SIN CITY

> THE 2019 VAN NATIONALS IN CHARTERS TOWERS WAS ROCKIN’ AND EVERYONE CAME KNOCKIN’

STORY DAVE CAREY PHOTOS ANDREW DAVS & OWEN WEBB

TOP: Holden’s ‘Super Chicken’ sticker-pack option for ute and van appeared in the HQ Holden ‘GM Parts & Accessories Catalogue’ in 1973, but nobody seems to recall seeing any cars fitted with it. But Todd Martin owns a set of the original decals, though he elected to keep them in the factory box for posterity, having them professionally recreated for his HQ van instead. A wise move; surely a 46-year-old sticker is going to be a bit crunchy these days. The Quey presented as stock with a standard sixbanger up front

ABOVE: Arthur Garland’s ‘Black Eagle’ is something of a vanning institution, having casually racked up around 350,000km over the past 35 years. It runs a 350 Chev, Turbo 400 trans and Salisbury LSD, but outside it has two distinctly different guises: show mode and travel mode. For the trip up from Hobart, Arthur swapped out the 80s nosecone, bonnet and guards, installed the bullbar and snorkels, then jacked the rear up, earning Longest Distance Travelled With A Van for his efforts

BELOW: What Russell and Susie Slocombe’s ‘Red Baron’ Ford Escort lacked in size, it made up for in, er, spunk, taking out first place in Engineered, Undercarriage, Engine Bay and Interior, with runner-up in Exterior. This was enough for them to take the Top Show Class Van trophy home

UNLESS home never hop out from under it, you’d know that the late-70s/early-80s panel van scene was the seed of the machine movement. Vans were there at the start, representing art without purpose and power without poise, with almost zero concessions to sport or racing. They were simply there to look cool, carry surfboards and root in.

The annual Van Nationals has been celebrating these creations for a solid 44 years now-that’sa fair chunk than grand old Summernats. Charters Towers played host to the Van Nats for 2019, attracting the best sin-bins to the northern Queensland town over the Easter long weekend. Falcons, Escorts, Kingers and yes, even Commodores fronted up.

Organisers Raylea and Brad Thomson own the Charters Towers Tourist Park that played host to the event, but they weren’t in it for the tourism bickies. “We have trouble getting away, so bringing it to us meant that we could participate,” Raylea weather was great too, although we had the hottest day of the month on Sunday; I think some of the Victorians were feeling it!”

Esteemed Street Machine Summernats and MotorEx judge Owen Webb was happy to handle head judging duties. “The first trophy I ever won was at the Van Nationals at Mildura in 1976,” he said. “Indirectly, that trophy, and vanning in general, changed my life.”

Given Owen’s extensive experience in the Summernats Elite Hall, you’d think he’d be a hard man to impress, but he was full of praise for the quality on show. “The vans were really good; Susan Kelley’s ‘Medusa’ and organiser Brad Thomson’s MYTIME were standouts, but Justin and Kerry Hardy’s restored XD Sundowner was amazing. It won Top Restored and would have surely cleaned up in any concours show it was entered in.”

The drive-in night featuring Grease was a spectacle, but what really thrilled Owen was Charters Towers itself. “The town really embraced the whole event; during the cruise, people were lining the streets two or three deep,” he commented.

Although vanning eyes are pointed towards Mildura for the 50th Anniversary in 2025, there are a few events to go yet. Owen offers his final take on the future of the event: “People are working hard to get to the 50th back in Mildura, and new vans aside, it will be great if we see some of the old favourites back out again. Interestingly enough, there are a couple of vans in the build Scicluna’s that might Escorts give Russell a run for Slocombe their money.” and s Gary Scicluna’s Escorts a run for their money.”