Creep Van To Street Van: Project Heavy Metal – A Mini-Series: Part 3

In Part 2 of our Project Heavy Metal mini-series, we covered how I backdated our 1993 Chevy G20 Van with a ’71-’77 Chevy Van front end – complete with grill, bumper, headlights, and turn signals. It totally changed the look of our creeper van into a classic. Unfortunately, it was still lacking something…It was hard to put my finger on it, but the ’90s graphics just weren’t matching up to the classic van grill.

So, when it came time to add some much-needed attitude to our project, we knew the front end would only go so far. There were things we needed to address to really set it off and take it from crusty creep to fabulous freak.

As I mentioned, the graphics were really holding the retro style back. Originally, a company by the name of Mark III applied the graphics, as well as a whole host of interior and exterior modifications. They did this to not only Chevy Vans, but Dodge and Fords of the era as well. Unfortunately, the modifications made by Mark III dated the van and made it look more old man than hot rod, so we did away with them.

To start, we got rid of the ladder on the back door. While it does serve a useful function for accessing the roof rack, we knew we’d be getting rid of that in the future as well, so it had to go.

To remove the stripes, I started by giving them a quick wipe down with a detailer to remove any dirt or debris from the van's surface. Since the 3M Eraser Wheel uses friction to remove the vinyl, it's best not to give any dirt to rub in the already aged paint.

Next, we had to do something about the ghastly late-‘80s-early-‘90s stripe graphics package. We first considered painting right over the stripes as a makeshift way to add some attitude to the outdated style, but when we found out about the Eraser Wheel from 3M, I busted out a drill and few cans of elbow grease.

If you’re going to tackle a big job like an entire van, I suggest using a corded drill instead of a cordless model. You’ll have to use an extension cord, but trust me, your forearms and back will thank you.

The 3M Eraser Wheel ate up the stripes like a hot knife through butter. But, the work doesn’t stop there. Once the stripes were removed, I had to wipe the remaining adhesive residue with Goof Off to wind up with a clean slate. So, after a few hours of erasing the stripes, we were left with a somewhat blank van. Although, there are some faded baked-on stripes still visible, but that was to be expected. They have been on there for almost 30 years, after all.

A blank slate is sometimes a thing of beauty…In this case, it was not, but at least those ugly graphics were gone.

Regardless, a blank canvas begs for a wet brush. So, we called up our local pinstriper, Four Eyes (pinstripers have the best nicknames). We told him the vision for the van and as soon as he saw Heavy Metal, his artistic juices started flowing. We talked it out for a minute over a beer and decided to lay down some killer flames.

Four Eyes carefully taped and re-taped the flames until he got them just right.

Four Eyes began by laying down some stripers tape. Once he had a pattern he liked done on one side he transferred it to the other side and started getting his brushes and paint ready. It was a real pleasure to watch a master craftsman in his element. He painstakingly laid down the pinstriper’s tape to get a set of flames that flowed just right with the body panels, seams, and emblems. I enjoy watching people work who take pride in what they do. Every vehicle he touches is a rolling business card, after all…

It was almost mesmerizing to watch Four Eyes lay down the black stripes. If you ever have the opportunity to watch a pinstriper at work, take a few minutes to do so. It's really cool.

After a few hours and a couple beers, it was finally time to peel the tape and admire the flames.

Four Eyes uses One Shot sign painter’s paint and a set of custom paintbrushes to apply the stripes. As he worked we talked about car guy stuff, motorcycles, how he learned to stripe, and the whole nine yards. It’s really a great thing when people can get together and swap stories about their passions. Four Eyes is a very cool cat, and I’m glad to now call him a friend. I have no doubt this won’t be the last vehicle I seek out his services for.

From his toolbox that houses his custom paintbrushes to the mixing cups, thinner, and One Shot enamel sign painter's paint, it was awesome to get an inside look at Four Eyes' kit.

Once his steady hands were done laying the stripes, we both stood back and admired the van that is now one step closer to being a proper street van. He even fooled around by mocking up some slot mags he had laying around, on the van. Unfortunately, they were for his Volkswagen Beetle project you can see in the background, so they wouldn’t fit on the G20. Although, in the next episode, you can see what wheels we did end up going with for Project Heavy Metal.

Four Eyes’ messing around with some slot mags he had sitting in the corner. We can’t say we blame him, those things are choice! Too bad they’re for his Volkswagen.

Ultimately, it’s plain to see doing something as minor as some pinstriped flames can help take an outdated old van to one that lets everyone know what the driver is all about – good times.

Now our big old Chevy van is ready for some hot rodding!

Until next time…

About the author

Vinny Costa

Fast cars, motorcycles, and loud music are what get Vinny’s blood pumping. Catch him behind the wheel of his ’68 Firebird. Chances are, Black Sabbath will be playing in the background.
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