A Mockup of the Show Headquarters
And so it begins, the great experiment...

Phase I, The Hunt

After the 1999 POCI National Convention I began the preliminary plans for the 2000 event in Grand Rapids, Michigan. With its relatively close location, and after the complicated logistics encountered when I put on the display in Buffalo, my first thought was to drive to the next show instead of fly. This was the catalyst that led to my most recent scheme, a customized van for my daytime job that would double nicely as a Classical Pontiac show headquarters.

My choices were thankfully limited as any vehicle would naturally have to be a Pontiac or GMC. In the back of my mind I wanted to buy something that could tow The Judge so that someday I could attend a show and have not only a display but my car as there well. Right away this eliminated the Pontiac Montana as its maximum tow rating is 3,500 pounds, about the same as The Judge itself. It was not really in the running anyway as I was looking for a cargo van in order to use magnetic signs on the outside and also so I could design an interior exactly suited to my needs.

My next choice was the fullsize Savana van. A quick trip to the nearest GMC dealer was depressing as a Savana outfitted as I wanted was several thousand dollars over my budget. Although I was looking at a cargo van I still wanted to have the creature comforts of power windows, locks, etc. Further upping the price for the fullsize van was the requirement of the larger V8 to get the tow capacity for the (unlikely) towing of The Judge.

Just before I mentally scrapped the whole idea I picked up a brochure on the Safari van and discovered it was capable of towing 6,000 pounds! While that rating does not provide much cushion, my research had discovered that even the Savana couldn't tow much more short of getting 4.10 gears or opting for the 7.4 litre V8. As I would only rarely if ever tow a car I was satisfied. For the great majority of my driving the choice was perfect. Dovetailed between the cumbersome fullsize van and the front wheel drive unit body minivans the Safari (Astro for Chevrolet) would make a nice daily driver providing the space I needed, the options I wanted, and the capability that sealed the deal.

While it would seem that the hunt was over, it turned out the choice was only partially made. As I worked with the salesman to spec out my van I discovered that a few options that would make the vehicle much nicer day to day were not available on the commercial cargo van. On top of that the price, while not too high, ended up outrageously close to the passenger version of the van with a full interior! Factoring in the planned additions of middle seats, flooring, and some manner of cabinet made the commercial van higher in price. Great, now what?

Of course everyone I talked to agreed the passenger van was the practical answer (they think I'm nuts anyway), and I had to admit that the lack of those options would make the van less desirable to me, but I've always wanted to have a purpose-built vehicle and I just couldn't decide. By a fluke I happened to go to a different dealer to kill some time and have them price a 2000 cargo van (everything previous had been a 1999) when the salesman started asking if I wanted this, that, and the other option - none of which were supposed to be available on the cargo van. After some research it turned out that GMC also builds a cargo van that is intended for conversions, problem solved!

After the dust on the order computer settled it turned out that this van with several more options was hundreds of dollars cheaper than the commercial cargo van. It is delivered with only a temporary driver seat which is better because then all of the seating will match when I have it installed. In addition it has some other features making it the perfect choice: rear seatbelt anchors, higher gross vehicle weight rating, and vents for the rear. Here's a wish list for the interior:

  • Four individual seats
  • Cabinet/work surface
  • DC to AC invertor
  • Ethernet hub and several jacks
  • Enhanced audio
  • LCD monitor
  • TV tuner
  • VCP or VCR

    I will probably start by having the flooring and seats installed, and then based on the resulting space design the cabinet, lighting, and wiring. As I have the time, inclination, and money I will add to it, meaning it may be quite awhile before I make it through my list!

    At this point I'm agonizing over the plans for the interior while waiting for word that the order has gone through. Until I get a confirmation I'm still apprehensive that perhaps GMC won't deliver a conversion cargo van to an individual...