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Sunday, December 27, 2015

1:24 GMC Savana work van, Brookfield Chevy Express van, and Johnny Lightning and Maisto Chevy and GMC vans





This was a cool find at a flea market back in August: for two bucks I got an all-plastic GMC Savana utility van that was a bit greasy and needed some TLC.  After cleaning and fixing it up and trying out the lights the van works and it is neat!  Like the Hess trucks this was a promo model that was made for various corporations as long as they were geared toward utilities work.  So I also decided to bring out a few other variants of the Chevy Express and GMC Savana work vans from a few other diecast manufacturers.




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After years of minor changes the Chevy and GMC vans finally got the much-needed redo in 1996 with all-new styling and an all-new platform to replace the previous-generation which was not changed since the 1970's.  The Chevy was now called the Express and the GMC version called the Savana; both are still called that today and are now the only true American V8 vans on the market today.  The styling was smoother with Chevy Truck front grille with either split headlights or the single halogen beam on the work truck versions.  The rear has taillights mounted high on the pillar, thus allowing the panel doors to swing 180 degrees open (this was revolutionary before the magnetic attached 270 degree doors arrived on the Sprinter later on).  The interior has a cleaner dash that looks just like the rest of the GM truck line and has room for the required 1998 mandatory passenger airbag.  The engine's were the same as the GM trucks; in 2000 they switched to the new LS powerplants that came in the 1999 Chevy Silverado.  Also included was diesel engines and chassis cabs as well.  In 2003 the GM vans gained driver's side rear sliding or panel doors for more access to the rear seats or cargo areas, lift-up panel windows on the panel vans to access the tool shelf inside, and four-wheel drive system which was more like a full-time AWD system instead of a part-time transfer case like the Quigley custom 4x4 vans.  The hood was extended further to aid in better crash protection with new front sheetmetal and lights, and in 2009 the vans gained a six-speed automatic.




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The lighted GMC van

This GMC van, which i'm declaring at 1:24 scale, is actually a bit bigger than it is.  It is all-plastic, like the Hess trucks, with detailed bodylines.  The front has a gray grille with GMC logo in red, clear headlights, and a lower bumper that seems to be pushed in a little bit.  The front license plate area was broken off so I used electrical tape to cover the holes and make it seem like it has a front plate area.  On the sides the GMC badges on the doors was nice so I added details to them, as well as the center caps to the plain-white wheels to give it a realistic look.  The driver's side mirror was missing so I had to fabricate a custom mirror from a Ford truck, attach it to a post at a 90 degree angle and painted black to match the other one.  It's not pretty but at least it fills in the void.





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The labels on the sides identify a unique corporation to which the van is modeled for; in this case this one was modeled for the McCue corporation, a security system installation with a nice map of a building and the layout of the security system.  At the rear the panel doors had nice details but needed some color to which I added, as well as the window trim at the front.  The bumper has reflector lights, but they are not tied in with the lighting system (they are reflector lights on the actual truck.  The doors swing wide open to a cargo area that is 50% useable and can fit one 1:64 diecast car horizontally.  The center of the cargo area houses a bank with glass (uh, plastic) walls, a slot on the roof, and a slot on the base to access the coins: it requires the removal of the battery cover, the three AA batteries, and then another cover with a flathead screwdriver to access the bank inside.



The base offers some details to which I added the exhaust details and extended the exhaust to exit at the proper location at the rear.  There is also a switch to control the lights and some odd white clip at the front (have no idea what it is used for).  The interior has seating for two and a detailed dashboard, though the dashboard seems a bit 'toonish compared to the real truck.  The roof rack has two detailed ladders depending on the height of the intended building, with the bank slot and rear strobe light between the two ladders.  Finally, the left taillight at the rear was missing, so I fabricated a clear plastic cover and then used a red sharpie to give it the red tint.  It was tricky but it works, despite the door rubbing on the lens a little.  Now for the light show:  there are two settings for the lights.  Stage 1 is where the front headlights, signal lights, rear taillights, third brake light, and strangely the interior lights up, no blinking involved (horray!).  Stage 2 is the same as Stage 1 except the strobe light also comes on and blinks.  Here's the two modes in action:





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Brookfield 1:24 Chevy Express Van

For those who want a true metal diecast version of the GM vans  look no further than the Brookfield 1:24 Chevy Express van.  Brookfield is known more for plastic promo cars from Chrysler in the mid-1990's, yet they managed to pull off this diecast van as a promo for the new 1996 Chevy Express van line.  I found this at a vendor years ago located far in the back; for $20 bucks it was a nice buy for a truck that had a nice clean white look with six out of the seven General Motors brand logo's under the Fleet Operations name on the rear panels.  Turns out why it was in the back was the fact the left-side exterior mirror was broken off and missing.  Still, it was a nice casting so I left it as is until ten years ago when I fabricated a mirror from a 1993 Dodge Viper, turned 90 degrees for the appropriate look.  Compared to the GMC van with lights it was a natural fit compared to the original passenger-side mirror.






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The front has the chrome grille with separate headlight inserts and a chrome bumper.  The sides have already-added trim details and the logos are already labeled instead of stamped on.  The steel wheels have the correct look and black center caps with rubber tires.  Even though this truck has visible windows the passenger-side and rear panel doors are blacked out and painted gray.  The taillights are painted red, the lower bumper chrome and dark gray, and the correct details already added (no additional touches required).  Open the panel doors to see the detailed inner door handles and a large cargo area that also has a nice touch: a rubber beige floor.  This cargo area can carry, i guess, four 1:64 diecast vehicles, two on top of the lower two.  The front of the cab has the detailed dashboard that looks much more accurate than the GMC lighted van.  As is the base below that features the frame with lower engine and drivetrain details, front lower A-arm suspension and live rear axle with leaf springs, and a detailed spare tire.  I remember seeing more at the defunct Kay-Bee Toys outlet in 1999 with standard colors including a metallic blue, then after that never seen them again.  It's a nice casting with lots of correct details and a functional cargo area.



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Maisto Chevy Express and Johnny Lightning GMC Savana panel vans

On the 1:64 scale side two makers made the GM vans.  The Chevy version was made by Maisto in 1999 and uses the same front-end like the Brookfield version.  The headlights are more detailed here and also includes a front plate area.  This dark gray version is the only clean version of the Maisto Express that you can find as most of them usually had a company logo across the sides.  The rear has taillights that are pinched thin and a detailed bumper area.  Per the usual Maisto's do not have interior's and the base uses the same sloppy drivetrain pipes as in other Maisto 1:64 trucks at the time.




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The unusual one is a GMC Savana cargo van from Johnny Lightning.  JL started getting into the truck business with Truckin' USA series in 1998, then the 1997 Chevy Tahoe as the first SUV.  The sole panel van before the '70's van series arrived years later was this 2000 GMC Savana cargo van.  Again, most of them had corporate logo's spashed across, including the first version done for the Monopoly series with a matching game token), this version was the only clean version released.  The front has a silver grille with GMC logo's and headlights that are deep recessed and a silver bumper.  The sides have the similar panel look as the other two mentioned above, with the rear having detailed taillights, bumper, and blacked-out metal windows with painted windows in dark gray.  Note the base tab support for the rear slotted in the rear plate area in the rear bumper.  The base has simple drivetrain and frame details, while the chrome wheels are the same stock steelies, or you can go for the cool Craiger mags on the Electric Company Monopoly version.  After a few variants this van disappeared rather quickly.  Could it possibly return in the resurrected JL line next year? Who knows.



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