While the vannin’ craze didn’t fully flower in the American consciousness until emissions regulations sucked the fun out of muscle cars, George Barris was ahead of the game by a decade. In 1966, he took a Dodge A100 van, tore it down, and rebuilt it as the futuristic Love Machine, a conveyance that seemingly had more to do with the era’s fascination with monorails and people movers than it did the lone-wolf, roaming cad’s life of the committed vanner.
In the 1970s, at the height of van mania, the Love Machine was pulled from its stasis. For 1977’s SuperVan (tagline: “Watch your donkey . . . Smokey’s gonna getcha!”), Barris refreshed the futuristic sin bin for its role as Vandora, the titular machine of Lamar Card’s cult B-flick. Our favorite bit of the film is Charles Bukowski’s cameo as a wet T-shirt contest judge, because, well, what else would Buk be doing in a ’70s film about van culture?
After its star turn, SuperVan appeared in a made-for-TV movie called Condor, followed by an appearance in Back to the Future II as the Hill Valley Transporter. The little-seen Solar Crisis and a role in SeaQuest DSV in the early ’90s rounded out its Hollywood appearances. In 2003, the Society of Automotive Restorers got their mitts on the Barris creation and restored it to its 1970s glory. And now, with ol’ George having retired to the great body shop in the sky, the SuperVan is headed to the auction block.
Set to be sold with no reserve during Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale event later this month, the SuperVan features a flip-up windshield for handy nose-first ingress and egress, a midship-mounted 318-cubic-inch V-8, and a three-speed manual transmission. Naturally, the cabin contains a ceiling-mounted mirror ball. And while the restored machine was signed by Barris at some point after its reconstruction, Bukowski died nine years before its restoration, leaving the machine sadly missing the autograph of its most famous co-star.