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 What is once deemed "cool" is soon to be outdated for the next "cool" thing.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?
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dual fuel tanks for extended running>