BY BETH ALLEN
Last month I got an email from Tony Palicio who had just started his own vannin’ related design business, Vanguard, so he could scrape up the moola to replace the engine in his “mean ol’ 84 Ford E250 XL.” His sweet girl is just waiting in a mechanic’s parking lot while Tony slings shirts and sells stickers to collect the ca$h to get her rollin’ down the road again. I took one look at his cool merch and suggested we do an interview for DON’T COME KNOCKIN’. I can tell this 2%-er really loves vans. Here’s to gettin’ that engine replaced sooner than later Tony. Interview by Beth February 2017.
Name, age, where do you live?
Tony, 37 and I currently live in Redmond, Oregon.
What kind of van do you have and how long have you had it?
I have an 84 Ford Econoline E250 XL, with an original 460, D3VE heads, Edelbrock 650 CFM carb and performance manifold, RV cam and a C6 tranny. Exhaust wise it has an old set of headers, some packs and dual exhaust. She’s loud, fast and can tow anything uphill but somehow I still get 10-12 MPG. I have had her for one year.
Does your van have a name?
I haven’t really settled on a name but I handpainted “See ya!” on the back door.
When did your van lust begin?
Vanning kind of came natural for me as I’ve always been a nomadic, fun loving rebel who believes the 70’s must have been the coolest era ever.
So you blew your engine! Ouch. When did that happen?
I had cracked my radiator going over a speedbump a little too fast. I made the mistake of using stopleak and waited a month or so to replace the radiator. I replaced the radiator and didn’t know my thermostat had gotten stuck and it overheated really bad while i stepped away.
Either the chemicals I used to clog the hole in the radiator messed it up pretty bad inside or I cracked the block from all the heat and pressure. Either way, i'm saving up to buy a new engine and I’m almost there.
So your girlfriend has a van too? What kind and how long has she had it?
She had an 83 Eco 150 with a straight six that was all pimped out inside. We lived in that thing for two years and drove all up and down the coast, into Joshua tree and back up it was named “Star dust.” That van was a frikking beast. Now she has an 88 E250 with a stock 351. It’s white with some sweet stock chrome. We’re gonna deck that one out as well.
You lived in a van for a couple years? Tell us about it.
Best damned thing ever. We would still be living in our vans if her mom wasn’t super cool. Seriously, she’s letting us stay with her so we can save up all of our money and get our business rollin’.
We lived in the van through summer and winter with our two pups, worked with the Parks Dept., National Forest and volunteered all over town to help people that need stuff more than we do. People never believed that we actually lived in our van because it was kept so organized and clean. We give a lot away.
What was the hardest thing about living in a van?
What was the best thing about living in a van?
Never being stranded. We were always home no matter what happened.
So you started Vanguard to sell T-shirts and stickers. How long have you been operating?
Two months. Seriously, we bought some crappy screenprinting stuff from Michaels, it went badly. I wanted to give up but we decided to buy some real supplies and it’s been pretty steady since then.
What designs have you made so far?
I have the classic 2% diamond with a 60-70’s font, A Hotwheels inspired logo that says “Vanner,” a Vans shoes inspired design that says “Vannin’” and two modern designs that look more like some Hydro 74 or OBEY type shit.
What designs have been most popular?
The 2% diamond and the Vanner/Hotwheels ones. I think people dig the simple iconic designs more. My most popular item is my Dodge Street van inspired “Sweet Van” decal. It looks identical to the original except the “Sweet” part. People are so used to seeing the original logo that they think mine says street. It’s cool. It’s for Fords, Dodges, Chevys or your Westy.
I have destroyed more shirts and spent more money than I have made but I’m happy and that’s all I care about. I would like to sell more shirts online but I’m also steadily making a ton to sell at the events coming up this season.
So this isn’t your 9-5 job, what do you do for a living?
Not much. I like to volunteer a lot and live simply. Last season I was a wildland firefighter and might do that again, but right now I’m a technical support agent for a big phone manufacturer.
Future plans for Vanguard Clothing?
I’m gonna be where the lights are shinin’ on me, riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo, getting cards and letters from people I don’t even know, and offers comin’ over the phone.
Are you in a van club – if so, what club?
International van appreciation society. Seriously though, no. No clubs.
What are your thoughts on the van scene today?
I dig it. I wasn’t alive in the 70’s so I can’t draw a comparison but I think it’s awesome. It’s a movement made for me.
Do you go to vannin’ events?
I’ve been to one. Never knew there were any until mid last year.
If you could have your dream van, skys the limit, what would it be?
One that has blinkers that work.
What tunes do you like to crank when driving your van?
Something tough that you would drink Whiskey and cruise around in the desert to. Three Dog Night, The Guess Who, Doobie Brothers, Gordon Lightfoot, Jim Croce. Sometimes I listen to Alabama and Conway Twitty and other times I’ll listen to something hard and electronic.
What are your favorite place(s) to take your van?
This little pub here in town called JC’s, I get to park right out front, pop open my barn doors and play music while people dance around, take pics or just shoot the shit. I also love the forest and desert so if I’m not at the bar or the auto parts store I’m tucked away some dope place rock climbing or slacklining.
Ford, Chevy or Dodge?
My first van was a Ford, so was my girls. So as of right now I’m digging those big body third gens, but I am hunting for a nice 70’s Dodge.
Ass, gas or grass?
I got numbered one covered all day, I don’t partake in the sticky icky so I guess I’ll choose gas.
Any other comments for DON’T COME KNOCKIN’?
Thank you for existing. I really appreciate the work you do for vanners and the culture.
Check out Vanguard on Big Cartel and facebook.
PICTURED ABOVE: (Top to Bottom) Tony hanging with his screenprinting stuff, Tony’s van inside and out, Vanner shirt, Sweet Van stickers.