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great dane puppies in cars

20 October 2011

Custom Vans: The Perfection of Bad Taste

Ford Econoline Custom Van Advertisement

change it anyway you like

Before Facebook, before Monica Lewinsky, before Ivan Boesky, and before the launch of MTV, the biggest cultural force in America was the custom van. (This was back in the mid/late-1970s, if you’ve forgotten).

Custom vans were everywhere. They were featured in movies, on TV and throughout American pop culture. More than a few TV characters drove them. Scooby-Doo’s preferred transport was the Mystery Machine? “Econoline,” Ford’s product line of rolling love machines, entered the American vernacular.

The American public’s appetite for custom vans created the unforgettable design opportunity to install shag carpeting in vehicles. (This action is felony-worthy today). It was a golden era for automotive upholsterers and stereo manufacturers.

Without the custom van craze/fad, we would have never seen those teardrop-shaped side windows installed on vehicles. Muralists would never have been able to develop a profitable market for airbrushing large murals of naked blondes astride unicorns. (I remember as a tween frequently seeing these images). A material designed for our bedroom, carpet, would never have found its way onto the interior ceiling of something you drove on the highway.

What a glorious time.

When Something is A-Rocking

If the Van is a Rockin', Don't Come a Knockin' tshirt

do not disturb in custom van-speak

One of the cheesier things about the custom van craze was the related merchandising and apparel. The ready-to-print t-shirt shops then-prospering at your local mall offered loads of cheesy custom van prints alongside the Led Zeppelin and Dark Side of the Moon ball caps and tees. Among these was the classically defiant “If the Van Is a-Rockin’ Don’t Come a-Knocking” statement.

It was brash. It was in your face. It was a high watermark of American t-shirt couture and culture.

Riding in Cars with A Great Dane Puppy

For some reason, the shirt and the one-color screen print instantly presented themselves in my mind a couple of weeks ago when we were returning home from the dog park in my little Ford. Luna had been her habitually exuberant self, running and racing with her friends. She was gassed and ready for her post-run nap.

MW sat beside me in the front passenger seat. Luna was lying down in the back. We stopped at a red light and waited for the light to change. I noticed the car was slightly and steadily shaking. Searching for the vibration source, I turned to look in the back and saw Luna. Eight inches of pink tongue dropped from her jowls. She was in full pant mode. Her spinal cord was vibrating to and fro.

A Dog Quake

Somehow, this vibration through the body of a 90 lbs puppy was perceptibly vibrating our car. It was strange to experience it. It was like experiencing one of California’s many smaller earthquakes.

When the earth beneath your feet moves, scientists call it an earthquake. When the car beneath your butt shakes and vibrates at a traffic light, it’s a dog quake.

If this car is a rockin’………blame the Great Dane puppy.

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