The Mystery Machine is one of the most iconic American vehicles. Next to James Bonds Aston Martin and Smokey and the Bandits Pontiac Firebird, the van would go on to transport a bunch-a- meddlin’ kids through each one of the adventures. Often becoming their safe haven when the “monster of the week” showed up. Many have speculated as to the make and model of the van, but as it is a cartoon, it’s hard to put a definite answer on it.
VW Micro Bus: The Go-To Answer
This is what most people assume the bus is. It makes sense, too. With the ’60s and 70’s so far back in people’s minds, or for those who never experienced either of those decades (including myself), most people view the van as the standard hippie bus. With the flowery designs and pseudo psychedelic paint job, it does, in fact, give off the hippie vibe. Also, with the cabover approach, this signals that the engine is either right under the driver seat, or in the back (which in multiple iterations of the cartoon has the engine located there).
Ford Econoline (Mid 60’s)
The general shape is pretty consistent with most iterations of the van. With a flat-top rear wheelarch this essentially has the right style and shape, but not quite. The headlights are a different shape, as well as incorporating air intakes within each light. This is such an iconic feature, that if this was the van of choice, they would have incorporated it somewhere in the drawings.
This van has the general shape (but what van for the time didn’t have it?). The headlights are in the right place and are the right shape, too. Also, the use of a roof rack is similar. Unfortunately, the headlight size is way too big and the “character lines” were a distinctive feature of the A100 where the mystery machine was relatively smooth.
Chevy Sportvan: Closest To The Mystery Machine
The Chevy Sports Van is probably the closest one to the actual Mystery Machine. Where the van the gang drives in is only imaginary (in that its a cartoon), the Chevy Sportvan has the closest resemblance to it. From the right sized headlights to the front-mounted spare wheel, this guy takes the cake.
The Mystery Machine is an Icon
With countless episodes and re-iterations of the show, the Mystery Machine has had a couple of different forms, all keeping the basic shape and dimensions relative. The van has been in service for over 50 years and has helped to boost the Van craze for each generation. Now, if only we could figure out what the gang was up to in the back.