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Monday, November 24, 2014

Greenlight 1977 Chevy G20 Van and Matchbox Chevy Van

Nothing say's the '70's like the Big 3 American van's.  In the next section i'll show the three from Johnny Lightning, but this one will focus on the newest van, the 1977 Chevy G20 Van from Greenlight in an attractive, but simple police suit, and i'll compare it to the long-serving Chevy Van from Matchbox in two- and four-wheel drive modes.

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Shaggin' Bowtie

There was a major change going on for work vans in the US at the start of the 1970's:  In the 1960's the van's like Econoline, A100, and Greenbiar Sportwagon all were vans designed to take on the VW Bus with it's full-width boxy design to accept many forms of cargo, while the engine either saddles between the front passenger's or in the rear.  The design started to seem uncomfortable after a while, not to mention the lack of safety protection for front occupants, so in the 1970's the engine's were all relocated to the front and based on their full-size truck counterparts, giving a bit more safety cushion and room for passengers in the front.  The design, combined with the trucks being exempt from the new mandated emission standards for cars, started a new culture for the van's no one ever though would be possible:  Shaggin' Wagon's!

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The new Chevy Van was introduced in the late 1960's to replace the rear-engine Corvair predecessor with a more formal look.  This design shown was introduced in 1971 and would eventually share some of the styling with the 1973 GM Full-Size trucks.  The front has round headlights (later replaced by rectangular units) and an egg-crate grille with bowtie emblem.  The rear has square taillights with panel doors.  There are short and long-wheelbase versions; the former looks a bit more pudgier than the long-wheelbase version.  Both can be had with either a sliding or panel passenger-side door.  The interior is nicely laid-out with controls aimed for the driver, and GM managed to get as many cubbie holes as possible with the engine cover for plenty of storage.  The main engine would be the 5.7L V8 that produced 190 hp. through a 4-speed automatic.  The frame is typical body-on-frame with front control arm suspension and rear live axle with leaf springs.  There was two locations for the gas tank:  either at the rear or on the inner-left side of the frame.  This body-style would go for a long time, finally replaced in 1996 with the all-new Chevy Express and GMC Savanna.

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Greenlight may need some work to do

I was (and most others) were not impressed with the initial introduction of the Chevy Van in the Greenlight line.  It was at the low brow point for Greenlight, and adding custom aftermarket wheels didn't help either.  Eventually the Van would grow into it's own shell, yet it still needs some fine-tuning to do.  The black/white San Francisco Police deco is nice and contemporary with badges on the front and rear doors, side marker lights, and Chevy Van badges to complement the paint.  The wheels are hubcaps that I don't know where Greenlight got those from, but they look factory-stock!  The front grille is nicely-done, as does the deep-rich red taillights.  Then there's the problems:  The front bumper is attached a bit crooked on my example, and where on earth's the passenger sliding door and rear panel door handles!?!?!?!  Well, I solved it with a simple Sharpie mark in silver to give it the finished look.

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The interior is nicely-done, if bare, with empty back area and the correct dash layout, but the steering wheel is improperly done, looking more like a steering wheel off a city bus!  This part has to be the worst mistake on this casting; thank goodness the interior is so black you'll barely notice!  The metal base shows the correct frame details, but some of the drivetrain parts seemed stretched and the exhaust exits without a trace after the rear axle.  This casting is not that bad as long as it's formatted in a deco similar to this police version.

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Long-serving Matchbox

This Matchbox casting has been in production since the late '70's.  The first version was a two-wheel drive version without an interior with metal base featuring aide pipes, a slightly-raked rear-end, and port holes on the rear quarter panels joining the sunroofs on the top of the roof.  The details are pretty exact on a long-wheelbase model, flared fenders, and a rear plate that has letters and numbers stamped in.  Next was the 4x4 van that featured a new base with raised lift and off-road tires to give the van an all-around purpose.  It was in production longer than the two-wheel drive version, seeing countless variations and wheel changes, including the Ice Cream Truck of 1999 and the Matchbox logo version of 2006.  One thing to note about the Ice Cream Truck:  This was one of five castings in 1999 to merge into the 1-100 from the 1998 Sound Speeders series.  The Missile Tank and UFO ship made it, but the Ford F-350 Utility Truck, Ice Cream Truck, and a Tow Truck never made it, instead replaced by the Jeep Cherokee, Chevy 4x4 Van, and Camaro Z28 Police.

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In 2006 the Van got an update with more detailed exterior, a finely-detailed base with connections for the side exhaust, and an interior.  The latter has a bonus of showing off a shaggin' bed in the back!  While this seems ideal for the 2006 release in orange with side stripe in a similar setup to the original Chevy Van that Matchbox had back in the Lesney days, it seems out-of-place on a construction panel like the 2007 in the City Works deco and blacked-out wheels.  You can see how fine the lettering and placement of the decals are; this is one of my favorite variations of the Chevy Van by far for Matchbox.  Let's hope Matchbox gets some more use out of this Van in the future, especially in outfits like the orange and yellow City versions shown.  As for Greenlight, fix some changes and keep the original look coming (and the custom versions, and try to keep both separated) and you'll have another nice Chevy Van as well.

Update 5/27/17:  What could possibly be the coolest variation of the Greenlight Chevy Van is the Yenko parts delivery truck from the recent Blue Collar release.  Done in blue it features the fame side hockey stripes with Yenko/SC, hood stripe, Yenko repair and service badges on the sides and rear panel door, Pennsylvania plates and the location of the dealership on the front doors, a white interior, and to top it off the 5-spoke mag wheels with white stripe rubber tires.  This Yenko service van would look right at home alongside some recent Yenko castings, especially those from Greenlight.

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