V.I.S.I.T: A '79 Chevy Van in Woodbridge, Suffolk

The Chevy Van was one of those machines which was so numerous on North American roads as to blend in with the visual white noise of street furniture and roadside ephemera. No doubt it will become increasingly sought after as good examples become scarce, but I don’t suspect the supplies are due to dry up any day soon.
Examples in the UK, though, are few and far between, and tend to be rather well looked after. This is clearly true of the this superb bronze ’79 example seen in the well-to-do riverside town of Woodbridge in Suffolk, UK

In a busy parking lot, the Chevy blends in with the Mercs and Volvos like a jalapeño pepper does an ice cream sundae. It took up all the available space in a typical British parking space, and then a little extra for good measure. While the proportions of the Chevy are similar to our own Transit, it’s still an imposing slab of metal.
Good looking, too. While the grille treatment of these wasn’t so different to many cars of the late seventies, the fact that it didn’t look hideously dated a decade beyond hints towards a design job well done.

It’s all the more remarkable to see one of these in any other form than dayvan configuration. This one still had four rows of somewhat mean-looking bench seats, all with man-made material facings that I can feel peeling from my hot skin even from here.
Woodbridge isn’t a long way from the former Air Force base of the same name, and with Bentwaters, Mildenhall and Lakenheath not far either, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this machine entered the country via a military route, although there are pointers that it’s only been in the UK for a couple of years.

I wasn’t around when this machine parked or drove away, so I had to wait until I got home to determine what kind of noise it would have made. The answer, of course, is a fairly nice one – our handy Government-sponsored registration lookup system confirms 5.7-litres of all-American beef behind that bullish nose.
It’s a pleasure to see somebody looking after a machine like this, which is far from the most obvious example of US Iron to wish to preserve so far from its country of origin. Later that day I saw a C3 Corvette, a 1981 Firebird and and two relatively recent Mustangs, all cars which are, unsurprisingly, relatively commonplace over here by comparison. It takes a fair degree of single-mindedness, and perhaps a little eccentricity to opt for a Chevy Van instead.  Its owner has my respect and admiration, not to mention a tiny bit of envy.
(All images Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2017)

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9 responses to “V.I.S.I.T: A '79 Chevy Van in Woodbridge, Suffolk”

  1. salguod Avatar

    We had a very similar van when I was in elementary school. It was a 1972, I believe, and Dad built a dinette in the back that converted to a bed and we camped in it from NW Ohio to Los Angeles and back. He traded on a proper camper van, a 1974 Dodge Maxi Van TEC conversion complete with pop up roof. Similar to this:

  2. ptschett Avatar

    Neat! We don’t even see those stateside much anymore. One of my grade school classmates’ parents had an earlier version of this (with the round headlights) 30 years ago, they had a big family.
    I’m guessing the extra light under the front turn/park light is to meet a UK regulation? And wouldn’t this have to have amber rear turn signals?

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      I expect the bottom section of the rear light cluster is the turn signal. I have noticed a couple of recently-imported American vehicles that haven’t had them converted though.

  3. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    I’ll bet that you don’t even see that many Bedford CF Vans,( the almost unrelated British GM van that looks a bit similar) , any more. Commercial vehicles just seem to get used up and worn out, then scrapped.
    Though we do still have a few running around locally, most with the original Vauxhall slant four swapped for a Holden six or V8.
    If you design a four as half of a V8, it really is slanted over at 45 degrees.

    1. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

      Not seen one in van form for ages, but was delighted to see this extraordinary survivor collecting supplies from a builder’s merchants recently: https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/492b74e13e4cfb614291f2186de57661ed03d0b14ccc18e1b10bda8dc6b7361f.jpg

      1. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        For anyone interested about GM’s British (former) division and their V8 and slant four engine project…
        Owners of Chevy Vegas may recognise the OHC tappet adjustment that Vauxhall engineers patented. The OHC 4 litre V8 never made production, or the diesels either.

  4. Dean Bigglesworth Avatar
    Dean Bigglesworth

    I like these. Plenty of these still roaming the street of Finland. Nearly all of them are diesel-powered Starcraft conversion vans from the eighties though, and the only reason so many were sold is a tax loophole that made them cheap when you registered it as a van and slapped a “80” sticker on the back. Same thing with Astros and Caprice wagons, though most of those seem to have disappeared.

  5. outback_ute Avatar

    Are the little bumps at the top of each door external door hinges? Also it is interesting to note that the bonnet has a slight vee-shape to it in plan view, but the grille has been squared off which makes it protrude at the sides.
    The last one of these I saw (and there aren’t a lot in Australia) was a GMC Starcraft conversion as mentioned by Dean Bigglesworth. I couldn’t tell if it was a diesel, but I’d guess not.

    1. Fuhrman16 Avatar

      That is indeed the door hinge. Seems a bit of an odd design to have one hinge outside the door and the lower one that’s hidden.

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