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Thirty-five years later, there’s no van cooler than the A-Team’s GMC Vandura

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Image via IMCDB.

Yeah, the scripts were repetitive, the violence cartoonish, and the continuity near-nonexistent. So what, we children of the Eighties tuned into The A-Team every week for one thing only: to see B.A. Baracus’ red-striped GMC in action, and the show never disappointed, which is why 35 years after the show debuted, we’re still painting red diagonal stripes over any black vehicle we can find.

Sure, there were plenty of other eye-catching cars filling screens at roughly the same time: KITT, the heavily modified Trans-Am; the problematically named (and roofed) General Lee; and Doc Brown’s time-traveling De Lorean. But the one vehicle that made the most sense, for a bunch of ex-military guys hauling weapons and equipment of various sorts for their weekly action-packed adventures, was a big black windowless van with a pushbar and a dozen foglamps.

(Nevermind the fact that the unique red stripe breaking up the two-tone grey-over-black paint made zero sense for a bunch of ex-military guys on the run from a procession of colonels and generals from the military police. We got lunchboxes and action figure sets to sell to the kids!)

The van and the show debuted in January 1983 and, though it purported to depict “a crack commando unit (that) was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit” and subsequently escaped to become soldiers of fortune, the The A-Team more or less resembled an updated version of Route 66, with the main characters wandering the country to offer their assistance to different people in tough situations week after week.

According to Jerry Garrett’s interview with Craig Baxley, a stunt coordinator and director who worked on The A-Team, GMC agreed to supply a small fleet of Vanduras for the show: two for the first unit (hero scenes) and six for the second unit (stunt scenes). The show’s many action scenes led the second unit to dress up at least a couple Ford and Chevrolet vans as stunt stand-ins, and the production crews apparently put in little time making the actual GMC vans consistent throughout the series: The van gained or lost a sunroof from scene to scene; license plate numbers sometimes didn’t match front to rear; and keeping up with minor detail changes from episode to episode makes counting hubcaps in Bullitt seem like kid’s play.

All told, the production crew destroyed four vans over the series’s 98 episodes and was left with just the two first-unit vans and one second-unit van by the end of the series, Baxley said.

Photo by the author.

Tracking those three vans down seems to be less a priority for fans of the van than building their own replicas or cheap tributes to B.A. Baracus’ ride. After all, it’s far more cost-effective to scrounge up a mid-Eighties G-series van than it is to procure a 1969 Dodge Charger or De Lorean DMC-12, and if the production staff didn’t sweat the details, then there’s no real reason to worry about finding the exact brand of spoiler for a replica.

As for the 2010 movie, it started off strong, but lost my interest after they dropped a rooftop air-conditioning unit on the van in the freaking opening credits.