Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Surfer vans, Madame Frenchy and the Vegas vans – all wild creations of the Galpin Automotive Group – have Beau Boeckmann, president and chief designer for Galpin Auto Sports, wistfully hoping for the return of the once-popular conversion van.

Boeckmann’s father, Bert Boeckmann, owner of Galpin Automotive and the world’s largest Ford dealership, started the conversion van craze in the 1960s when he designed a van with carpeting in the back, along with a couch/bed, cabinets and a port-a-potty.

A friend bought it to use for his honeymoon on a cross-country trek, and thus, the conversion van was born.

For the record, Bert Boeckmann also claims to have pioneered the sunroof as well as 4-wheel-drive vehicles and was the first dealer to sell Shelby Mustangs.

After reaching its heyday in the 1970s, the conversion van has seen its sales decline to nearly nothing.

“I keep wanting it to come back,” Beau Boeckmann says in a vehicle-customization panel at the Management Briefing Seminars here. “But the companies building the vans today are still building the old styles.”

The van is an easy vehicle to customize, especially with some of Galpin’s unique designs. For now, he has to content himself by tinkering with minivans.

“Nothing is off limits with the minivan,” says the younger Boeckmann, whose Galpin Auto Sports is the garage for MTV’s “Pimp My Ride” show. “It has a lot of space to work with.”

cbanks@wardsauto.com