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Sunday, November 6, 2016


FORWARD: It doesn’t happen vary often. A 
well-known West Coast custom pops up on another side of the planet in the hands of a 
person who not only appreciates its history, 
but invests in its future. That’s the story 
behind the infamous E-dog/Harvey’s Econoline, since it found its way to Germany, and into the capable hands of photographer, entrepreneur and vintage car lover, Matze Schneider. After reaching out to Vinvanco looking for info and background on his Econoline, Harvey’s new owner agreed to let us feature his van and its story in a new Vinvanco “Twelve Questions" blog entry. Fasten your seatbelt. This is going to be a fun one.

Q#1: Hi, Matze. Can you tell us a little about yourself and explain how you came to be the 
latest owner of the infamous Harvey’s van?

A: Thanks for asking me to do this. I'm 39 years old and have been an vintage  American car and VW fanatic since childhood. I've owned a 1956 Oval Beetle and a 1970 VW Square back, both heavily slammed. I’m a photographer by trade but I also rent out photo booths. I figured a surefire way to get my hands on an old American van was to convince my wife we needed to build a 60s American van with a photo booth inside of it. When she agreed, I set out to find a first-generation Econoline or a Dodge van. But just try finding one in Germany. It's was nearly impossible. I scoured every contact I had in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Sweden, and even in Arizona and Florida, but found nothing. Then one day I found “Harvey” offered by a European dealer who specializes in importing American rides. He'd gotten a 4 a.m. call from a contact in California offering a now or never opportunity to buy "Harvey", and he did which was interesting, because he normally sells only cars that are 100% original. Harvey was an exceptions. He me a good deal and I had my dream van. It was love at first sight. The van, which I nicknamed, "Harvey" in honor of a prior owner, was what I was searching for. A custom. My obsession all started with a clean black Eco Pup which was for sale on E-bay many years ago. 
{We assume Matze is referring this Stuart Cofer's Eco Pup, built by Erick Anderson in AZ.
Q#2: Anyone who really knows lowered Econolines understands how hard they are to fully slam. Van Go’s owner, Coby Gewertz, told us that your van’s stance was one he studied and was inspired by when building his superb Econoline. In fact, he had discussions with E-dog to find out about your van's suspension. Your Econoline was one of the first fully lowered Econolines that was able to run and drive. Some months back, you reached out to Vinvanco for help piecing together the history of your van. What have you been able to gather in terms of your van's history?

A: I was thankful for Vinvanco's help. Steve Luckett was a huge help, too. I found out E-Dog didn’t actually do much of the suspension and fabrication on Harvey. A guy named Jamie Conrad did the lowering, the inner wheel hubs, the 4-link, the Air Ride, etc. That was back when the van was blue with flames on the side. 
{Jamie Conrad was responsible for the drop, the wheels, the white walls and the side pipes and the seats.}
E-Dog took it from there, creating the grill, hanging the Impala bumper and adding more signature touches, including the fade paint. Given that so much work was done well over a decade ago, there have been many opportunities for us to update and upgrade the van. It really wasn’t initially set up to be driven much. I drive it a lot, which isn’t always easy. 

Q#3: What upgrades and changes have you made since taking ownership? 

A: Where do I start? The interior is equipped with everything necessary to function as a self-contained mobile photo booth, including a touch-screen monitor, a thermal printer, a PC, and it even features video and email capabilities thanks to having its own Wi-Fi system. As far as I know, it's the only set-up of its kind.

From a mechanical standpoint, we installed all-new air bag lines, a set of Mooneyes gauges and a new B&M shifter, inspired by my all-out love of drag racing. We topped the shifter off with a custom gold glitter knob. {ED: While Matze didn't get his shift knob from our sister store,, he certainly could have.} 
The side mirrors were replaced with VW units and I had a custom roof rack made from 
scratch to hold my neon "Photos" sign and to give me additional storage. 
All rubber has been replaced all around and a ton of other little tweaks were performed. We completely went through the cooling system replacing the factory 6-cylinder radiator with a set-up more befitting of the 302 Ford engine that the van came with. It got really hot once this summer and was nearly impossible to drive. I'll drive it 150 miles and it works fine, but it still occasionally has its moments. The cooling system is still evolving. 

