Photos courtesy Barris.com and Barrett-Jackson.
Solar panels? Check. Swanky interior with a rotating bed? Check. Its own logo? Check. In fact, the Super Van’s probably got more unique features than most vehicles — including its status as a George Barris-designed movie vehicle — which should help it stand out when crossing the block later this month.
Built sometime in the late 1960s from a 1966 Dodge A-108 Sportsman as the Love Machine — likely for AMT to produce a model kit version — the van featured an entirely custom body almost symmetrical front-to-rear with a pair of giant arches that reportedly featured built-in roll bars. The windshield lifted up in one piece, as did one of the vast side windows, and Barris reportedly covered the roof in operable solar panels.
A 318-cu.in. V-8 and three-speed manual transmission provided the go, but Barris put far more effort into the interior of the van, fitting it with the aforementioned rotating circular bed, a U-shaped sofa, a color television, a French-style telephone, a tape recorder, crystal chandelier and copious amounts of plush carpeting. As originally finished, Barris had painted the Love Machine a pearlescent burnt orange and pasted a couple of Dodge emblems on it; Dodge apparently picked up on the van and issued a couple of press photos of it, but otherwise it seemed fated to a couple of years on the show circuit and then a couple of decades of storage.
At least, that is, until the van craze of the Seventies picked up. Barris, ever the opportunist, managed to get the Love Machine cast as the lead vehicle in the 1977 vansploitation flick SuperVan. To do so, he simply gave the Love Machine a repaint and redid the interior with even deeper plush carpeting. Though technically known as Vandora in the movie, the Super Van moniker stuck, thanks to Barris’s promotional efforts.
Nor would SuperVan be the van’s only screen appearance. It also showed up in the 1986 made-for-TV movie Condor, repainted gold and black; then in 1989’s Back to the Future II as a Hill Valley Transit bus, painted green; in the 1990 movie Solar Crisis, painted white; and then on an episode of the 1990s TV show SeaQuest DSV, still painted white. Then, in about 2003, the Guild of Automotive Restorers began a restoration on the van that brought it back to its Super Van configuration.