Phase II, The Best Laid Plans 5/23/02

After all the agony of deciding which van, which customizer, which options, which dealer, I was very happy with the 2000 Savana. Having lived with it for over a year, though, there were some changes I wanted to make. I came to the realization that a rear seat would come in handy - no one in my extended family has the ability to haul more than four people in comfort. Also, I wanted to improve its exterior with different wheels and tires and perhaps an aftermarket appearance package.

Last year I had gone so far as to make arrangements to have a matching seat installed, when my corner of St. Louis fell victim to the worst hailstorm in recent history. Severe weather had been scouring the area, and there were various tornado and thunderstorm warnings flashing on the TV behind me as I watched the boiling skies from my front window. One minute pea sized hail began to fall followed by a roaring sound advancing up the street. The roar was the approach of hailstones larger than golfballs. The sound as the deluge hit my house was deafening. I heard glass breaking, and water started leaking from the window frame above my head. After what seemed like an eternity the worst of the storm passed, and I was able to venture outside.

Surveying the damage I found three broken windows in my basement, a leak in the roof (later investigation showed that one piece of hail actually pierced the sheathing), dented gutters, busted siding, scarred trees, and one very battered GMC van. The roof and hood looked like I had taken out all my website frustrations on them with a hammer, the windshield was cracked, one window was shattered, the side mirror was busted, the third brakelight was broken, and virtually every panel on the passenger side had at least two or three dents. I covered the open window with plastic and went inside reminding myself that everyONE I knew was OK even if everyTHING wasn't.

Interestingly the insurance checks for the house and van were virtually identical, now the question was what to do. No amount of dent wizardry was going to to fix the sheet metal, which meant reskinning the top and bodywork for the rest of the cosmetics. I was faced with the dilemma of either pouring all that money into a vehicle that was never going to be quite the same or trying to buy a replacement. Naturally I chose the third option: do nothing (I did at least have the glass replaced). That worked well until the top began to rust where the paint had cracked. I decided that I would investigate buying before fixing and started with a call to Custom Craft. Unfortunately by this time (November) they didn't have any 2001 vans left and the '02s had no incentives - the price was simply out of reach. I decided to have the sides of the van repaired, leave the roof alone except to clean and paint the areas that were rusting (then avoid standing on my toes), and go ahead with the other modifications.

One evening after work I picked up my son and headed to a local dealer to look at Explorer conversions for ideas on customizing. While I was there a beautiful black 2001 Savana caught my eye and the negotiations started. To my surprise I was able to work out a deal that, combined with the remaining insurance money, allowed me to drive away in a new van. Although it was not modified to my specifications, the only item really missing was a work surface. That sacrifice is more than made up for by the much more usable rear seat. I picked up a folding "desk" that works perfectly on the seat and I was set.

Since November I've made good use of the van, and this past weekend it made its debut as the new show HQ. Next up is West Virginia...

Meet the Mobile Show HQ II
Custom Glass
The Office
The Desk
13.3" Flexvision in Action