Missing Mopar: The Blue Crush Valiant van

Not all survivor cars of the Van Wheels era have had a charmed life; the tale of Valiant panel van 'Blue Crush' is proof


Take a walk in my shoes. It’s 1982, you’re 21 and life is great. You’ve been with Lynn for just on a year, she’s mastered the Farrah Fawcett sweep and would give any bikini chick on The Paul Hogan Show a run for their money.

Six years of hard slog at the Acacia Ridge GM-H plant has paid dividends and you’re now a foreman – the youngest in memory according to the blokes who’ve been there since ’66 – and the Commodore should stick around for a few years yet.

The extra money will help, as you’re close to popping the question, but first there are a few jobs to finish on your dream van – a Chrysler pano you named Blue Crush, but your Valiant-hating mates call Wog Thrush.

You’ve seen enough Holdens at work to last a lifetime, and the old man owned Valiants for years so you know they’re a good thing. His advice still rings in your ears: “They’re heavy on tyres and heavy on fuel but they’ll never let you down.” So far he’s been right.

It was only three years old when you picked it up back in 1980; the Stellar Blue Sportspack in Bryan Byrt’s used caryard looked sweet and the 318 went like the clappers too.

It’s changed a bit since then. A front spoiler and bubble windows took ages to arrive but fitted nice, as did the Commodore buckets you picked up.

The cops sent you to Dutton Park with a machinery for the headlight covers, fat T/As and being too low, but that was nothing a crank on the torsion bars and borrowing the wheels off Mum’s VJ didn’t fix. They didn’t even notice the Dodge diff or that you’d blocked off the smog gear. Dumbarses.

What are they going to think now? The tunnel ram’s been on for two weeks and so far, so good. After seeing Mr Damage at the Toombul Show it just had to be done. The sidepipes shoot the fumes away so Aussie Crawl’s Sirocco can be cranked at full noise with the tailgate up. It just needs matching 10-inch Turbine mags for the back and it’s done.

It’s a Wednesday night and you’re staying at Lynn’s. Her dad Bill says you can park in the shed, but you decline; you don’t want to wake the house when you kick it in the guts at sparrow’s fart.

You needn’t have worried; the next morning Lynn’s driveway is the emptiest place on earth and no amount of driving around or phone calls to the police have made your stolen van reappear. You didn’t hear a thing. The sergeant at Mitchie station tells you not to hold your breath and best start sorting your claim with the insurance company.

If there was one. Insurance was one of those things you meant to do but just never made a priority. So you’re left with no van and a two-grand car loan to pay off.

Now it’s 2014. Where have the years gone? You and Lynn just celebrated your 30th anniversary, and she’s still a hottie, even after the kids.

Once they canned the Gemini it was all over for Acacia Ridge and you lost your job – smack-bang in the middle of interest rates creeping towards the high teens, thank you very much. You nearly lost the house, too, but a friend’s dad saw your potential and got you a nice stable government job at the electricity board, which kept the wolves from the door.

You’ve since worked your way up and life is good, but every now and then you’ll hear a golden oldie from The Crawl and your mind wanders back to Blue Crush, and the pain of losing her.

A heavy knock at the door thumps you back to reality and you ease yourself away from the Sunday paper. The crackle of a police radio and the sight of two officers at the door give you instant goosebumps. Oh shit, is it one of the kids? Kate’s still on her Ps, or maybe it’s one of the boys.

“Mr Shumway?” a young constable who looks about Brian’s age asks. “This a bit of an odd one sir, but did you own a blue Chrysler wagon back in the 80s? Queensland rego 395OJF.”

“It was a panel van,” you correct him. “Stolen in ’82.”

“Well, um, your car’s been found.”

“You’re shitting me!”

“A bunch of old cars have been found on a property. It’s a deceased estate. The Public Trustee believes they’re stolen.”

How on earth did they find me? Surely the records would be long gone.

“We found a handbook with your name in it, did some searching and here we are.”

Yep, Dad made me scrub out the original owner’s name and write mine in. He was such a stickler for shit like that.

“Would you be willing to come and identify it?”

That’s a given. You spend the next couple of days wondering how it’s going to look – maybe you can fix it up.

Or not. It’s rooted. Years spent in the weather have done it no favours. The sight of your pride and joy left to rot tugs at your heartstrings, but it’s balanced by a strange feeling of closure after so many years.

A burly copper strides on over. “The motor will be like a fish tank left all open like that,” he says. “I bet the back saw some action in its day though.”

Not nearly enough.

“A scrappy will be here on the weekend who can sort it for you, no charge,” he offers.

Not a chance. You don’t lose cars like this twice. There’s a young bloke up the road who owns a couple of these. It’d be better to go to him, in case something can be salvaged.

A year later, it’s still perched up against his back fence; a yard ornament of the best kind for a van tragic. It’s so familiar, yet seems so distant too – you wonder if owning this van ever really happened, or was it just a figment of your wild imagination?