Lifestyle

Mr. T's Ride


Used for the last season of Universal Studios hit show "The A-Team," this 1987 Chevrolet G20 van is a piece of television history

Formerly part of the Barris Star Car Collection in Hollywood, California, this Chevrolet G20 van is believed to have been supplied unregistered directly to Universal Studios during the last year of production of "The A-Team" television show. An all-action adventure series first screened during the 1980s, the "A-Team" starred George Peppard as Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith and Mr. T as Sergeant Bosco "B.A." Baracus, and was a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

This van was designed and built by George Barris, well-known builder of custom cars, whose credits include "The Beverly Hillbillies," "The Munsters," "Batman," "The Dukes of Hazzard," and "Knight Rider" on television, plus movies "Ghostbusters," "The Love Bug," and "Jurassic Park."

George Barris was born in Chicago, then moved with his older brother Sam to Roseville, California, where the pair built their first "Barris Brothers" custom car, a 1925 Buick. In the 1950s, George Barris formed Kustoms of Los Angeles, which later became Kustoms of America.

The movie studios had taken note of George's "kustoms" and came to him for film cars, one of the first requests being for "High School Confidential" (1958).

The vendor advises us that this van has been fully rebuilt mechanically and incorporates a new, "crate fresh" 350-ci (5.7-liter) engine. Its rust-free California body boasts show-quality paintwork featuring eye-catching "A-Team" logos on the sides and rear. George Barris badges of authenticity adorn both front wings, while the dashboard is signed by Barris and carries a "Star Car" logo. The correct interior features four captain's chairs. A secondary deep-cell battery powers the sound system's 350-watt Kenwood amplifier in the rear and dash-mounted CD player. A bass bin is fitted beneath the rear seats to really "blow the doors off,'' while rebuilt air conditioning helps keep the occupants cool.

Original Barris-built vehicles are extremely rare and in demand by collectors. Restored over the past five years, this "A-Team" van represents a rare opportunity for a U.K. collector to acquire an original George Barris Kustom vehicle without the headache of importing and registering it in this country. It is offered with current MoT, road fund license, and Swansea V5.

The SCM Analysis

This van sold for $18,032 at the Bonhams Stoneleigh Park auction in England on March 24, 2007.

Eighteen thousand and thirty-two dollars. Say that out loud a few times and imagine an altruistic Andrew Carnegie-esque stranger just handed that amount to you. Here's $18,032, free, no charge, no I.O.U., no strings attached, plopped into your hands....one itsy bitsy stipulation; you have to spend it.

You have to spend it on something that gives you pleasure--anything--maybe even a cool old car. Can't save it for Biff & Mandy's college fund, can't put a French drain around your house and can't put it into a 401K. You simply must blow this windfall. Now dial up three of your closest car/golf/beer buddies and put a top 10,000 list together of what you would do with 18 large. Heck, call your wife into the room and let her participate as well. Get creative.

$20,000 isn't much anymore

Now allow me to change gears for a minute before I revisit the $18,032 lottery ticket winner. Anyone who hasn't been living on an uncharted Pacific atoll with that lone Japanese WWII hold-out, waiting like Gilligan to be rescued, knows that twenty grand isn't a large sum in our hobby anymore. It won't get you to any "A" list of collector cars and it will limit your access to the world of Ferrari, Aston, Porsche, Corvette, or even Amphicar, Hudson, and Alvis.

But hold on a moment; apply the mental brakes until the ABS stops this cerebral skid. $18,032 will get you into several choices if you know where to set the bar. More importantly, that sum of money still represents a substantial amount of bling to 95% of our population. Some people outside the classic market could live for six months on that windfall.

Back to the kitchen table with our scratch ticket heroes. Along with super vacations, a game room, a great auto library, a cigar and wine collection, they've come up with useful and fun cars to buy. And these cars could be numero uno condition for that much.

You could own a BMW 2002tii, Triumph TR6, Alfa Romeo GTV, Lancia Fulvia, Maserati Merak, Beck Spyder, Porsche 911 Carrera, Morris Minor Traveller, Fiat Abarth 595 replica or perhaps a Buick Riviera. This list could go 200 cars deep and still not include a van pimped with 1980s "A-Team" logos.

This proves there's a butt for every seat

Lot 321 from Bonhams at Stoneleigh truly proves there is a butt for every seat. It also shows that there is too much disposable income in the world. Ten years ago, five years ago, last year, this thing would have been nowhere near a legitimate auction. And what is this van worth on any corner lot without the "alleged history?" Two grand, tops?

Our hobby is experiencing another worldwide boom, and this sale suggests that anything can be sold if presented in an auction catalog. This tells me the Dark Side is getting involved, and thoughtful buyers are about to be run over by the stampede of newbie investment types who have watched one too many episodes of Barrett-Jackson on Speed, where attention-starved bidders buy some airtime for themselves, and get a car thrown in as well.

Given the classic wording about the van's provenance in the catalog of "believed to have been supplied," I can hardly wait for the "believed to be" "Desperate Housewives" Aston DB9, the "could be" "Partridge Family" school bus, the "stink-laden BMW someone said was used on" "Seinfeld," or "the thought to have been near the set" of "Miami Vice" fakeydoo Ferrari Daytona Spyder (Oh wait, they blew that up on air).

George Barris has contributed some very cool rides to our TV and car culture. Many of his creations should be revered as iconic customs, but I think this rig was done by his apprentice, Jeorge Barriz, and someone forgot to read the fine print. Oh wait, that fine print said "believed to have been supplied&." And there ya have it.

Years Produced: 1964 -- 1996

Number Produced: 118,085 G10/20/30 in 1987

Original List Price: $11,609 to $12,833

SCM Valuation: $999.99 (at time of print)

Tune-up Cost: $481

Distributor Caps: $28

Chassis #: 1GCE625K8J7115753

Chassis # Location: Plate on driver's side dash

Engine # Location: Left side front of engine by cylinder head

Club Info: www.gmtruckclub.com

Web Site: http://www.ateamshrine.com

Alternatives: 1987 Ford E-150 Econoline, 1987 Dodge Ram Wagon, 1986 GMC Vandura

Investment Grade: F


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