Throwback Thursday – Summers of ’75 and ’76: When 4,000 street vans rocked Bowling Green

In the motorsports world, Bowling Green is known for Corvettes and custom car culture. Nearly 50 years ago, another type of automotive event came to Beech Bend Raceway for a couple years—the National Street Van Association’s Truck-In. With over four thousand vans attending in 1975 and 1976, this week we remember the weekends vans took over the city.

According to the Van Nationals’ board, the idea for a national van event was first suggested by Steve Green, a writer for Hot Rod Magazine. Its editor wrote a piece asking all readers for ideas to host, and the Rocky Mountain Vans of Denver, Co., were the first to answer in 1973. The inaugural National Truck-In was a huge success, and the magazine moved it to Bonner Springs, Kan., for year two, then Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green for years three and four.

The popularity of the National Street Van Association’s National Truck-In had spread like wildfire. Over 4,500 vans attended the first year’s event in Bowling Green—which was way more than the facility and city were had prepared for. When it was announced that the same place would host in 1976, several vanners were concerned about safety and space. Cost to attend was $10 per van, and that covered all four days of events.

Van Happenings magazine was on the scene during that 1976 event, and this report comes from several of its articles published over that summer and fall. Events like the Van Pull and 100 Yard Dash were held, along with individual events like Wheel Barrel Kahana, Tug of War, King of the Slide, and Skate Board Kahana. Nightly entertainment was advertised for kids and parents alike, as the National Truck-In was the chance for the whole family to pile into the van and enjoy a long weekend.

Thanks to Phillip Bradford for the many great photos, reminding us of that time street vans rocked all of Bowling Green in the summers of 1975 and ‘76. 

Throwback Thursday is brought to you by Hart County Tourism.