Q#4: Thanks for all the photos. I swiped a bunch more off your Facebook and Instagram feed to round out this article. I really dig what you've done with the interior, Matze. I know the T-Bird seats were already in it when you got the van. Was the rest of the interior intact?
{An archive photo of the Harvey's interior back in the day.}
A: The Thunderbird seats were there but that's pretty much it. I found pics when Harvey’s had it as a shop truck and it had a huge collage inside with shag carpet, etc. Someone ripped all of that out before selling it. It was just bare metal inside. Which was actually good for us because we would have had to tear everything out to put the photo booth in anyway. We redid the whole interior to match the Thunderbird bench. Everything is white leather including all door panels, headliner in a tuck and roll style. We also installed golden curtains to give the cargo area a fun vintage photo booth feel. Wooden floors, too. The interior was done by Ingo Ekert, who is an upholsterer by trade who also runs his very own drag racing team. His team went through and updated the entire van. Eight guys spent almost 500 hours on the interior alone. Everything is custom-made, nothing is off the shelf. Ingo's team are very capable guys. No matter what it was, the interior, the air ride, the wiring, you name it, they handled it and did a great job. Their works helps fund their Pro Mod Drag Racing Team. Great bunch of guys! 

Q#5: Can you take us through the mobile photo booth concept?

A: Sure!. There are a few of these in Germany, mostly built with 70s VW vans. I wanted to do it differently. We've rented photo booths for quite some time now, so we already knew how they worked. I still can't believe that I got my wife to agree to doing it with a first-generation van, but here we are and it's all been worth it. We rent out Harvey with a "greeter" who talks people through the process. They hop in, touch the screen and the sequence begins. Three pictures are taken and printed out. 

People can also email their pictures too, using the touch screen, or even leave a special video message to the bride and groom when Harvey is working a wedding. 

It's a lot of fun for everybody. It's has proven itself to be quite a crowd pleaser. After all, nobody in Germany has ever seen a vintage Econoline, let alone one that is customized and lowered. People get a real kick out of it. 

Q#6: What kind of response do you get from other drivers? What’s it like driving your Econoline in Germany? Do you take Harvey to car shows? What’s Harvey's top speed?

A: The reactions are the best thing about owning Harvey. Unlike Americans, Germans are generally very reserved. You say "hi" to a German you haven't met at the bar, and they'll
move to another seat. But Harvey seems to gets everyone involved in the fun. People want to know all about the van. They can't believe he's actually drivable, since air bag suspension is practically non-existent in Germany. As far as car shows go, they’re also kind of rare here, too. People are more likely to come across Harvey in shopping malls, at weddings, or during corporate events. People have no idea something like this exists and it blows their minds. And the ladies, they really love it!

Driving Harvey requires some care as German roads aren't well suited for large American iron with big engines. Especially when it comes to the hills where I live. I have to drive 15 mile down a mountain to get anywhere. It's like driving down form Yellowstone every time
I want to go somewhere. Let's just say that a modified fifty year old suspension system that handles more like an old tractor is less than ideal. As far as top speed is concerned I've never attempted to discover Harvey's top speed because I value my life too much. I can tell you it handles horribly at 75 miles per hour, but I'm pretty sure it could get to 100 mph. Maybe I'll have to take Harvey to the drag strip one day to find out once and for all. 
I try to not call too much attention to Harvey when driving. He's currently street legal but all that could change if a cop decided he doesn't like the smell of its exhaust or the color of shirt I'm wearing. So I try to keep it on the down low. We haven't attended many car shows, as they're not as common in Germany. One event that we booked at a brewery drew 500 classic cars, mostly Mercedes, Opels, BMWs, and Porsches -- the collectible German makes. Harvey was the oddball of the lot. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing their reactions.

Q#7: How many other Econoline vans have you seen in Germany?

A: It used to me none. I was pretty sure the Harvey was the only Econoline van in Germany. Gege, the broker who sold me Harvey has a pair of Econoline Pups. But other than that I was pretty sure that I had the only Econoline van in Germany. That is until one night when I was packing up to leave a mall where I'd been booked. It was the middle of the night and I saw a shadowy figure lurking near my van. It turned out he has one, too and was in the process of getting it road worthy. So I now count a grand total of two Econolines in my country. I find that people are generally clueless about what Harvey is. After, all, there are no marking or logos on him so there are no hints. So far only one guy has identified it correctly. It's a rarity here in Europe, which I like a lot but doesn't make sourcing parts much fun.

Q#8: How did you go about inspecting Harvey? Was it difficult to get him licensed and registered for operating in Germany?

A: I had never ever seen one in real life. So I looked for the obvious when I inspected it. No smoke, no rust, Air Ride working. As far as getting it street legal, thankfully it was already done by the broker I bought it from. It came with a historic license plates which made my decision a no brainer. Getting an American vehicle registered in Germany is a difficult task.

Q#9: What have been the biggest challenges to keeping Harvey on the road?

