Rick Rasmussen: The A Team Van Man
if you can find the A Team van man, maybe he can make your childhood fantasies real
We were thinking about who has been most influential in the world of van life. Tough one to call.
My thoughts turned naturally to – and then immediately away from – the Dutch importer Ben Pon and the VW Camper. Surely the blogosphere needs no more copy on that story? That left viable candidates thin on the ground.
My way in had to be through the machines themselves – and thinking back over my personal cultural history there are two vans that still burn bright in my memory.
The earliest example of a van that created an emotional response for me was ‘The Mystery Machine’ driven by those pesky crime-fighting kids in Scooby Doo. Was it a Ford Econoline or a Dodge A100? The debate rages on, but for a cartoon-watching kid on a Saturday morning it had the same charm as Sport Billy’s bag, it carried and held everything you needed for an adventure.
Next up, and more powerfully imprinted onto my then boyish brain, was- of course -that incredible black and red striped beast that those ex-Special Forces troubleshooters skidded around in. The one and only A Team van. Next to KITT it was the vehicle that me and my mates most wanted.
But this is a piece about a motor industry figure and not about childhood van based fantasies. Fear not. There is a real human being that unites these fictional machines.
His name is Rick Rasmussen and he has one of the best jobs in town. In the world of the Hollywood blockbuster, every prop has to be sourced and then customised for the job. The same is true of all the vehicles, and our man Rick does just that for a living. He’s a bona fide Hollywood vehicle wrangler.
And yes, he was the man tasked with sourcing and customising a real life version of the Mystery Machine for the 2004 film ‘Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed’ – as well as finding BA’s wheels for the 2010 Hollywood remake of The A Team.
So how do you get a job like that? Judging by Rasmussen’s CV an early start helps. Rick had a leg up in that his old man was a mechanic and painter and Rasmussen Jnr reckons he was knocking around bodyshops from the age of two. Also collecting toy cars seems useful, Rasmussen has kept all his childhood Hot Wheels and Dinky collection fully intact and still uses them on set to help Directors visualise his concepts.
Initially, Rasmussen followed his Dad’s lead and set up his own bodyshop in his hometown of Calgary, Canada. He then got a break working on the TV show ‘Viper’. A Canadian version of Knight Rider where the star of the show is a customized Dodge that kicks criminal ass. That was in the early 90s and since then he’s worked on many films including Watchmen, 2012 and my two childhood fantasy reboots that led me to him.
So, if like me, you still harbour desires to own a real A Team van who better to go to (if you can find him) for advice than Rick Rasmussen, who had to create three -an original and two stunt doubles- for the big screen version?
Luckily in a 2010 interview he gives the lowdown for any would-be creator of that iconic van. So here are the instructions:
Get a Chevrolet G20 Cargo van – which handily kept the same body style from 1971 to 1998 – spray charcoal black and install the famous flare set. Design and mould a fibreglass roof wing.
Then ‘Hot Rod’ it a little. Install a bigger fuel injection system, insert a performance chip into the computer, put in positraction rear diffs to increase handling and replace the tank with a 15-gallon fuel cell of the kind that race and stunt cars have that won’t leak in a crash situation.
That’s it. For all you would-be BAs, just get on eBay, grab an old G20 base model (I’ve just seen one for £3k) and a few hundred highly skilled man and body shop hours later you’ve got your own A Team van. All you need now is the Mr. T Mohawk wig, lots of gold and a semi-automatic rifle that never hits a human target.
Rasmussen is, of course, lucky enough to get paid to have such fun but as we’ve seen he’s got the credentials to back it up. His family auto connection, his own training in the business, the massive toy car collection and perhaps above all a true feeling for the machines, as he says:
“Every vehicle has a personality. To me, they’re our kids when we build them.”
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