Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Band Vans!

The perfect Chatmobiles- A Thomasr investigation.

In a slight departure from the usual shite, I thought I'd give over to another pressing issue- that is transport for bands, musicians and all other peasants.

Before You Buy
Channel [V] bus... whoa baby!If you know a bit about vehicles, have some mechanical knowledge or at least know someone who does, then without doubt, vehicle Auctions are your best bet. These are vehicles that have been leased,repackagedd, insurance jobs or stolen at some stage. There are also damaged vehicle auctions, but we'll stay away from them for the moment.

The biggest and probably best Auction group are Fowles Auction group. They are in all states and are online:

Their catalogues are online the week before, and you can inspect (though not start nor drive the vehicles) the day before the auction. All vehicles that are driveable will be driven into the auction arena and that is your ONLY chance to see them in action- so get up close and personal! I could go through the things to look out for, but really you need to take someone with you if you are unsure yourself. Most vehicles will have a rough inspection report, but it's next to useless (think "Does this car have a steering wheel YES/no" and you are close!)

Trading Post/local newspaper/ Car dealerTerrence my son, help this man wif 'is mota
Can be a good bet for certain types of vehicle, but make sure you know the market well before you go out and look at vehicles in these papers. You should know within 10% what a vehicle you seek is worth or you are going to end up a bunny in the headlights.

The advantage of a car dealer is while you might pay a little more you can get a deal that incorporates a service or two, a limited guarantee and a walk away if you shit yourself the day after.

Consumer affairs have a webpage (in Victoria anyway!) that have a whole section on buying a car second hand and it is simple, well defined and a MUST read. If you don't follow the info in it, you might find yourself with a bill and no vehicle- fun!

Enough about that lets get driving!!!

Transport for Bands.
Unless you play in a tin whistle band or a Capella group, transport is one of the great bugbears for any band. Big (or indeed standard!) drum kits can drive a band to insanity and beyond all too easily. But there's no need to loose your lolly over it, just get smart about it.

I will go through these in order of cost from most to least.

The Ultimate tour vehicle.
Load the truck and we're OFF!
The Toyota Coaster van/bus is simply the greatest tour vehicle in history (Apart from perhaps a coach, but I am trying to be reasonable). Plentiful, but not cheap, it is perhaps not the first choice for the struggling musician/group, but certainly can do everything you want in style. Small enough to get up lanes and park in most areas, the Coaster can represent the ultimate in comfort for the touring band. The Surrogate had a beauty- complete with a couch, fridge and cage in the rear area for the gear. A pure pleasure machine!
Details: There are many models, and a few sizes, but they seat anywhere from 5-22 people. There are petrol versions, but the diesel and turbo diesels (read on!) are best.
Expect to Pay:
From around 8 grand for older (like 80’s and earlier) through to 90K+ for a new one!

Standard vans
These are your ex delivery van types with petrol (or the better) diesel and turbo diesel variations. Some might scoff at diesel due to low power attributes, but it is reliable as hell, low maintenance and very economical. I highly recommend diesel- but people are starting to realise this so they are scarce and often hold their value.
Expect to pay (trading post rates- auction less 30% plus!)
Plain Hiace Van 30 K for 2002 model
Hiace bus 42 K 2002 model
Hiace Van 1987 model 5K
Mazda E 1400 1982 model $3900
1986 MAZDA E2200 Van $3,875
1989 MAZDA E2000 Van $2,990
2000 MAZDA E2000 Van $17,990

Other Vans
Get there NOW!
Ex postie Transits, ex Telstra vans etc at the Auctions can go really cheap. Despite high kms, they have generally been warmed up and driven all day, have service histories and are no more than three years old. Don't be put off by them. I had an awesome ex postie Transit in the early 90's- complete with Chev 350 cubic inch motor. Went like stink but used fuel like a jet. Fun comes at an expense kids!

Station Wagons…
Are tough going because you won’t probably fit everything in and are highly visible for thieves (which I will come to shortly!) They have the advantage of driving like a car- but did you know that a van generally has a better turning circle and better seating position from reversing etc? No? Then get one!!

Kitting It Out
The single biggest problem is theft. Theft of, and theft from. The standard rules do not apply- car locks, etc are a waste of time. You nee to secure your van like Goddamn Fort Knox. I cannot emphasize this enough. Here's what to do:

Get a mate who can really weld or find a pro. Have steel mesh welded between the seating area and the rear. Weld it in,ARC it up! not bolt. Bolts are a waste of time- my 6 yr old nephew can undo them. Have extra bars welded onto this mesh. It gives you something to tie bits to and stops access from the front. Next weld over the windows if there are any (rear windows) weld plate over them or more steel mesh. Once meshed, get curtains or paint them black from the inside. You are not advertising your new Gibson and Marshall amp so hide 'em. If the van has a side door you now need to WELD (notice I keep saying that?) a DEADBOLT in situ. A deadbolt that you can access from the front seat with a key. (So, a hand size hole in the steel mesh will get you there!)The back door can be tricky, but either don't use it and weld it shut, or find someway to get another deadbolt put in. You might also want to consider extra support for it to stop a crowbar from getting in the gap (I used aluminium strips riveted over the bottom). I don't advise an external old style latch and padlock because they advertise valuables and can be removed with a bit of grunt.

When doing all of this, keep thinking "OK, I am junkie who wants to break in and steal all the gear, how do I go about it?" and then find ways to ensure you win! No vehicle is unbeatable, but slow 'em down long enough and they'll give it away.

Protecting the van from being stolen is easy- kill switch. Get an auto electrician to install one under the dash or somewhere. One clever mate of mine installed one that requires you to plug a guitar lead plug (just the jack) in it to enable the ignition to come on. He keeps it in the ashtray and it's so innocuous that it pure genius. Essentially with a kill switch, they could steal your keys and they ain't going anywhere.

park near one of theseLastly (this might sound stupid) make sure you lock the bloody thing! Many folks have had vans stolen or stolen from because they were rushing to their gig and left it unlocked or loaded it and then went and got pissed thinking someone else was going to lock it!!!

I won't go into things like "park it somewhere visible under a streetlight", but try to park it somewhere visible under a streetlight. Sorry. Though if you are out the front of a venue, or round the back, it's worth asking the bouncers to peek at it on their rounds. Emphasise that you won't hold them responsible, but if they "just wouldn't mind"

Ok so she's protected like a US President. Next you need to try to tone it down. No band stickers, guitar logos or similar. Why advertise "I have a van full of gear!" unless you are sleeping in the van? How do you think thieves decide your van is worth breaking into if the windows are all blacked out? Stay low profile in the street, while playing a ball tearing gig indoors!

Insurance.Bung one of these in the back
No matter who you are or how valuable your van, insure it from third party property damage. This is NOT your rego/ TAC insurance but rather the damage that your "drummer crashed into a Porsche" damage insurance. It's only about $100 (for most!) a year and NOT having it could send you broke (I found out the hard way back in '91!). Nominate all the possible drivers and even if it costs you more for having under 21s, pay for it. I cannot emphasise this enough, only rich people can afford NOT to be insured!

Next TRY to insure your gear. It can be damn near impossible, but if you can get your van inspected, you might get it a reasonable rate.
posted by thr at 5:36 pm


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