Mystery Machine Debate
Many people have wondered, or debated, what kind of van the Mystery Machine actually was. The fact is that it was not any particular brand of van. The Mystery Machine was make believe and comparisons to real vans is as useless as trying to figure out what strain of Great Dane is more likely to speak English. With that said, let me continue to defend why my van makes a plausible Mystery Machine. The most common perception is that the Mystery Machine was a Volkswagen. The Mystery Machine sputters like a Volkswagen and the spare tire mounted on the front is a Volkswagen characteristic. In one episode, the gang has engine trouble and goes around back to open the hood of the rear-engined Mystery Machine. However, this is conflicting when they're engine trouble happens to be that the engine is overheating and out of water. The Volkswagen and Corvair are the most likely rear-engined vans of that period, and both are air-cooled, not water-cooled. The overall body shape of the Mystery Machine does not favor the petite, rounded features of a Volkswagen as much as it does the more angular shapes shared by Ford, Chevy, and Dodge vans of 1960s. When I began looking for vans, I wanted a Ford, because I liked their styling and was familiar with their drivetrain. There's no doubt that old Volkswagens are cool, but I didn't think my chances of finding a windowless VW were very good. I now know they are out there, but I haven't seen them. When I saw pictures of the Chevy, I thought it was ugly, but when I climbed inside, I fell in love with it. I knew it would make a perfect Mystery Machine. The original side cargo doors had windows. I was fortunate enough to find a pair of windowless doors in a junk yard. They would be essential for completing the graphics on both sides of the van. In the cartoon, the Mystery Machine usually doesn't have rear windows. I left the rear windows in my van to make it easier and safer to drive. The rear windows don't really affect the graphic design on the van, so it worked out well. I ordered a mounting kit to mount the spare tire on the front and traded for a spare tire cover on which to paint a big red flower. I ordered smooth, stainless steel wheelcovers on which more red flowers were painted. I found a set of roof racks to match those of the real Mystery Machine. I even relocated the license plate from a rear door to the center of the rear bumper in order to more closely match the real Mystery Machine.
I doubt you'll find a more accurate replica of the Mystery Machine. I've seen some noble efforts on 1970s or 80s model Dodge and Ford Vans. To me, if it's not the old style van where the driver sits on top of the front wheels with the engine behind you, you've missed the mark. By the way, Scooby and the gang premiered in 1969, so my 1968 van is of appropriate vintage. I have seen one built from the same type of Chevy Van I used, but they did not pay nearly as much attention to the graphics. The Cartoon Network has created the official Mystery Machine out of a Chevy Astro Van. The artwork, of course is fantastic, but their choice of vans is really sad. They've even changed the new cartoons to look like their minivan instead of the great American hippie-mobile it used to be.
Whenever you got a glimpse of the inside of the Mystery Machine in the old cartoons, you didn't see much. The inside consisted of plain, black or gray cube-shaped seats with a plain, black or gray background behind the characters. The interior of my van is where I got to take creative license. For photos and descriptions read on under "Inside the party van".
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