Hillary Clinton's Explorer Van "Scooby"
Photo courtesy of Explorer Vans.
Hillary Clinton has gotten at least a little bit of publicity for her presidential campaign-launching trip across America in a conversion van she’s nicknamed “Scooby”, apparently after the Scooby Doo cartoon show’s Mystery Machine. While the van has had high visibility as Clinton’s made seemingly impromptu stops – like at a Chipotle restaurant and more staged campaign events while pundits have discussed the strategy and symbolism of Mrs. Clinton’s road trip – little attention in the general media has been paid to the van itself.
As a matter of fact, even though there are scores of photos and videos of the van, it took me a while to identify the company that converted the Chevy in press photos and videos, Explorer Vans. As she says she hasn’t driven a car herself in almost two decades, it’s probably a stretch to say that Hillary is a car enthusiast, but she does seem to like her Explorer Vans. This is her third.
Hillary Clinton’s first Explorer Van, from her campaign for the U.S. Senate. Note the black Secret Service SUV in her motorcade and what is likely a bus filled with journalists in the background.
Well, technically speaking, it’s her second. The first was a GMC based van used in her campaign for the U.S. Senate seat from New York state. The third was purchased not by Mrs. Clinton but rather by U.S. taxpayers: a bulletproof version that Explorer Vans built in-house, working with military vendor BAE, for Clinton’s use while serving as U.S. Secretary of State. So far, that’s the only armored version the van in the company’s history, though some customers have had their vans armored by other firms. It’s not clear what, if any, security and protective devices have been installed in “Scooby”, which looks to be always trailed by a black Chevy SUV filled with the Secret Service detail that is assigned to the former First Lady.
While some of Mrs. Clinton’s critics have described the van as luxurious, and Explorer Van’s sales manager described it to me as a “loaded Limited SE model”, he also said that most of its products are used as family vehicles, not executive limousines.
A fully equipped Chevrolet-based Explorer Van runs about $66,000. You can configure your own Explorer Van and check out the standard features and options here. Considering how many of America’s moms are carpooling kids to school in $40-50K Lexus RXes and Audi Q5s, Hillary’s van hardly seems extravagant. She’s traveling comfortably I’m sure, but I’ve reviewed Audis and Jaguars that were more luxurious and exclusive.
Explorer Van’s sales rep in Michigan directed me to Les Stanford Chevrolet in Dearborn, their nearest dealer to me. The Chevy store had a couple of Explorer Limited SEs in stock and salesman William Blakely graciously gave me access for some photographs. Yes, it does have a decent sized flatscreen television, but it’s not anything close to sybaritic luxury. The seats are leather upholstered, but the second row has standard captain’s chairs and not the airliner first class style seats with footrests like you’d see in the back of long wheelbase luxury cars in China, the new Mercedes-Benz S600 Maybach, or in a Japanese domestic market executive van like the Toyota Alphard.
One thing that isn’t very luxurious is the high step-up into the van. Like Mrs. Clinton, I’m a grandparent and my creaky knees complained as I climbed into the passenger compartment. Some of her political opponents have already made it clear that they’ll make her age an issue in both the primary and general elections, should she be nominated. So far she hasn’t seemed to have any problem getting in or out of the van, so perhaps she’s more spry than her critics would have us believe.
In any case, the fact that she’s a return customer for Explorer Vans humanizes her in my eyes, even if I may have some skepticism about political road trips. Speaking of campaign road trips, the tour buses that Mrs. Clinton and other presidential hopefuls will likely use later on in their campaigns will be far more luxurious than even a high-end conversion van like an Explorer. Those rock star conveyances cost ten times what the Explorer conversion van costs (or more) and they’re more luxurious than most Americans’ homes, let alone their cars.
Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS
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Anyone interested in discussing the van? I'm surprised to see she's rolling in a half-ton. I'd expect the upfitter industry to start with the 2500 considering the weight they're likely to add. This is proof to me that her current van probably didn't get any serious armoring and is a plain Jane conversion van: more cupholders, speakers and better seats. The 6-lug wheels are a giveaway that this van could be years old, it's the talltale sign that it's a 1500. GM ended production of these a year ago, so this could still have been a new purchase: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/cafe-strikes-again-as-gm-kills-off-1500-series-vans/ I've driven plenty of 1500 and 2500 Express vans and without a doubt, you want to be driving a 2500 with the 6.0 liter if you have any extra weight to schlep around. And that's assuming you don't need to make any evasive maneuvers.
Two things: - I have learned that only two words can turn otherwise-reasonable men into mouth-foaming, angry, gun-toting,freedom-screaming, conspiracy-spouting members of the He-Man Woman Haters Club: Hillary Clinton - No offense, but some of you guys (and it does seem to be all guys) might benefit from spending less time on the inter webs. Of course the same is true of me.