As I was out running errands in my faux Touring Sedan yesterday afternoon, I happened upon this fleet survivor.
When I saw this late ’80s Chevy van pass me by, I immediately hopped out of the turn lane and gave chase (passed on the right indeed!). It looks remarkably clean and straight considering its age/purpose – and like every true CC, it’s still out there earning its keep.
The van belongs to Federated Cooperatives, an organization formed out of the merger of umpteen smaller farmer co-ops over the years, and a force to be reckoned with here in Minnesota. They operate a sizable fleet, and they’re no stranger to keeping the old stuff running. This van’s red color tells us it belongs to their propane division. With temperatures beginning to stay below freezing over the past week, I’d bet its driver is being kept busy (natural gas is unavailable outside city limits, so many folks around here heat with propane).
Federated mostly runs Chevy pickups for their light-duty needs nowadays. But there was a time when these vans – and the yellow/white GMCs of their competition – were iconic locally. Circa 1990, you couldn’t make it through a typical day without seeing at least one. But as the years wore on, most of these vans got retired. And it wasn’t just the gas delivery business. Just about every tradesman in the area had a G-Van in the nineties, and many companies picked their favorite factory paint color and made it synonymous with their brand.
It’s not easy to get good pictures of moving vehicles in traffic, especially when armed with only a cell phone. But I did manage to capture a peek of the front end. Sealed beams over parking lights… the typical fleet grille of the late ’80s. If I had to take a guess, I’d say 1988 or 89.
With Express and Savana vans having replaced most of the remaining G-series rigs over the past decade, and with so many plain-Jane fleet vehicles getting crushed without a thought to the future, vans like this one are quickly disappearing. But for those few that are still holding up their end, still doing the jobs they were chosen for two or even three decades ago – we salute you!
In another twenty years, children likely won’t believe me if I tell them such vehicles once roamed our highways by the score. And, much like today’s youngsters think every VW Transporter in the world was an art car and every Camaro had hood stripes and a hot V8, they might not even believe that such vans could be had without shag carpeting and porthole windows. Like so many things, it’s a good time to save one while you can.