Saturday, June 26, 2021

LRP custom Shag Wagon put out at the junkyard - 1976 Dodge Tradesman 200 van

 1976 Dodge Tradesman 200 LRP custom van

Rolling with the purple shag.
This throwback from the 1970s shag wagons glory days, a 1976 Dodge Tradesman 200, landed at the local pull-your-own parts yard in Birmingham, Alabama this week. The "LRP" lettering under the door is a hint that this was no ordinary home-built heavyweight. This van was originally built by Leisure & Recreational Products, a professional conversion van company in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Back in the day they churned out Ford, Chevy/GMC, and Dodge rigs with bubble windows, hand-airbrushed art, and miles of pin striping. Let's take a look inside a ’70s "survivor" of sorts.

Mirrored ceiling and purple shag carpet throughout.

Inside, purple shag carpet is found throughout. Swivel seats are stationed up front and a mirrored ceiling lined with fur once reflected all the activities in the rear of the heavily customized van.

For some reason, Sinatra singing "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere" come to mind. This was luxury and a place to relax 45 years ago.

Swivel purple front seats.

This swivel driver's seat shows its mileage. This bad boy still has plenty of originality and signs of wear. This van must have been driven long after the 1970s were only a memory. 

Deep purple shag carpet hangs inside van's rear doors.

Why is it in the junkyard?
The road to ruin may have been mechanical difficulty. A clue is the 
disassembled 318-cu. inch V8 engine under the hood. The engine cover can be seen, covered in purple shag carpet, laying askew behind the passenger seat. For those unfamiliar with the short nose vans, working on your van's mechanicals could get messy. Once you ruin the interior, the whole value thing slides downhill fast.
  But maybe it was as simple as A/C problems? Try keeping your hottie or significant other cool in Alabama with high heat and ridiculous humidity in a slab-sided sweat box. 

Each LRP custom van was hand-painted by airbrush.

Bad things happen to good vans
Worse things can happen to a vehicle but becoming a punchline can spell doom for once-desired vehicles. What is once deemed "cool" is soon to be outdated for the next "cool" thing. When all the embarrassed van drivers dumped their now "uncool" rides, they trickled down to the young, poor, or desperate in need of cheap transportation. A lucky few held onto their custom vans, maintaining and leaving period correct. What you see here will soon be recycled at the pick-a-part.
  Something tells me this van was loved for a long time. But, I doubt many parts get pulled and re-used. Who needs some purple shag? The number of 1970s van-era survivors is shrinking daily.

Bubble windows are a signature of the 1970s custom van craze.

Graphics on the ’76 Dodge van were airbrushed at the LRP shop during customization. Note the 1977-1979 Ford Thunderbird wheels all around.

Bubble windows were a signature of 1970s custom van craze. Tinted and still cool.

Purple shag carpet everywhere inside Dodge van.

Flip side of bubble window: open up and you see the glorious purple shag.

Vintage slot mag hangs on rear door.

A slotted mag is hanging on the rear of the van. 

LRP letters are under both front doors of this custom Leisure & Recreation Products van.

Under the door you can find the "LRP" decal. The company who customized this van was operated by Lee Bender in Wisconsin. The LRP name still holds some weight in the dedicated Vannin' community because of the quality and craftsmanship LRP put into each van they built. The fact that Leisure & Recreational Products fully customized ’76 Dodge refugee from the 1970s made it this far in almost complete condition is a testament to their work.

Farewell funky van!

Jody Potter
– Junkyard Life 

Do you have a classic car in the yard, or a great story?
Send us details and we’re on the way!
Send emails to Jody Potter at 
or Ron Kidd at


Saturday, May 22, 2021

Loaded 1976 Chevy Monte Carlo at the scrap yard


Scrap that! I guess we do live in an era where someone’s trash is someone else’s treasure. Look what we found unceremoniously discarded at the side door to a scrap yard. A 1976 Monte Carlo Landau!

The first look I took just made me shake my head. How could someone NOT want this? How could it have been saved this entire time and only now finding its way out of hiding and into a crusher? This place does not even entertain selling parts. It literally means a few dollars to them. 

