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The Mystery Machine

Jesse McGraw

Scooby-Doo and the gang have been thwarting masked fiends’ plans for over 50 years! Let’s take a look at their happenin’ van known as the Mystery Machine.

Those Meddling Kids and Their Dog

The Mystery Machine - WB Kids on YouTube.com
The Mystery Machine - WB Kids on YouTube.com

Zoinks! Like, oh man Scoob, looks like we’re talking about the Mystery Machine today. “Rhat’s right! Rehehehehe!” Alright, now that I’ve got that out of my system, we’re diving into the famous van from everyone’s favorite cartoon show, Scooby-Doo. The show has been running since 1969 and the gang’s vehicle of choice has remained virtually the same since the start. There have been a couple minor body variations when it comes to Mystery Incorporated’s Mystery Machine, but it is always a van featuring that groovy bright green, blue, and orange paint job. Let’s tuck in our ascot as we jump behind the wheel of the Mystery Machine and go over the vans that inspired its creation as well as the ones featured in the live action movies! Sidenote, did anyone else hear a spooky ghost noise? “Ruh roh.”

Real Life Mystery Machines

There’s a lot of debate amongst fans as to what the Mystery Machine actually is, but the general consensus is that it’s some customized ‘60s panel van. As the series progressed through the years, the Mystery Machine has taken on some more van inspiration and even had a one off where it actually had a hood. While none of the following are the direct real life Mystery Machine, fans have made an effort to make them all look the part.

Dodge A100

1964 Dodge A100 - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com
1964 Dodge A100 - media.stellantisnorthamerica.com

The Dodge A100 was a series of trucks and vans from Chrysler that only lasted from 1964 to 1970. Fans of the Scooby-Doo show have restored these short-lived classic panel vans into their very own Mystery Machines. The front lighting placement is super close to the cartoon model with round headlights and reflectors directly below. One of the noticeable disconnects is that the front grille design is not present in the cartoon. Even when it’s painted, the wide vents still detract from the intended replica.

Ford Econoline

1967 Ford Econoline - Chicago Car Club on YouTube.com
1967 Ford Econoline - Chicago Car Club on YouTube.com

The Ford Econoline (now known as Ford’s E-Series) was a series of cargo trucks and vans from Ford starting in 1961. The first generation of the Econoline is another great fan replica base, as it had all the right curves and a more simplistic lower grille design that fit well with the Mystery Machine from the cartoon. The glaring issue is the headlight design. The headlight assembly had a chrome bezel that extended towards the center and acted as another set of air inlets. Plus, the reflectors are just a little too far off to the sides.

Chevrolet G10

1966 Chevrolet G10 - carsforsale.com
1966 Chevrolet G10 - carsforsale.com

Now the Chevrolet G10 from the early ‘60s is, in my opinion, the closest thing to a real-life Mystery Machine. Everything looks as close to perfect when comparing it to its cartoon counterpart. The angles, the shape, the headlight placement, and the unchromed simple grille make it near perfect for a replica. The hardest hurdle to get over when recreating the Mystery Machine with this model is finding one as an actual panel van. A lot of these old G10 models have windows on the side doors or the classic porthole window near the rear.

Volkswagen Bus/Vanagon

1967 Volkswagen Vanagon - carsforsale.com
1967 Volkswagen Vanagon - carsforsale.com

People often associate the Volkswagen Bus or Vanagon as the Mystery Machine, but it just doesn’t quite fit the mold exactly. It’s tiny, the body isn’t proportioned exactly right, and it’s just not angular enough until you get into the late ‘70s. The only thing truly linking them together is the fact that Volkswagen Bus models were commonly known as “hippy cars” and had similar vibrant colors and flower designs painted on them like the Mystery Machine does.

Ford Aerostar

1993 Ford Aerostar - carsforsale.com
1993 Ford Aerostar - carsforsale.com

I know the Ford Aerostar doesn’t fit in relation to the classic Mystery Machine we all know and love, but there was a one-off iteration where this model fits perfectly as the source material. The 1998 film Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island features the Mystery Machine looking more like a typical mom van rather than the classic cab-over panel van models we’ve already listed.

Chevrolet Astro or GMC Safari

1999 Chevrolet Astro - carsforsale.com
1999 Chevrolet Astro - carsforsale.com

Another one movie van iteration showed up in 1999 for the film Scooby-Doo and the Witch’s Ghost. While the paint scheme remained the same from the previous cartoon movie, the body got a lot larger and a lot boxier. These dimensions match pretty well with everyone’s favorite ‘90s vans, the Chevy Astro and GMC Safari.

Hollywood’s Mystery Machines

Scooby-Doo fans rejoiced when the classic series received a live action movie adaptation in 2002 and a sequel in 2004. Neither were super huge blockbusters, but they brought the cartoon series and Scooby-Doo himself into the real world. They also provided fans with two different Mystery Machines to enjoy and replicate for themselves.

1972 Bedford CF – Scooby-Doo

1972 Bedford CF as "The Mystery Machine" - imcdb.org
1972 Bedford CF as "The Mystery Machine" - imcdb.org

Bedford isn’t a common brand for us in the United States, but the CF model worked well for a live action rehash of the Mystery Machine and sources were limited to Australian vehicles. Yep, filming was done in Queensland, Australia. That’s why we got a Bedford CF van as the Mystery Machine back in 2002. Not that it’s a bad thing, but movie fans will have to pay a bit more if they want to recreate this one.

Custom Chevrolet G10 – Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

1985 Chevrolet G10 as "The Mystery Machine" - imcdb.org
1985 Chevrolet G10 as "The Mystery Machine" - imcdb.org

For the Scooby-Doo sequel, the prop team felt the Mystery Machine should be built back on an American van base. It kept the same paint job with the flame bottom from the first movie, but this time it was built around a customized Chevrolet G10. It had a custom front bumper, custom front grille, added fenders, and deleted the rear bumper to more closely resemble the Bedford’s design in the first film. There’s a lot of fan contention as to the actual generation, because the front headlight placement is from late ‘70s G10 models while the rear has ‘80s G10 taillights.

Any Van Can Be the Mystery Machine

I know we’ve listed a couple different models of vans that in some shape or form relate to the Mystery Machine, but almost any van can become the gang’s favorite headquarters on wheels. If you’re a Scooby-Doo fan, you can paint that iconic Mystery Machine paintjob on a GMC Savanna, a Ford Transit, or even a Honda Odyssey and it’ll still be the Mystery Machine. So, gather the gang and solve some mysteries in whatever van you want, but just make sure there’s enough Scooby Snacks for everyone. “Reah! Rehehehehe!”

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Jesse McGraw
Jesse McGraw

Jesse's life-long car obsession began when he started collecting Hot Wheels as a child. He’s constantly keeping up with the latest car news and diving deep into automotive history. His automotive journey began with a rusty ‘99 Dodge Dakota held together by zip ties, only recently replaced by an impeccable 2014 Kia Soul. You can find him modifying and racing cars in video games when he’s not playing paintball or writing about cars.

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