Junkyard Find: 1969 Chevrolet ChevyVan 108

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin
junkyard find 1969 chevrolet chevyvan 108

For most of the 1960s, the forward-control, mid-engined small van, with the driver sitting atop the front axle and crowded against the door by an engine-containing box known as the “doghouse,” was quite popular in the United States. These things were bouncy, ill-handling, dangerous steel boxes, but they could haul absurd loads with their 1904-technology solid axles and leaf springs all the way around and were easy to maneuver in tight spaces.

Nearly all these vans were used up or crashed decades ago, but xillion-mile survivors still trickle into wrecking yards to this day. Here’s a rare long-wheelbase late-’60s ChevyVan that I spotted in Denver last week.

The first of this generation of US-Market FC vans was (arguably, depending on how strict you want to be about production figures and military-versus-civilian hair-splitting) the Jeep FC, though the 1961 Ford Econoline was the first to sell in large numbers (yeah, yeah, Thames Freighter and other edge-case imports of the era, nit-pick away). Chrysler and General Motors followed in 1964 with the Dodge A100 and Chevrolet ChevyVan/GMC Handivan, respectively.

The GM forward-control vans never sold as well as their Ford and Dodge competitors, and they never inspired quite the cult following enjoyed by the Econoline and A100 (my ’66 A100 gets “PLEASE SELL ME YOUR VAN” notes every couple of months). This is the first one I have seen in a pull-a-part junkyard in at least five years.

It’s a straight-six, either the standard 230 or the optional 250 (or whatever random Chevy straight-six was swapped in by the 11th owner). A 307-cubic-inch V8 was also available in 1969, for those who needed to haul that extra ton of pig brains or lead pipe.

There’s no easy way to rig up a gearshift lever on the floor when the transmission is located about four feet behind the driver, so the column-shift rig was the only way to run a manual transmission in these trucks. A four-speed Borg-Warner T10 was available, so ChevyVan buyers could have the very rare four-on-the-tree option.

At some point, this van’s owner installed a 1964 or older Pontiac radio with CONELRAD station indicators. It appears to have been an easy bolt-in.

This van was full of old receipts from a parking lot in what’s now Denver’s Theater District.

Ben left his personalized padlock on the steering wheel.

In the 1989 film 龍在天涯, a young Jet Li mashes some baddies against a San Francisco bus stop with his ChevyVan, and somehow avoids losing his legs in the process. This would have been much safer with a 1971 or later front-engine Chevrolet van.

Join the conversation
2 of 40 comments
  • Analoggrotto By the time any of Hyundai's Japanese competitors were this size and age, they produced iconic vehicles which are now highly desirable and going for good money used. But Hyundai/Kia have nothing to this point that anyone will care about in the future. Those 20k over MSRP Tellurides? Worn out junk sitting at the used car lot, worn beyond their actual age. Hyundai/Kia has not had anything comparable to the significance of CVCC, 240Z, Supra, Celica, AE86, RX-(7), 2000GT, Skyline, GT-R, WRX, Evo, Preludio, CRX, Si, Land Cruiser, NSX etc. All of this in those years where Detroiters and Teutonic prejudiced elitists were openly bashing the Japanese with racist derogatory language. Tiger Woods running off the road in a Genesis didn't open up a moment, and the Genesis Sedan featuring in Inception didn't matter any more than the Lincoln MKS showing up for a moment in Dark Knight. Hyundai/Kia are too busy attempting to re-invent others' history for themselves. But hey, they have to start somewhere and the N74 is very cool looking. Hyundai/Kia's biggest fans are auto Journalists who for almost 2 decades have been hyping them up to deafening volumes contributing further distrust in any media.
  • Bd2 Other way around.Giorgetto Giugiaro penned the Pony Coupe during the early 1970s and later used its wedge shape as the basis for the M1 and then the DMC-12.The 3G Supra was just one of many Japanese coupes to adopt the wedge shape (actually was one of the later ones).The Mitsubishi Starion, Nissan 300ZX, etc.
  • Tassos I also want one of the idiots who support the ban to explain to me how it will work.Suppose sometime (2035 or later) you cannot buy a new ICE vehicle in the UK.Q1: Will this lead to a ICE fleet resembling that of CUBA, with 100 year old '56 Chevys eventually? (in that case, just calculate the horrible extra pollution due to keeping 100 year old cars on the road)Q2: Will people be able to buy PARTS for their old cars FOREVER?Q3: Will people be allowed to jump across the Channel and buy a nice ICE in France, Germany (who makes the best cars anyway), or any place else that still sells them, and then use it in the UK?
  • Tassos Bans are ridiculous and undemocratic and smell of Middle Ages and the Inquisition. Even 2035 is hardly any better than 2030.The ALMIGHTY CONSUMER should decide, not... CARB, preferably WITHOUT the Government messing with the playing field.And if the usual clueless idiots read this and offer the tired "But Government subsidizes the oil industry too", will they EVER learn that those MINISCULE (compared to the TRILLIONS of $ size of this industry) subsidies were designed to help the SMALL Oil producers defend themselves against the "Big Oil" multinationals. Ask ANY major Oil co CEO and he will gladly tell you that you can take those tiny subsidies and shove them.
  • Dusterdude The suppliers can ask for concessions, but I wouldn’t hold my breath . With the UAW they are ultimately bound to negotiate with them. However, with suppliers , they could always find another supplier ( which in some cases would be difficult, but not impossible)