has their own recreation of this iconic rig they call the “B-Team” van, available to rent for any of your wedding, bachelor party or bar crawl needs. I could go on, trust me.
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “man, I really need an A-Team van in my life …” Well, first I’d have to ask you why you’ve thought that, but if you have a relatively sane answer and you want the real deal, here’s your chance. The crew from Worldwide Auctioneers has confirmed that they will sell one of only six promo vans officially licensed by Universal Studios to Hollywood Productions Incorporated. These vans were used throughout the U.S. and Canada from 1983 to 1987 to promote the TV show. Note that these aren’t the vans used in the show; they’re the vans used to get you to watch the show. Maybe you’d see one at a shopping mall, or parked somewhere interesting downtown. The van will sell without reserve at the Scottsdale Auction to be held at Worldwide’s home in Indiana on Saturday, January 23, starting at 1 p.m. ET.
So why this van—and is it worth it? From a TV memorabilia standpoint, if you’re a fan of the show and money is no object, then nothing should stand in your way, as this will most likely be the glowing centerpiece of your collection. It has a direct and verifiable connection to The A-Team, and it’s part of a very limited run. The only thing that could top it would be one of the documented vans used in the show, possibly one that still has Mr. T sweat in the driver’s seat.
(How many of those were there? Nobody seems to know. In an interview, Craig Baxley, stunt coordinator and director on The A-Team, said there were at least eight; two for first unit filming and six stunt vans. Another source says there were a total of five “normal” vans, plus a couple of vans with a mid-mounted engine for jumps. It seems likely that very few of these survived.)
If you’re just into cool cars, this too could be a great buy. Sure to be a hit at any Cars & Coffee or weekend car show. What promoter wanting to attract attention to their event wouldn’t love to be able to push that they have an original A-Team van showing up to their show? It’ll be sitting over by the General Lee and a Captain America chopper.
Now if you’re looking at this van as your entry vehicle into the Custom Van scene, on the other hand, I would give you fair warning: this might not be the van for you. If there’s one thing a majority of Vanners fear, it’s when someone comes up and says “cool A-Team van” to them about their van. It’s an ongoing joke in the van community; in fact, there’s only one other TV van with a worse reputation in the scene, but there’s no need to mention that here. If you know, you know! (Editorial note: I’m not sure it’s a “mystery” to anyone — JB)
The simple fact is that your van should reflect you and what you’re into. Are you really into The A-Team? Do you think you’re Hannibal Smith daily, or even just on the weekends? Then blow the dough and this rig is about as good as it gets. You won’t find one better. But if you’re buying this van to get into the van game, maybe do yourself the favor: build one, don’t buy one. We’d all like to help you out, because … we love it when a van comes together.