A: I have driven it about 2500 miles in the first five months since having it gone through. I look at it this way: Harvey was built to be driven. I've invested a lot into this van. So why not drive it? To be honest, it isn’t always fun. The prior owners didn't build it with long road trips in mind. I drive Harvey everywhere. So I continue to make improvements and sort it out. I'm planning to take it to Dragstalgia at Santa Pod Raceway in the UK sometime soon. Which means a drive through Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the UK. So I need to make sure that Harvey's occasional cooling challenges are a thing of the past. The first time I overheated, I was 150 miles from home. I took the lid off the doghouse and drove at 25 mph for six hours over winding German roads. The interior of the van got so hot that my phone quit and all my digital equipment shut off. It was so hot, I could barely touch the steering wheel and had to lean out of the window most of the ride. That was quite an experience and not one I want to relive again.

Q#10: I don’t think I’ve ever seen your van’s engine or drivetrain. What are you running? Are you planning to keep the drivetrain as is?

A: It’s a 302 V8 with a C4 automatic transmission. It sounds really mean and is very reliable. I'm tempted to add performance modifications, but it’s already more than I can handle. For now, I'm really happy with the way it is.
Looking at the work that was done, I totally respect it. It was pioneering stuff - today, you would do it differently. But that illustrates a key difference between German and American car guys. Guys in the states build cars different than we do in Germany. Here we strive for perfection. Not just on the outside or to serve for a season or two. and The first thing a German thinks about is, “How can I make this last forever, never break, and still look perfect?". If you approach projects with that all too typical German mindset, it could take you a lifetime. And on top of that, the rules and regulations to make a vintage American vehicle street legal for the roads in Germany are far more stringent so it adds to the difficulty factor. To receive a historic license plate, the vehicle has to be in mint driving condition. Don’t get me wrong, there are countless perfect builds in the states. But I know, and now own a van that's held together by pure faith and bubblegum. And I absolutely love it. This is the type of vehicle you rarely encounter in Germany. I’m just thrilled it's legal and I've got it on the road.

Q#11: How was your van originally lowered? What are your impressions of its ride quality?

A: To be honest, I don't have a deep knowledge or understanding of suspension systems. It still has the original air ride kit installed more than a decade ago. The ride is really bumpy. Its steering also wanders at speed, and the tires rub on the inner fender lips on occasion. I figure it comes with the territory and we will keep on refining and evolving Harvey as time and budget permits. I'm sure that some modern upgrades will make a difference.

Q#12: What color is Harvey's roof, Matze? I seem to remember seeing shots of it with a purple metal flake roof at one point. It looks like it has changed. And speaking of changes,
what would you do differently if you had the chance to start from the beginning?
The roof is white now. It was white when I got it. But I've seen pictures of it with a purple roof and I really liked it. After getting Harvey, I had plans to paint the entire van gold metal flake. But as I documented the build on our blog, people just fell in love with Harvey's paint form day one. So I couldn't bring myself to change it. I had finished renderings and all. 
This is the paint job change that Matze was originally planning.

I was actually having trouble finding German painters to give me a bid as the van has a fair share of bondo and being fanatical about perfection, my fellow countrymen all wanted to strip the van down to bare metal before painting it. 

A perfect paint job would have required months of bodywork and that's before ever getting to the paint. I intend to keep Harvey as he is, at least for now. Overall, I feel a connection to him, knowing all of his flaws and eccentricities. In the end, I feel I'm benefitting from somebody else's great work and simply threw some of my own thinking into the mix. If not for the guys that did the initial build, I'd have nothing. I really feel blessed that my crazy business idea took off. That's why I'm looking to do some benefit work with Harvey. I'm in talks with some German celebrities about doing road trips where we travel from city to city so people can have their pictures taken by Harvey with their favorite celebrities in return for donating to a worthy cause. Sharing the joy and fun of Harvey and giving something back. I've really come to appreciate Harvey's unique personality. He's is a work in progress, and has been an ownership experience I wouldn't trade for anything. At the end of the day, I'm just happy to go out in my garage and admire my Econoline. Harvey is the dream of a lifetime come true.

We’d like to give Matze Schneider and big thanks for taking the time to talk with us and sending us such great images to work with. If you’d like to know more about what he’s done with "Harvey" check out Matze's Facebook page, Instagram, or the Schneiders Photo Van website. And if you’d like to support Vinvanco’s ongoing efforts in documenting the vintage van movement, go to our store and load up on some swag. We also have a online hot rod accessories store and another store with the largest selection of custom shift knobs you'll find anywhere. Thanks for reading, and until next time keep the boxy side up. 

The End.

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