The action shows of the 1980s loved to have muscle cars as their hero car, but the A-Team van broke the mold and remains a pop culture icon.
“If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire… the A-Team.” I’m sure some of you had the theme song start playing in your head after reading that line. Yes, today we’re looking at the action-packed television show from the 1980s, The A-Team. However, we’re not just looking back at the crack commando unit on the run from the law, more specifically we’re remembering their unique van. The A-Team van is one of those vehicles that’s lauded as a pop culture icon in a similar fashion to the Bandit’s Trans Am, the General Lee, and KITT from Knight Rider.
The A-Team van holds a special place in pop culture history since it didn’t fit the same two-seater muscle car mold that the rest of the ‘80s action show icons had followed. Instead, The A-Team utilized a customized 1983 GMC Vandura as its hero car. The GMC van featured a unique exterior with that legendary metallic grey and black two-tone paint job with a red line running down the middle that met with a red rear spoiler. The A-Team van also had red turbine mag wheels, a host of fog lights along the roof and on an added bull bar, plus it had a sunroof. That last one is a common continuity error throughout the show’s running as it was commonly missing the sunroof for stunt shots.
Speaking of continuity errors, the customized van wasn’t just portrayed as a GMC Vandura technically. Eagle eyed viewers may have noticed that the show’s van would shapeshift into a Ford Econoline or Chevrolet Chevy Van when it careened into the water or hit a ridiculous jump that would clearly ruin the van. Similar to The Dukes of Hazzard and Knight Rider, the showrunners would dress up cheap replica vans with The A-Team colors for damaging stunts so as to not destroy the true hero car.
Going back to GMC Vandura of the show, did you know B.A. Baracus tuned the suspension in a unique way? Baracus, who was depicted by Mr. T, was always wearing a ton of gold chains at all times and was almost always the driver of The A-Team van. Baracus apparently accounted for his added weight while in the driver’s seat, because Murdock stated “That ugly mud-sucker tuned the suspension of this van to compensate for all that gold he was wearing.” after experiencing the van pulling to the left when he drove it.
The suspension and exterior weren’t the only changes made to the GMC Vandura. Inside the action van were four captain’s chairs, sometimes a rear bench seat, storage cabinets, a CB radio, Hannibal’s disguise kits, surveillance devices, bulletproof plating, and even a miniature printing press once. The A-Team van also proved useful for hauling around the tons of different firearms and explosives they utilized too.
While The A-Team will always be known for its awesome van, the military specialists also utilized a ton of other vehicles throughout the show. We’ll leave out the various Jeeps, limousines, trucks, and tanks that they “borrowed” here. Instead, these are some of the vehicles personally owned by the team or those unique builds they cobbled together to fight the bad guys.
In the “Taxicab Wars” episode, Face is forced to bring his brand new C4 Corvette to a potential gun fight. The white Corvette featuring a red line in similar fashion to their van helped him infiltrate Mr. Crane’s compound. Strangely, the group all end up leaving in The A-Team van after talking with Mr. Crane, but the Vette would show up a couple more times throughout the show’s running.
Amy was a newspaper reporter who worked alongside The A-team during the first two seasons. Her original car of choice was a 1982 Oldsmobile Firenza hatchback that showed up from time to time as she worked with the crew. Eventually she decided to “upgrade” to a Renault, but that didn’t last too long.
The 1981 Renault LeCar seen only in the “West Coast Turnaround” episode ended up being a crucial part of the A-Team’s plan. The LeCar was brand new to Amy after having traded her old car, but by the end of the episode it looked like a compact car that’d fit in the world of Mad Max. An I-beam for a front bumper, a snow plow attached to the hood, random metal sheets bolted on, and a gunner’s spot in the roof had been added. It ended up exploding by the end of the episode and was nothing more than a burnt-out heap.
Again, in the “Taxicab Wars” episode, The A-team modify some Dodge Monaco taxicabs as wall shattering combat cars to fight Mr. Crane’s mob-like taxi service. Once Mr. Crane fights back, they’re met with Baracus’s heavy duty Monaco that works as a ramp to flip the bad guys over.
In “Chopping Spree”, the team investigates a used car dealer and it eventually leads to the A-Team van being stolen. The team works to get their van back and shut the car theft scheme down, but end up held at gun point in a warehouse. They eventually break free and fix up an old Cadillac Funeral Coach. They also modified the Funeral Coach to have a pop-up casket used by Murdock to fight back during the car chase.
The “Trouble on Wheels” episode sees the A-Team dealing with a gang of auto part thieves and ending up needing to implement a “reverse frontal assault”. The team secure a pink 1968 Cadillac DeVille convertible and then proceeded to mount a thick sheet metal plow to the front, installed off-road tires, replaced the windshield with metal, replaced the headlights with oil shooters, mounted some turrets, and added some power by adding a blown supercharger.
Murdock and Baracus got their hands on this Dodge chassis based Travco Motorhome for the season four episode “Judgment Day”. In typical A-Team fashion, the duo made a makeshift battle RV by covering the windows with fold down metal grates and scrap sheet metal that somehow made the whole thing bulletproof.
I remember this!!! Great article!