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Top Iconic Vans Of The 1970s - Part One

By Simon Major | Photos: SM Archives, 15 Mar 2018 Features

alley cat 1896 nw

Looking back on seven of the best iconic vans from the 70s

In the first of our three-part series, we look back on some of the best iconic vans from the 70s. Check out the gallery above for more photos and stay tuned for part two to follow shortly.

This article on iconic vans was originally published in the June 2015 issue of Street Machine

1. XX308 - 1976 HOLDEN VAN

XX308 panel vanWhat’s the van that every vanning legend loves? Stephen Ellis’s XX308. With styling inspired by Steve’s love of US Trans-Am race cars, XX308 was a heavy-hitter in the early days with its low, wide and mean stance, stuffing 14x10in rims under flared guards and choosing to buck the chrome trend with black sidepipes and body trim.

Update: Stolen then later rebuilt, XX308 still exists, but has changed a lot since its Ellis builds. Thankfully, the trademark flares remain and a restoration with a new owner has just begun. 

2. MIDSUMMER DREAM - HQ HOLDEN VAN

Midsummer Dream vanChris Cummings was never one to follow the crowd, and his turbo six-powered HQ – remember, this was in the 70s! – was a standout amongst a sea of N/A V8s. A full rebuild and return to the show scene as Midsummer Dream II was a roaring success, however the van was later sold and damaged by fire. An innovator to the core, Chris followed up this build with a twin-turbo V8-powered Manta kit car.

3. VANRAT - HJ HOLDEN

Vanrat panel vanSteve Abbott transformed an innocent yellow six-cylinder panel van into a tunnel-rammed, 454-powered smoke machine. That full grille inspired a generation of vans and street machines, and the look is now returning to the spotlight again. Vanrat still exists, albeit as a plain yellow van with a 308 donk, but still sports the telltale VR454 number plates.

Read more: The true story of Vanrat

4. MR DAMAGE - XB FALCON

Mr Damage panel vanThe van that even van-haters love. Tough Clevo, candy apple red paint, huge slotters and a one-piece tailgate sees Leon Harris’s XB still spoken of in hallowed tones. If you can’t appreciate this van, then it’s all over – your mind is eternally closed. Mr Damage was torn down for a 460 fitment and sedan delivery conversion, but was never finished and saw out its days at a Brisbane Ford wreckers.

Read more: The true story of Mr Damage

5. ALLEY CAT - HJ HOLDEN

Alley Cat panel vanJohn Strachan’s wild HJ, famous for a Jag V12 donk and a six-legged tiger mural by Frank Lee. A multiple show-winner and Australia’s Top Van for 1983, the Cat was also the first cover car of Van Wheels & Street Machine. Currently being rebuilt by Brian Phillips, who has retained its original identity but stepped up the level of detail.

6. MISTY BLUES - XB FALCON

Misty Blues panel vanAustralia’s first ever Nationals winner. Greg Tarte was a vanning pioneer whose eye for detail and promotion created an identity for this XB, making it one of our best-remembered custom vans. The wild flames and ‘Miss Misty Blues’ murals are unmistakeable and the van is still owned by Greg more than 40 years after his initial purchase.

7. THE WIZARD - HZ SANDMAN

The Wizard panel vanRobert ‘Fuzz’ Heinrich made waves with his Ford 429 Cobra Jet-powered HZ Sandman, pulling influences from the hot rod fraternity and featuring a swag of chrome and custom alloy componentry. Another van to meet a less-than-honourable demise, The Wizard was sold in perfect show condition, then later stripped for parts and scrapped.