Curbside Classic: 1968 Chevrolet Chevy Van 90 – Just The Thing For A Snowy Day

We don’t see snow in Eugene very often, but that did happen on December 27th, when we measured a good six inches at our house. It tends not to stick around too long, as these shots from the 28th attest.

We also don’t see these old-school Chevy vans very much either, although I have shot a few over the years. It’s been a while, and finding one in the snow was a treat, a late Christmas present.

The title is a bit stale; yes, these front heavy RWD vans weren’t exactly the greatest in the snow, but somehow folks managed to make it work, with a set of snow tires on the back and a couple of sand bags, concrete blocks or just a few friends to sit back there. And they do make a cozy home on a snowy day in a pinch.

The Chevy Van (and its stablemate, the GMC Handi-Van) arrived in 1964, to replace the ill-fated Corvan/Greenbrier. Now those were the ultimate snow-mobiles, with that heavy Corvair six out back. All-too obviously, these replacements were playing faithfully from the Ford Econoline playbook, which dominated the market for compact vans since its arrival in 1961. The one deviation was its standard 90 hp 153 cubic inch four; all the Econolines had sixes.

In 1967, these GM van twins got a bit of updating, enough so they’re called gen2 Chevy Vans. The front end was redesigned a bit, to eliminate that overly flat look, with the front bulging out a bit.

Also, a stretched 108″ wheelbase version, appropriately called the Chevy Van 108 or Sportvan 108, joined the 90″ wheelbase original.Dodge did the same thing to its A90, with the lwb A108.

This was a better way to stretch one of these than what Ford had done with its Supervan, adding a long tail behind the rear axle.

Just one year later, Ford trumped both GM and Dodge with its all-new gen2 Econoline, which now had the engine in front, and was a bigger, wider van all-round. This was the new Econoline playbook, one that GM and Dodge would take up with their new vans in 1971.

GM and Dodge would have to make do with vans that suddenly looked old fashioned. Oh well; they managed to sell them well enough.

The 153 four had given its coarse goodbyes by then, and the standard mill was the 230 six. Optional was the slightly bigger 250 six and the 307 V8, which replaced the 283 in 1969. Transmission was the typical three speed column shifted manual or the optional Powerglide, which was thankfully replaced by the three-speed THM-350 in 1969.

Accommodations for the driver and passenger were spartan, to say the least. A Custom Cab improved things…slightly, at least breaking up that monotonous and ubiquitous Chevy “Fawn Beige” interior. Or whatever it was called.

This veteran is sporting some fine patina, and a dashingly raked custom rear window, the tip off that this van was used to haul a shag rug lined interior and not bundles of newspaper. Ah, the stories that little window could tell…and the stories are still being made, as there was evidence of someone inhabiting this one, hence the lack of interior shots. I can just imagine it. Hopefully they were staying warm.

Since I couldn’t shoot the interior, I did spend a bit more digital film on its exterior. I can’t exactly account for the various shades seen here.

The owner-occupant’s bicycle is just peeking out behind the far side. That’s another vehicle with less than stellar capabilities in the snow; it was a good to to stay inside, including one’s Chevy Van 90.


Related reading:

Corvair Greenbrier

1965 GMC Handi-Van (gen1)

1961-1967 Ford Econoline

1969 Chevy Sportsvan 108