“The A-Team” Van: History of the Classic GMC Vandura
If you grew up in the 80s, chances are you watched The A-Team at some point. The former Army Special Forces team of Hannibal, B.A. Baracus, Faceman, and Howlin’ Mad spent their time fighting crime and trying to clear their names of a crime they didn’t commit, all the while on the run from military prison. But there was a fifth team member who was a constant presence throughout the show’s run from 1983-1986, but who is less talked about by fans. We’re talking, of course, about B.A.’s black 1983 GMC Vandura van that served as the A-Team’s main mode of transportation.
This van wasn’t exactly the type of vehicle you should drive if you’re trying to blend in. B.A.’s unique Vandura sported a red stripe across the hood and side panels, black and red wheels, and a red rear spoiler. While vans aren’t often recognized as iconic (with the exception of the Mystery Machine), the A-Team’s Vandura is now as recognizable to 80s kids as KITT or the DeLorean.
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The GMC Vandura was produced between 1964 and 1996. During its run, GMC didn’t make many changes to the Vandura as far as looks went. Some improvements did happen in order to bring the vehicle in line with changing safety and fuel economy regulations.
The main reason for the Vandura’s popularity was the ability to easily customize it. Conversion companies and individual owners were easily able to turn the Vandura into the perfect van for camping or commercial use.
During its first generation (1964-1966), the Vandura was powered by either a flat-four or flat-six Chevy engine. The design was very basic, with rear windows as an option and no available power steering, power brakes, or air conditioning. In 1967, GM redesigned the Vandura slightly for its second generation (1967-1970) and gave it a curved windshield, and an optional longer wheelbase.
The third generation was by far the longest, running from 1971 to 1995 when the model was discontinued. This Vandura had a more solid construction, truck-style hubs and brakes, and a huge choice of engines (ranging from 4.1-liter I6 to 7.4-liter V8). The A-Team’s Vandura was based on a third-gen model.
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The A-Team fame
The black GMC Vandura appeared in every episode of The A-Team. GMC provided several versions for use in different scenes, including one with a sunroof for main shots and one without a sunroof for stunt shots. This led to some continuity issues, where one scene would show the sunroof-less van, and in the next scene it would suddenly have a sunroof.
While The A-Team vanished into obscurity for all but those who remember the original series, a 2010 movie brought the van back into the mainstream. The van used for the movie was a customized 1994 Chevrolet G20 (Chevy’s version of the Vandura), and it was even on display at the 2010 New York Auto Show.
The A-Team’s GMC Vandura will live on in infamy, both for those of us who watched the show back in the 80s (or caught reruns in later decades) and for those whose first experience with the team was via the movie starring Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, and Jessica Biel.