The History of the Conversion Van
The ability to travel great distances in a short a mount of time changed the way we live, work and more importantly – have fun. We can now take more trips and go farther and accommodate more of the things we need on these long trips thanks to automobiles.
The pickup truck gave us more room to carry items. The station wagon made it easier to carry a whole family on a road trip. RVs and sport utility vehicles make extended vacations on the road possible. With that said, paving the way for RVs was an ingenious idea called the conversion van.
Not only did the conversion van change the way we travel the country’s highways and byways, it helped revolutionize the automobile itself.
Basic conversion vans began to appear in the 1970’s. The free spirits of the decade wanted to explore and there were few vehicles which could adapt to their lifestyle. Thus, people began to take ordinary vans and “convert” them into a type of vehicle which fit exactly what they needed. The earliest conversions simply included the addition of seats and carpeting. From that, came the murals on the sides. Almost every conversion van had an intricate mural on the side panels. As the conversion van gained popularity, owners became more imaginative in their customization and use of the vehicle.
But as most things change, so did the image of the conversion van in the 1980s. The conversion van shed its “bad boy” image to become a family vehicle. Some of the same people that started their families in a conversion van were now transporting their families in the same type of vehicle. Because of this shift, the interiors in conversion vans began to change as well. Gone was the shag carpeting and chandeliers. Entertainment now consisted of TVs and VCRs.
From the 1990’s and on, conversion vans became all purpose vehicles. Travelers who didn’t want a full sized RV turned to the conversion van. The vans became popular for sports fans tailgating outside of football games. The corporate world turned to conversion vans as cheap way to transport large numbers of workers. Even the features that only conversion vans used to have became popular in all automobiles. Now most cars have TVs, reclining seats and even removable seats.
The conversion van had grown up and changed just as its users had. Today, conversion vans are as popular as ever and that popularity is here to stay.