BY BETH ALLEN
A couple of years ago I went to a van event down south, solo. It was "Dazed and Confused #10" put on by the Wheels of Confusion van club from Huntington Beach. As I rolled around looking for a spot to park my wheels for the weekend, a crew of the California Street Vanners shouted out for me to join them. They took me under their wing and made me feel welcome. I had a great time hangin’ out with their small crew (Jim, Rory, Zamanta, you rule!) and totally bonded with them. My kind of vanners! I was familiar with them from seeing their van cruise nights posted online. I have always wanted to go to one but haven’t made it down south for one yet (I live in San Francisco). Gotta add that to my TO DO bucket list. Here's an inside scoop on the California Street Vans, their awesome cruise nights and insights into vanning in the year 2016.
Interview February 2016 with California Street Vans president, Jim Bacchi. His vans include a 1978 Dodge B200 Long Wheelbase, and 1983 Dodge Ram Shorty.
How long has California Street Vans been around?
Since 2013, though we were formerly the LA chapter of Wheels of Confusion from 2012 - 2013.
A lot of names were being thrown around. Jerry Whitworth suggested ‘California Vans’, for the obvious reason, but some less obvious ones as well.
I suggested adding ‘Street’ to the name, as Street Van is really another term for a custom van, as opposed to just merely a plain van, also as a tribute to the Dodge Street Van. Probably 80% of the club drive Dodge B Vans (none of them are actual Street Vans).
Where are most of your members located?
Though we say Los Angeles, members are from LA county, Orange County, Inland Empire, High Desert area and Ventura County... LA is the middle point for all of us.
How many members do you currently have?
We have about 20 local members, and about six worldwide members... Sweden, England, Norway, and areas outside the greater Los Angeles Area.
How many vans does this mean? Figure some members might have more than one set o’ wheels!?
A few of us have more than one, but mostly everyone has one van.
What does it take to be a ‘California Street Vanner?’
A running van, and a desire to be in the club. Show up to one meeting and one event, express a desire to join, then we vote. We don’t have a crazy vetting process, just be cool, and DBAJ….oh, and $60 a year dues.
Do you get a lot of prospects?
Locally we pick up a new member every other month or so. We get a lot of interest worldwide, which is why we started our CSV Worldwide division, because people kept asking if they could be in the club and put the logo in their window. Worldwide members pay a one time fee of $60, which gets them a window decal, official club shirt, and another smaller wind wing sticker. Worldwide members don’t get voting rights, as that is reserved for people who can physically attend meetings. Our international presence has grown, and it’s cool to see people in other countries joining up and representing CSV around the world.
How often does the club meet?
We try to meet once a month, and if there are more time sensitive issues that need to be discussed, we use Facebook Messenger and make group decisions there.
Tell me about your cruise events, I know you have put on at least a few.
Well, our most famous one is the So-Cal Slow Ride, which is a one day caravan cruise. That cruise pre-dates the club as I came up with the idea when I was still in Wheels of Confusion Huntington Beach chapter, back at the end of 2011. I’d met Rory Fontana, and Jerry Whitworth only a few weeks prior, and told Rory about the idea, made up a flyer, we all promoted it, and two weeks later we had 25 vans caravanning through Palos Verdes.
How many vans usually show up for the cruises?
Anywhere from 15 to 70 depending on the cruise. 70 was our largest turnout.
What was the most memorable California Street Van cruises and why?
The first Slow Ride is the most memorable for me, tho’ the time we had 70 vans show up, on a rainy day, no less, was pretty damn cool too.
Have you put on any other vannin’ events?
We did a weekender run out in the Mojave Desert called ‘Do It in the Desert’. A bunch of us have minibikes, which we had a blast riding around (and crashing!).
Any big plans for California Street Vans?
Nothing too big, we keep pretty busy just doing what we do.
Does your club roll to car shows or anything like that?
Occasionally we do a car show, but the general consensus amongst most of us is, paying $30 or $40 to sit in a parking lot with your van all day is kinda lame. I mean, we’ve done them, and it’s ok, but we’d rather be out boogieing around or camping.
Ever rolled as a club to any big van events like the Nationals?
Never been to a Nats, but we did go to the 40th anniversary of the West Coast Nats a few years ago.
Have any other clubs you hang with?
Our brothers from another mother are the Vandits, an original club from back in the day. One of whom, Randy York, joined us and became our treasurer.
What do you think about the current van ‘scene’ today?
Well, there wasn’t that much of a scene locally before we started doing the Slow-Rides. Other than the few once a year weekender events and car shows, there wasn’t much happening Van-wise, so I’m proud of the work that CSV has done over the past 3 years to really ignite things. When Jim Thompson joined the club, he started our Instagram account, and has blown it up to about 5,000 followers, which really accelerated things (he is now vice president) , and between that and our Facebook pages. California Street Vans, Vans Rule, and Vans Only, we’ve really made a big presence online, which is of course how we get people out on the streets with their vans.
Have any words for aspiring vanners?
Van-wise – do your own thing. Don’t get hung too up on what other people deem ‘cool’ or ‘rare’ or ‘period correct’ or whatever. Facebook and Instagram are full of nazis with their opinions about that shit. “71-77”, “Early”, “no window, shorty” …. this is all shit I hear people go on and on about when they’re looking for a van... they get really hung up on it, and it’s retarded. I’ve seen super cool late 80s vans that you’d think were late 70s because of the way it was done up. The body styles in in Dodge and Chevy didn’t change that much from 71 to the early 90s. Put a nice set of wheels on there, and sometimes that’s enough to set it straight, and get it looking cool.
How can vanners find you?
Any other comments for DON’T COME KNOCKIN’?
If you’re in Southern California, hit us up. Roll out to one of our events, and if you do, introduce yourselves, we like meeting new people.
Check out this cool video by the Wall Street Journal on Jim and his van.
PICTURED ABOVE: Crusie photos by James Exley 2015.