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Top Iconic Vans - Part Two

By Simon Major, 20 Mar 2018 Features

midnight express 1896 nw

Part two of our flashback of iconic Aussie panel vans

In part one of our best vans flashback, we looked at some of the top custom icons from the panel van heyday. Here's seven more top Aussie panos that's sure to bring back some memories - and we'll bring you more next week in part three.

This article on iconic vans was originally published in the June 2015 issue of Street Machine

1. Midnight Express - HT Holden

Midnight Express panel van

Stephen Dobson turned an ex-TV repair van into the poster child of Australian vanning. Powered by a tunnel-rammed 253, Steve’s HT spent two decades on the show scene before being put on permanent display at the National Motor Museum in Birdwood in 1998. The amazing locomotive murals were the handiwork of artist Kit Chambers.

Video: The story of Midnight Express panel van

2. Innervisions - HX Holden

Innervisions panel van

A true icon. Myriad body mods and a blown Chev wrapped up in gold paint and an unmistakeable custom nose. Owner Craig Godbee forged a stellar career as a result of skills learnt building this van, going on to establish Newcastle Custom Trim. Kyle Ford returned Innervisions to the spotlight at the 2015 Van Nats, scoring 7th Top Van for his efforts.

3. Tangerine Dream II - HQ Holden

Tangerine Dream panel van

The ‘Van Father’, John Evans, was the driving force behind Australia’s van movement and built Tangerine Dream II from the ashes of his original HQ, which had been written off by a drink-driver shortly before it was to be used as the ‘family van’ in Mad Max. TDII was later sold and fitted with a WB Statesman front and the tunnel-rammed big-block from Vanrat.

4. Checkmate - HJ Holden

checkmate panel van

John Roach’s Checkmate was the blueprint for an onslaught of elite Newcastle vans. A pioneer with an eye for detail, John gave Checkmate a small-block Chev driveline and home-engineered Jag rear. And why does that Trans Am front look so right? Because he ripped a mould off a real Trans Am! Currently being rebuilt by vanning historian Rob Burns.

Read more: Rob Burns and Checkmate panel van

5. Denimachine - CM Chrysler

Denimachine panel van

In 1976, several Denimachine Coca-Cola promo vans were given away as part of a joint promotion between Coke and Chrysler Australia. Each van was slightly different, as they were built by different firms, but all featured interiors trimmed in denim along with flamed paint edged in pseudo-stitching. Sadly, all are AWOL

6. Scorpion - XW Falcon

Scorpion panel van

There wasn’t much that mechanic and jack-of-all-trades Steve Towers couldn’t turn his hand to. The bodywork, paintwork and interior trim of Scorpion, his XW van, were all done by Steve, as was the
triple-Webered Falcon 6 with nitrous injection! A string of uncaring owners left Scorpion close to scrap, until Steve chanced upon it and relegated it to yard-ornament status.

Read more: Where are they now - Scorpion XW Falcon van

7. Street legal - 1976 HJ Sandman

Street Legal panel van

Probably the most pristine survivor van of modern times, Street Legal was built by Dave Marsh and his Newcastle brethren. It was a three-time winner of Australia’s Top Van and was still making waves on the show scene into the 90s, including a Top 10 berth at Summernats 5. A full rebuild is on the cards by owners Brett and Mandy Hansford.

Read more: Where are they now - Street Legal


See PART THREE of our top iconic vans here