Panel vans or “shaggin’ wagons” as they were known epitomised a culture depicted in the film Puberty Blues.

In the surfing scene of the 1970s, young men had a careless attitude toward sex, drugs and alcohol, and “chicks” were good for just one thing.

The words, “If it’s a rockin’, don’t come knockin’” could often be found proudly emblazoned across the back of vans and probably bring back memories — not necessarily good ones.

Imagine the fear it sparked when some long-haired lout turning up to take your daughter out on a date in one of these — to the drive-in of all places . . .

Back then in simpler times young men often travelled the beaches of Australia, surfboards strapped to roof racks, in search of the ultimate wave.

The Volkswagen Kombi was a versatile and popular choice, but any van or station wagon with a set of roof racks could be adapted to the role.

Most vans were little more than a bare shell, with a mattress thrown in the back where the surfers could crash for the night — others were decked out to the nines.

Car companies tried to tap into this market with special editions such as the Holden Sandman, Falcon Surferoo and Chrysler Drifter.

The Holden Sandman utility and panel van was introduced with the popular HQ model in 1974.

Designed to incorporate many features of the hero Monaro, it featured sports instrumentation, sports steering wheel, bucket seats and “rally” style road wheels, and could be identified by stick-on vinyl decals.

Ford’s answer to the Sandman was the aptly named Surferoo, introduced to the XB range in 1973 — but failed to resonate with buyers.

It lacked the visual impact, but at the same time was better equipped, with fibreglass insert that featured moulded storage bins and an ice box, plus curtains, a foam mattress, wall-to-wall carpet and fluoro lights.

Surferoo was replaced by the more popular XC Sundowner edition in 1977

Chrysler added a panel van to its CL Chrysler range in April, 1977, while the Drifter Pack was introduced as an option a few weeks later.

It included a Charger grille, quartz halogen headlights, sports steering wheel, radial ply tyres, styled wheels and special exterior paint and decal treatment with colour-coded bumpers.

Problem was nobody liked it and production ceased in 1978

Those were the days (and the nights). These cars cars were a little rough and ready and of course totally inappropriate.

 

CHECKOUT: Sandman designers wanted a mattress

CHECKOUT: The sandman makes history (again)

When the shaggin' wagon was rockin'

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.
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