When Jody said that this car has his name on it, I thought he was speaking metaphorically.

Now my second look yielded more head shaking. I didn’t realize it at the time, but upon closer inspection this baby was loaded! You just had to look a little closer. The full Monte, If you will.*

Original window sticker was in the car!

Someone may have left the original window sticker in the car and possibly a Junkyard Life Monte Carlo Nerd could have come along and retrieved the document for a story he planned to write. This is all just speculation at this point. Who said anything about a window sticker?

Knights of the vinyl top table in the order of Landau.

If there was a window sticker, it may have alerted (alarmed?) the Monte Carlo Nerd to other hidden and not so hidden treasures. Desired options fill up this disco era Colonnade. This silver Monte with a vinyl top was some looker in its day. Someone beat us to the small block 400 engine that Chevrolet left under the hood. Yes, it was indeed a small block 400 power plant. Two options above the base motor. Shame.

Window Sticker, Where Art Thou?
Looky there! The original paperwork just sitting on the bench seat. Who could resist?

Cruise control under the hood still intact.

More options
That wasn’t all. It wasn’t cheap. If we did have that window sticker, it potentially could have told us about all of these options: 

  • 400 4 barrel ($73)
  • Power bench seat ($124)
  • Power windows ($99)
  • Power locks ($62), 
  • Tilt wheel ($52)
  • Cruise control ($73)
  • 15” wheels and not hub caps (actually standard on the Monte according to the window sticker we don’t have)
  • Rear window defroster ($77)
  • Cloth interior (free with this package)
  • Illuminated sunvisor with vanity mirrors ($23)
  • Extra lighting group for the trunk, glove compartment ($31)
  • Landua roof package (no charge in this case)
  • Air conditioning ($471)
  • Intermittent windshield wiper ($28) 
  • Color key seat belts ($17)
  • And for a substantial amount in 1976 American dollars… an 8-track stereo ($324)!

You got all this and more for a mere $6,985! At least that is our guess. We would confirm if we had that confounded window sticker. We can only guess that it was borrowed by an inspiring automotive journalist for the integrity of the article he was going to write. Sounds like a nice guy. 

See 8-track stereo?

Mandatory poke of slot on 8-track stereo is the official tape deck test.

Four Squares a Day…

This car was a nice package all wrapped up in luxury, comfort and performance. Would we have liked it then? 

1976 was a great year. The Monte Carlo was still big.** Chevrolet celebrated America’s independence with a new beginning for the classy Monte Carlo, the entry level Malibu and the racy Laguna. Maybe not so much a beginning as a new front… the square stacked headlights. 

Is there a sadder sight than a Monte Carlo parked on the hood of a 1982 Camaro?

Hey, four eyes!
The headlights were met with mixed reviews from many different perspectives of the new automobile buyers. They ran the entire gamut from “Yay!” safety via improved visibility to “we hate the new stacked headlights.” Junkyard Life is guilty to some degree. What can we say? We love Colonnades but prefer the round eye headlight era.  

What doesn’t this have? Sunroof, tachometer and bucket seats are all we can think of.
What would you have ordered?

Stop the madness
So someone’s trash may be someone else’s treasure. I wish our treasure would stop showing up at scrap yards. There are so many other avenues that do not lead to the foreboding scales. Then people like us would not cringe as we pass by. That is indeed the Junkyard Life.

Ron Kidd
– Junkyard Life

Editor’s Notes:
* We allow Ron only one “Full Monte” joke in his Monte Carlo articles. Why do we do this to ourselves and our readers?

** Ron tried to use another “Full Monte” joke here. Like I said, he is limited to one.

Optional 15-inch Monte Carlo wheels.

We believe the name Monte Carlo is responsible for a few children named Monte.

Bumpers that only people who lived through the 1970s understand.

Cruise control on the stalk.

Last look. The next day the car vanished from in front of the scrap yard. We suspect the giant shredder ate its way through the Monte Carlo, options and all, in seconds.

Do you have a classic car in the yard, or a great story? Send us details and we’re on the way!  Send emails to Jody Potter at 
or Ron Kidd at