I love vehicles that take two completely different forms of transportation and mesh them together. Some enterprising companies and individuals have made motorhomes that fly, campers that are houseboats, and milk tankers that navigate the globe. Here’s another variation of a land vehicle inspiring a houseboat. The Delta Van Cruiser was a small yacht with a design inspired by a groovy Dodge Maxivan with what appears to be the face of a Foxbody Ford Mustang tossed in for good measure. The company that built it, Delta Van Cruiser Inc., reportedly built just 37 of them before disappearing without much of a trace. Here’s what we do know about these wild boats.
A number of people have sent me this 1980 Delta Van Cruiser over the past couple of weeks. I can see why! This creation sits right there on the intersection of oddball boats and weird campers, both of which are things we love here. Sadly, your chance to buy this boat has passed. The unit has sold and it’s on its way to Washington state, where the Delta Van Cruiser will hopefully put some smiles on some faces. Still, I want to show all of you the glory of this machine and maybe, we can get to the bottom of why this exists in the first place.
Delta Van Cruiser Inc.
There are a handful of reports out there about this Delta Van Cruiser and the information out there seems to vary by source. Contrary to one report, the Delta Van Cruiser is not a cut-up Dodge Maxivan with a hull and boat running gear. Instead, the boat is made entirely out of fiberglass, which means the part that appears to be a Dodge van really isn’t and is at the very least inspired by a 1970s Dodge van. It’s possible that the van portion is a fiberglass reproduction body.
The company that built this creation, Delta Van Cruiser Inc., didn’t stop there. After crafting a boat cabin based on a Dodge, the fiberglass hull appears to emulate a Foxbody Mustang’s front fascia on the bow. Admittedly, I’m a bit disappointed that Delta Van Cruiser didn’t stick some Chrysler product’s fascia on there.
Anyway, it seems that nobody knows for sure why Delta Van Cruiser Inc. went in this direction. Sure, conversion vans were popular when these boats were built, but was there an interest in not just having a van down by the river, but a van in the river? To find out, I decided to do some digging. I’ll tell you right from the start that I wasn’t able to get too deep, but I found some additional context.
According to Yachting Journal, Delta Van Cruiser Inc. launched on February 18, 1976. The company apparently survived just 11 years, going out of business on April 9, 1987. Throughout its existence, Delta Van Cruiser was located in California towns like Pittsburgh and Suisun City. The company also had apparent successors known as “Jet-A-Boat” and “Delta Van Jett Housebt.” Searching those latter companies yields zero results, even on the Internet Archive. Based on those names, maybe the Delta Van Cruiser became a jet boat later in life?
One more clue comes from the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division, which suggests that the successor to all of these companies is Jag Airboats LLC out of Texas. It’s unclear if Jag Airboats, which deals in airboats, has anything to do with the previous companies. The one phone number I could find never returned an answer.
The trail has gone cold from there. I’d love to find out why the Delta Van Cruisers were created, how they were built, and if the claimed 37 units are the actual production number for these boats. It’s not every day that a company just makes a yacht modeled after ’70s conversion vans.
One of the only things I found about the company was a small advertisement that was published in magazines. The advertisement says that the boats were developed by Anderson, Anderson & Fortier, another entity that yields no results:
This Delta Van Cruiser
While the company that built the Delta Van Cruiser is a mystery, there is some surviving information out there about the boat itself. Delta Van Cruiser Inc. sold its Delta Van Cruiser as a small yacht, fit for water skiing, fishing, and sunbathing. The company targeted residents in the San Francisco Bay area as well as the California Delta. In fact, Delta Van Cruiser saw you using this boat to enjoy a day out on the water.
Then, you could either sleep on the boat or tie it up to one of the company’s Delta Condos. Delta Van Cruiser was willing to sell and lease its boats. If you just wanted to experience a Dodge van-like boat for a day, you could rent a Delta Van Cruiser from the company’s fleet.
As I said before, this was a fiberglass boat apparently modeled after Dodge vans. The recreation of the van is rather shocking and it even seems to include an automotive-style curved windshield. An image in the boat’s pamphlet shows what just looks like a conversion van with a hull under it, like some crazy Top Gear creation. Delta Van Cruiser hailed its boat as “An innovative concept in boating and camping.“
Delta Van Cruisers came in 21-foot, 23-foot, 25-foot, and 28-foot lengths from the factory, but the company advertised the ability to custom-order your boat with your own specified width and length. Standard equipment included a sky roof sunroof, carpet, headliner, a captain’s chair, a sofa, a rub rail, a shore power connection, a portapotty, an ice box, and more.
Optionally, you could get your Delta Van Cruiser with a refrigerator, a wet bar, a stereo, a CB radio, an air-conditioner, a sun deck, a swim platform, a real toilet and shower, a kitchen, and more. Delta Van Cruiser Inc. advertised these as trailerable boats and a trailer was also an option.
This 26-foot 1980 Delta Van Cruiser doesn’t appear to have the full option list checked, but it has the comforts of a shaggin’ wagon van for sure! There’s shag carpeting in front of the cabin, even on wall trim panels. The carpet coverage gets spotty behind there, and the cabin shows its age for sure. Perhaps surprisingly, one option this boat does have is a fireplace, which seems like a sketchy addition considering all of the shag carpeting in the area. Granted, at least the fireplace warns not to use it when you’re not moored.
The center of the boat also has a sort of dinette on one side and a sofa on the other. Behind there, I spot more shag carpeting and a cassette toilet in a powder room. Sadly, this unit doesn’t have the optional full bathroom and holding tanks. Another photo shows the optional sun deck and a grille, but it’s unclear if any other optional goodies are found onboard.
Rescued From Ruin
The seller, Christopher Heffner, said that the poor Delta Van Cruiser sat in a field in Kansas for years before he rescued it. The floor needed a repair and vermin had to be kicked out of their bachelor pads, but the boat was left as it was found. Everything is believed to be original. Heffner even got the boat’s Volvo Penta 200D, which is a General Motors 305 V8.
Some more restoration will be needed to get this Delta Van Cruiser in ship shape, but I’m happy it’s already sent off to a new home. I’ve noticed that so many rare vehicles sit and languish on the marketplace, but someone scooped this up in basically just a few days. Hopefully, some boaters, maybe even Autopian readers, will see it on the waters out in Washington.
If you know any information about the Delta Van Cruiser or Delta Van Cruiser Inc. drop me a line a email@example.com. I have to know more about these marvelous watercraft!
(Images: Christopher Heffner, unless otherwise noted.)
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