Home » The Groovy ‘Delta Van Cruiser’ Is A Boat That Combined The Looks Of A Dodge Conversion Van And A Foxbody Mustang (Also It Has A Fireplace)

The Groovy ‘Delta Van Cruiser’ Is A Boat That Combined The Looks Of A Dodge Conversion Van And A Foxbody Mustang (Also It Has A Fireplace)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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Delta Van Cruiser Inc.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 mercedes@theautopian.com. I have to know more about these marvelous watercraft!

(Images: Christopher Heffner, unless otherwise noted.)

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PajeroPilot
PajeroPilot
10 months ago

Is that a ring of burnt shag carpet around the bottom of that fireplace? Or is it some sort of asbestos hearth with a ring of rust stains? Either way, a fireplace on a fibreglass boat seems about as sensible as a boat that looks like a conversion van. I love it!

Irbatman
Irbatman
10 months ago

That thing is pretty wild. I almost swore it was really this old boat-van combo. But the paint job is different, and the boat just has a different shape. I wonder if these 2 were cut from some of the same mold.

https://youtu.be/32kK7lQZSks

Joshua Christian
Joshua Christian
10 months ago
Reply to  Irbatman

Somebody in the Comments Section actually mentions knowing someone with one of these Delta Van Cruisers as well!

DadBod
DadBod
10 months ago

I live in a prissy coastal Maine town flush with wealth and classic wooden sailing boats. My god it would be glorious to pollute the harbor with this blasphemy.

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
10 months ago

What a glorious, hot mess of a machine.

The company that built it, Delta Van Cruiser Inc., reportedly built just 37 of them before disappearing without much of a trace.

Much like the lines of nose candy it must’ve taken to get any investors on board.

If I had the requisite deep pockets, I’d buy this and retrofit the front end to something more my tastes, like a 1981 Chrysler Imperial complete with functional hideaways.

Danger Ranger
Danger Ranger
10 months ago

I would totally cruise this thing around a bunch of lakes here in MI! Party barge for rainy days!

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
10 months ago

I love it. And that’s absolutely a Daytona fascia there. Ford cribbed that from Dodge.

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
10 months ago

That thinghy could be awesome. I don’t want it but I want a friend that does.

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
10 months ago

Best way to enjoy a boat, for sure.

LTDScott
LTDScott
10 months ago

Pretend it’s a replica Dodge Daytona nose instead if it makes you feel better.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
10 months ago

Aah good find combine RV low build quality known to leak with a boat a vehicle badly in need of not leaking to stay above water. I think the airboat design is probably likely to stay afloat longer, but not too much longer. And why or how does a better suited for Frisco design end up in farm country?
But fear not build about 250,000 of these dump them in San Francisco Bay and put the homeless into homes. Could sell them for double to clueless govt morons.

E P
E P
10 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

The Delta is not really SF, this thing would not be great on the open Bay.

Also nobody in the state calls it Frisco, just as a heads up.

Roustabout Stanton Carlisle
Roustabout Stanton Carlisle
10 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

I know we were promised a “taco wagon on every corner”, hopefully you’ll not be in my neighborhood with that noise.

And, we call it The City.

Anyway…

Mercedes, I know that area in Pittsburgh! It’s on the same block with a bakery that I frequent & the building is now a window shop. It’s close to the Pittsburgh marina, so the location makes sense.

Last edited 10 months ago by Roustabout Stanton Carlisle
Andrew Wyman
Andrew Wyman
10 months ago

This is what happens when you mix a major town from another state in with California.

Roustabout Stanton Carlisle
Roustabout Stanton Carlisle
10 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Wyman

They should have kept the original name, Black Diamond – imagine all of the Kiss conventions they could have had.

Ncbrit
Ncbrit
10 months ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

When you said Frisco, and water, My mind automatically went here https://goo.gl/maps/xkVNSQskHb29NKNUA

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
10 months ago

The boat is silly, in a fun sort of way, please save me from this,

https://www.carandclassic.com/auctions/2006-rhino-buggies-blizzard-swb-8KwQO8

Remember, I live in rural England, somehow this thing is about 100 miles away( in UK miles that is a long trip). Also I am under strict instructions to buy a sensible vehicle.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
10 months ago
Reply to  Nic Periton

But, it’s only at £4,100. It’s sensibly cheap!

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
10 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

As person whose sensible bit warning light is covered over with a thick layer of SWD tape I cannot but concur.

Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
10 months ago
Reply to  Nic Periton

No, you should absolutely buy that.

Lewis Sharman
Lewis Sharman
10 months ago
Reply to  Nic Periton

Is it wrong that I want that so badly 🙂 Hate to think of running costs or getting bits for it though

Bradillac
Bradillac
10 months ago

It’s a unicorn, but one you don’t want. It was trying to be too many things. It has no side decking, so it’s hard to dock. It has a minimal cockpit, so where’s the leisure fun for more than 2 people? It has a shallow hull with too much weight forward so it will be a rolly and tippy boat with even minimal waves. I’d say they sold so few of them for 2 reasons. They offered the use of them without focusing on outright sales and also they probably fell victim to the late 80s luxury tax that killed so many boat brands. No matter the cost, all boats were subject to the added tax at that time.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
10 months ago
Reply to  Bradillac

Homeless housing using vietnamese boating rules you just use any boat to walk on to get to shore.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
10 months ago

Just looking at that boat gives me major Travis McGee vibes.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
10 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

The Busted Flush was bigger, nicer, and better thought-out than this is.
This is a product of its time. I partied in conversion vans back then, and later moonlighted at a marina, so I know exactly how this smells. Getting it back to groovy would be too much work for me, so I hope it’s going to a home that loves it enough to do it.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
10 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

All true regarding the “Busted Flush.” I was thinking more about the party boat context of the “Flush” rather than its dimensions/performance/quality characteristics. This thing would be more Travis McGee on a budget. C’mon though, you gotta love the shag carpet.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
10 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I got it: more likely to belong to Alabama Tiger’s imitative nephew than TMcG himself. Instead of Coltrane, you’d hear Kid Rock or Hayseed Dixie coming from it. Still a Party Barge.

Oh, I love me some shag carpeting, but I was over-exposed to the combination of it and years-old bilgewater: spent some 100 hours reviving the dual motors in a cocaine-era houseboat. Reading this evoked some vivid & visceral memories

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