Restoring the Brubaker Box, a lost gem of the van era

It's hard to explain today what made vans such the rage in the late '60s and early '70s. Part of it was the hippie generation coming of age seeking cheap transportation that could double as housing in a pinch, just as the first generation of vans from the Big Three and VW's camper vans aged into their price range. Customizing took more talent than cash, and "vanning" raged until fuel prices made them too expensive and uncool for the just-left-home set.

In Southern California, designer Curtis Brubaker decided to make his own — something smaller than the metal boxes from Detroit, but with more style than VW's Microbus. Using a VW Beetle chassis and fiberglass body and floorpan, Brubaker designed a one-door minivan/cruiser that was long on style and short of appointments. Shown at the 1972 Los Angeles auto show, the Brubaker Box was expected to sell 400 copies a month from a nearby factory, but troubles with parts and investors — along with a reluctance by VW to be liable for what happened in crashes — led to less than a handful ever hitting the road.

Related video

Recently, eGarage tracked down a restored Brubaker Box in its natural habitat of the greater Los Angeles area, along with one of its original engineers, and darn if it doesn't look right at home cruising by the beach. Brubaker figured out minivans a decade earlier than Detroit, and his boxes have sustained a sense of style that needs no explanation..