CC Capsule: 1969 Chevrolet Sportvan 108 – Customized GM SUVs; Then And More Recently

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OK, before anyone gets too excited, I’m using the term “SUV” loosely here. But then vans in the sixties, especially one optimistically called “Sportvan” did somewhat fulfill the role of modern SUVs. And it’s not exactly like this Denali is going to be going boulder hopping this weekend. Anyway, I found this pairing to be worthy of a few shots; well, the Sportvan, anyway. Let’s take a closer look at it.

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This long-wheelbase (108″) Sportsvan is of that generation of American vans that Solid axles on both ends suspended by leaf springs, surrounded by a big steel box with windows and a hole in the floor for the engine. The basics…

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The engine between the front seats made a nice butt-warmer for the third passenger, should someone be that eager or desperate. In the summer, it made for a great deal of discomfort. Air conditioning? Open the window. Or carry a spray bottle of water to mist into the breeze from the windows, for a bit of extra effect (my GF used to keep one in my similar Dodge A100 van for that reason).

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The standard wheelbase on these Chevys and Dodges was 90″, and they rode like a cart. The extra 18″ on the extended ones made for a substantially improved ride; a great help if someone in the back is trying to light a pipe or something. The traction on the lwb versions was a bit better than the tire-spinning or locked-rear brake swb jobs, but this owner has enhanced the unfavorable weight distribution with a big heavy bumper, as well as a spare tire and gas tank. Good call.

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This van is a common sight around town, the only one of its kind. I wish I could say that about the Denali.

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