Vintage Wheels #22: 1970s Van Gatherings

Here's a photo gallery of various get togethers of van enthusiasts in the 1970s - all of which look extremely seedy and gritty in a way only the 1970s knew how. It's not that I was expecting a 1979 van convention to be a classy affair; it's just that these amateur snapshots capture the feel of the blue-collar 70s lifestyle almost perfectly.

I'm not a van enthusiast myself, so I tend to focus not on the vans, but rather the people. They all look exactly as you'd expect - drunk and unwashed - but having the times of their lives.

1976 Van Nationals, Colorado Springs, CO
Love those shirts. Stay classy, Colorado.

1970s San Diego Small Truck Rally
1979 Central Coast Uprising, Santa Maria, CA
I found these photographs at the Northern California Van Council's page, a small site with just a handful of posts. You know me, I like to scan my own material whenever possible; but when I find something this good buried on the internet, it simply has to be shared. I've taken the liberty of improving the photo quality a bit, but if you want to see the originals and pics that focus on the vans rather than the people, I recommend you check out the source.

1976 Van Nationals,  Colorado Springs, CO
Those of you that didn't live in the 70s will not understand how common the "shirtless, cutoff jeans, with beer look" was with guys.

1979 Central Coast Uprising, Santa Maria, CA
God only knows what sort of lair she's walking into.

1976 Van Nationals,  Colorado Springs, CO
Dear God, look at all the trash and gross vanners milling around.  A slice of paradise.

1976 Van Nationals,  Colorado Springs, CO
It seems like every single van gathering had its own wet t-shirt contest or nude beauty contest.  You've got to hand it to the ladies of the 70s - they weren't shy.

1978 Golden Spike,  Utah
Well, we've got water balloons at a 1970s van convention... what could they possibly be up to?

1978 Golden Spike, Utah
Of course, adults and children alike are throwing them at ladies in white t-shirts.  Don't drop that Budweiser!

1976 Van Nationals,  Colorado Springs, CO

1976 Lost Forever #1, San Diego, CA
Why these Sunshine Supermen are on their knees getting beer poured down their throat is beyond me.  When dealing with the 70s, it's best not to ask too many questions and just enjoy the ride.

1976 West Coast Nationals, King City, California
I want to see a movie centering around these four guys.  I'm sure it would be interesting.


  1. AnonymousJune 07, 2015

    Love it as usual Gilligan.

  2. Hey Gilligan on that last photo, if I write the script would you finance it? ;-)

    1. Absolutely. I received an email from a Nigerian Diplomat stating that I'm about to come into a lot of cash (I just need to send him all my credit card information) - so consider your film financed. My only stipulation is that it must contain at least 4 scenes with gratuitous female nudity and 2 car chases.

  3. AnonymousJune 07, 2015

    That brings back a lot of good memories. I was at the 1976 Van Nationals. We left Tulsa at 3 PM and arrived in Colorado Springs at 3 AM. The highway patrol was the security for the event. They gave us a 6 pack of Coors beer as we entered. Even though it was late, the party was still going strong, there were people from all over the states. We met some guys from Chicago who had a toilet full of moonshine. During the day it was 105 degrees. We took a short trip to Pikes peak to cool off, it was 32 degrees at the top. Being it was the 70's, we all streaked at the top and even took pics for proof. They had contests all day long, and even gave away bongs full of pot while the highway patrol looked on. I was on the front row for the wet T shirt contest. It turned into the winner having to take everything off. The winner was a 16 year old for Hawaii. Everyone was well behaved and friendly. Since there was no rain, most people were relative clean. No bikers or riffraff. You had to be driving a van to enter.

  4. When I was a kid, I was just in awe of vans that had a bed and other elements of home inside. It wasn't the lurid aspect of the bed in back that was appealing...I just thought living in a van seemed like the coolest idea ever.

    Now, as an adult, I puzzle over the legalities of, literally, living out of your van (or RV, for that matter). "Living out of your car" is usually associated with being homeless, but I wonder how many people (if any) with a decent income choose to live out of a tricked-out van and, if so, how well that works. For starters, what address do you put on the registration for the vehicle?

  5. AnonymousJune 07, 2015

    After posting about being at the Colorado van meet, I checked out your source material. Pretty interesting pics. The overhead shot shows it was a pretty dry location, with little shade. In the third pic of the girls lining up for the T shirt contest, the winner is to the left standing in front of the guy wearing the white baseball cap. She still has her bikini top and bottoms on. She won a lot of prizes, a load of cash, and a van moon roof with the signs of the zodiac etched into the glass. Nick

  6. Ah yes, 'Wet T-Shirt' competitions! That brings back memories!

  7. The shirtless & cutoffs outfit was how my older brother still dressed in the summer until the day he died. Shorts need to head back toward the length instead of those moronic "shorts" that are past their knees.

  8. Go to YouTube and look up Super Van. Seventies vanner heaven.

  9. AnonymousJune 18, 2015

    These are amazing.Oh how I wish I was there. Are vanners still a thing?

  10. AnonymousJune 24, 2015

    We were some "High Time Truckers" Indeed

  11. AnonymousJuly 02, 2015

    "While like a picture she was laying there,
    Moonlight dancing off her hair.
    She woke up and took me by the hand,
    We made love in my Chevy van
    And that's all right with me."