1. The first thing you need to know about the van used in the 2010 “A-Team” movie is that it is an imposter!
2. The “A-Team” van – the authentic one used in the 1983-87 television show – was a 1983 GMC Vandura cargo van. The one in the movie is not. Read on, truthseekers.
3. It is difficult to tell a 1983 Vandura from a 1971 – or a 1995 – or any year’s models in between. Yes, General Motors made virtually the same van for 25 years. It’s that kind of innovation, ingenuity and integrity that has made Detroit what it is today: A ghost town.
4. While GMC was churning out the Vandura, Chevrolet was producing its own version – the virtually identical Chevy Beauville. Internally, they are known as G-Series or G20 vans. These are “made in America” specials – products of union labor in Ohio and Michigan. Built to last – until the warranty expired.
5. When the producers of the 2010 movie were considering what incarnation the team’s vehicular transportation should take, they initially considered the Knight XV. The XV is a $295,000 armored vehicle, based on a Gurkha military transport, that is made in Canada by Conquest Vehicles.
I reviewed one at the 2008 SEMA show in Las Vegas; I was not impressed (the rear door wouldn’t even stay shut!). Ultimately, the Knight people and the producers couldn’t reach an agreement, and the XV’s 15 minutes of notoriety – not to mention its chances for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame – went “poof!”
6. Another Canadian firm was tapped to come up with a replica of the A-Team GMC. Why Canada? Because the movie itself was filmed there.
7. The customizer selected was Rick Rasmussen, who got his start as a “picture car coordinator” with the TV show “Viper”. When Mr. Rasmussen, who lives in suburban Vancouver, B.C., got the “A-Team” assignment, he selected a 1994 Chevrolet G20. Why a ’94? Why a Chevy instead of a GMC? Rasmussen needed several of them; not many GMCs were sold in Canada, and the models produced earlier than the mid-1990s are not now known for their longevity. So the ubiquitous Chevy was available, not to mention attractively priced. (Trade-in value, as of June 2010: $500.)
“There is nothing,” Mr. Rasmussen noted, “that is special about these vans.” So, moviegoers are likely to shed few tears when these vans are blown up, torched or crushed. Previous owners may even cheer.
8. How is the movie version of the van different from the old TV version? (See photo at end of article.) Visually, there is the paint job. The original had a medium gray-on-black scheme, with an almost diagonal red stripe separating the two colors. The new one is a dark charcoal-on-black black, with more of a “hockey stick” stripe. “We gave the stripe a new feel,” Mr. Rasmussen said.
“The colors are very close.” Really? They don’t look the same. The wheel flare kit has been integrated into the body; the original flares were just cheap vinyl cladding (a GM specialty, although these were probably aftermarket items). The new van has three sunroofs; the old one had approximately none – although at least one of the six used in the TV show’s run had a custom pop-up glass sunroof added. A similar-looking craptastic Genuine GM Replacement Parts plastic grille was installed, complete with a phony “GMC” logo. The stock 170-horsepower (!) 5.0-liter V8 got a new high-volume intake manifold, snazzier fuel-injection system, and a souped-up computer chip controlling engine power. It has freer-flowing exhausts, a posi-traction rear end for impressive burnouts, and fire-resistant 15-gallon racing fuel cell. For fuel mileage, it gets something in the single-digits.
“We spent hundreds and hundreds of hours on each van,” said Mr. Rasmussen, who constructed three identical vans for the shoot. “They turned out wonderful.” (Current Kelley Blue Book retail value: $2,660.)
9. What happened to the vans after the shoot? Twentieth Century Fox has the leftovers locked up in a warehouse.
10. Will the A-Team van ever ride again? Can you say “sequel”? No word on that yet, but Fox has cleaned up one of the vans, and has shown it at places such as the 2010 New York International Auto Show last April. And it even made a cameo appearance in the 2010 Gumball 3000 road rally the month prior to the movie’s June 11 release. Skateboarder Tony Hawk asked for, and received, permission to drive in the race’s North American portion. “He said it was fun,” Mr. Rasmussen noted. “But with that 15-gallon tank, he was forever running out of gas.” Sort of like the movie.
[Note: Since this column was written, I have heard from Craig Baxley, the original stunt coordinator and sometimes-director for The A-Team television series, and have written up some of his remembrances in a Q&A format. Interesting to find out what an all-star group of stuntmen worked on the TV show.]
[UPDATE: In response to reader questions about the original A-Team Vandura from the television program, here is a publicity photo from one of the episodes. Note Mr. T driving, the California blue license plate, the lack of a sunroof and fender flares which were probably aftermarket - not factory - options.]
June 18, 2010