When Sammy Johns’ song “Chevy Van” was released in 1975, he probably had no idea it would remain on the Billboard Chart for 17 weeks.
He probably also didn’t anticipate it would sell about 3 million copies and be credited for an increase in van sales. In Volusia County the Green Demon Vanners Van Club is trying to do the same thing.
Brian Haynes, 48, the club's president and founder, inherited his love of vans from his parents. He is on a mission to replicate a Chevy van (Green Demon Two), to match the one he grew up with, to give to his parents as a gift. It is almost finished, then he will begin work on his own 1972 van.
His parents, Michael and Joanie Haynes, live in Ormond-by-the-Sea; Brian, their only son, lives in Port Orange. All have vans, including Brian’s son, although at 14 he can’t legally drive it, yet.
“We bought our first van in 1975 in Jeffersonville, Ind.,” Michael Haynes said. “Vanning was just starting to blossom. We formed a club named Ohio Valley Vans. We ended up having probably 30 vans in the club. (It’s about) camaraderie. We still have best of friends that were in our van club in the '70s.”
Joanie Haynes still has the Astro van she bought in 1999.
“I just really love driving it,” Ms. Haynes said. “You are sitting up a little taller. (And) safety. It’s easy to drive, easy to park. It’s just fun to drive and have people look at it.”
One time in Indiana in 1981, it was so cold no cars were starting and the Green Demon saved the day by gathering up 17 boys and two adults and taking them to their destination despite the 20 degrees below zero temperature, she said.
The family moved to Bradenton in 1984. After a short stint with a sports car, it was decided vans were the only way to go. The original Green Demon van was gone, having been traded, but others have been purchased since. Vans come in handy for the father and son as they like to surf.
“Imagine what vanning was like back in the '70s,” Brian Haynes said. “I like vanning because I grew up doing it with my parents. They never got babysitters when they went to truck-ins; they always took me with them. My mom would do schoolwork in the van with me. (The van) was a huge part of my childhood.”
About five years ago, Brian started acquiring vans for himself, getting them from around the country.
The Green Demon Two he got from Knoxville, Tenn., he said “I didn’t plan on restoring it to this extent. Once I started taking it apart, I couldn’t stop. My original intention was to build it for me.
“After I got this van I started joking about Green Demon and Green Demon Vans,” he said. “As soon as the sign came and the stickers started coming and the logo was there and building this van, it actually started to become something.”
The van club started about two years ago. Anyone that owns a van is welcome. Meetings are monthly at his Brian Haynes shop in Ormond Beach. Fees are $10 per month that goes toward T-shirts and shows, and other club activities. Members often convoy together to places of interest and can camp inside their own vans. There are numerous van clubs throughout Florida and the United States. The Green Demon Vanners also belong to the Florida Van Council.
Richard VonBrocken, 59, co-owner of Von-Aire Inc. in Holly Hill, is a member of the club.
“My van was purchased new in 1976,” Mr. VonBrocken said. “It was my first car. It was delivered prior to me having a driver’s license. My father and I decided to start customizing it and I’ve had it and been making changes and updates ever since.
“What’s important (with Brian’s club) is they’re a younger group. They are trying to maintain the interest and keep vanning going, which is becoming more and more difficult. The club puts a lot of effort into it. It’s a very down-to-earth, very group-oriented organization.”
For Mr. VonBrocken’s van, the original side murals are almost entirely as they were in 1978. The original painter, John Starr, returned to paint it again for Mr. VonBrocken in 2016.
Vanners hope to have a big event this fall.
The Turkey Van Run 2020 will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21, at 1637 N. U.S. 1 in Ormond Beach. Overnight camping is available Friday and Saturday night at Bulow Campground. The event itself will have vans on display, food, music, raffles and drinks.
For more information on the Green Demon Vanners VC, contact Brian Haynes at (386) 852-8345.