1976 G10 Chevy Van – Four Decades of Full-Bodied Fun!
Manuel has been driving this 1976 G10 Chevy Van around the country since he purchased it brand new in December 1975. It was less than a year after he bought it when the custom work and upgrades began. He tells us “I went to King City in ’76 for the big van show and there were thousands of vans, people sleeping in them with beds and everything. I really caught the bug.” He came back home from the meet and went out to the van with some plywood, carpet, and all sorts of trimmings.
The 1976 Chevy Van has undergone several evolutions over the years but a number of factory parts remain. One of several that have stood the test of time are the glass pieces, still home to stickers that are four decades old. Picking up the car in his early twenties, Manuel has plenty of tales about his time with the red Chevy.
The van has been all over the country, and even out of it. Washington, Arizona, Mexico — the list goes on. Despite this, the mileage on the chassis is relatively low, at just over 121,000 miles. And for a van at this age we’ve got to say this 1976 G10 is definitely one of the cleanest California cruisers we have ever seen.
But it wasn’t always all smooth sailing with this one; anyone who has owned a car from the sixties or seventies, especially for this long, would tell you that’s no surprise. In fact, while he’s owned the van for almost 42 years, he almost lost it once. It was stored inside for an extended period and the storage facility housing it went under. But they didn’t contact him regarding the van when this happened. Manuel would have to buy back his own vehicle, one he hadn’t even sat in for years, from the tow company.
Since he already owned a number of other cars at this point it really was a hard bullet to bite. As luck would have it, they got to talking, and it turns out the tow truck driver knew Manuel from the body shop he owned back in the day. He was able to trade a bit of welding work to hold on to the 1976 G10 and give it yet another new life. Once it was clear of smog regulations a Chevy crate motor (a 350, of course) went in along with some long-tube headers for a healthy rumble. It was back on the street, better than ever.
Originally, though, when it rolled out of the factory it was a dingy, mint green color with a black grill. Most of the mods have been done by either Manuel himself or purchased right off the shelf brand new to remedy that situation over the years. The bright red paint, the wide flared fenders, the immaculate interior, the new wheels, and so on.
It’s all in such great shape and vastly improved over the factory options from the seventies. And as stunning as it is from the outside, it’s every bit as nice on the inside. The driver’s seat is a good place to be, made even better by all of the hard work Manuel has put into it. Everything is shining, with chrome reflections bouncing off nearly every surface.
And when you slide open the big side door, it gets even better. You’re greeted with a door mat, helping to protect the immaculate carpet on your way in. Next, you see chests filled with nostalgic goodies and practical items for the road. But what’s that in the back corner?
A bed, of course. What more could you want? Manuel explains that this was an extremely popular addition back in the day. Speaking of back in the day…what happened to all the good vans? This generation just simply doesn’t have the van enthusiasts from yesteryear. Or do they? Could that be changing soon when promoters like Goodguys start allowing cars and trucks through 1987 vintage? Perhaps.
As to the absence of Malaise-era vans, some of the blame lies on marketing groups and manufacturers for turning a useful work tool into a lowly people carrier. While you can still spec out a work van, most of the ones we see on the street from the factory are covered with cheap plastics, fake suede, and terrible seats to haul around the rug rats. Gone are the metal, industrial, long-lasting, and boxy designs.
Due to this, Manuel’s ‘Streetmachine’ gets plenty of attention. Everywhere we went, people would turn up to take photos and pose with the car; even on remote back roads during our shoot over half the passing cars stopped to chat a bit and ask questions about the G10. Manuel even told us that one time at a show he left to get some food and upon returning he found a couple of tourists sitting in the back taking selfies on the bed. This thing is just straight up cool.
The best part is that it’s not a vehicle that just sits, either. We have spotted it around the Bay Area for years. Those of you familiar with the bay area commutes will recognize the little box that rests on the dashboard. That’s for the tolls on the bridges around the bay; this van definitely gets out often.
This 1976 G10 is just the best of all worlds. Originally a work truck, it spent time at the drag strip with a race motor before being somewhat retired and stored. Now, in its most recent evolution, it’s easier to live with than ever and absolutely packed with nostalgia.
The driver side vent glass reads ‘Manuel’ and the passenger side ‘Sandy,’ his wife’s name. Naturally, she was right there alongside him at all the meets, shows, and road trips over the years.
As the sun went down we headed back to the garage and Manuel shared more stories from back in the day about this 1976 G10. When we got to the home shop everything seemed so fitting; his toolbox matched the spirit of the van it helped create so well, covered in stickers you could never get today. And Manuel pointed out one detail we had missed; a small slide that he picked up from a photographer at a show years ago that’s found a home on his dash.
Patches and placards from old meets, clubs, events and everything that goes with them; the stories, the style, this build has it all. Bravo Manuel!