I happened upon the story of a once-obscure depression-era sign painter who rolled the dice, moved to B.F.E. (The French Polynesia), and became a master in the art of drinking, hanging out in paradise, and painting naked girls on black velvet. His name was Edgar Leeteg, and from what I've gathered, he was a legendary raconteur, boozehound and skirt-chaser. A man who escaped an economically ravaged America in search of opportunity and found it in the form a beautiful island, gorgeous women, and enough tourists to keep him swimming in rum by painting portraits of scantily clad native women on black velvet. Damn good work if you can get it.
Leeteg was a sign painter and a journeyman before discovering his penchant for velvet painting. He left America with a handful of paint brushes, the shirt on his back and some paint he liberated from a prior employer and became a legend. He was the kind of hard-living guy you'd expect to see stumble out of a Hemingway novel. What he left behind was more than a taste for the wilder side of life. Leeteg's paintings captured the imagination of an entire generation and have since become highly collectible. By the end of his life in Tahiti, Edgar Leeteg had forged a reputation as the father of the American Velvet Painting, built a compound on Moorea and sold painting for as much as $15,000 a piece by the end of his life.
|I ordered this book for my research.|
Maybe you should, too.
(JUST CLICK THE IMAGE)
After reading more about Leeteg, it dawned on me that a man who'd singlehandedly given the world so much beauty deserved to be immortalized alongside contemporaries like Sailor Jerry and Ernest Hemingway. It's with that in mind that I proudly present the concept for Pandora, a rolling tribute to Polynesia, to its black velvet master, and to the joy that awaits anyone willing to hit the road and chase a dream.
And now that I've found the inspiration, the rest is just a matter of executing to plan. Without any further adieu, I present Pandora, aka the Vinvanco swag van, aka Tahiti Sweetie. For the sake of discussion, I'll break the build of Pandora down into digestible chunks.
- · 15” Cragar SS Wheels with BFG TA Radial white-letter tires.
- (already have)
- · A MorDrop front drop axle (already have)
- · Doug Thorley style side pipes
- · A gull wing passenger side cargo door (Already have)
- · A subtle custom paint job in dark turquoise, or pearl white)
- A custom interior with a tiki/island/surf vibe using bamboo and tropical accents
- · Tasteful custom dash and gauges
- · Aftermarket shifter with custom shift knob
- · A Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser roof (budget permitting)
- · Narrowed front seats to accommodate the widened doghouse (see bar stool pics or seats from a Pontiac Fiero or similar)
- · 289 or 302 mildly built engine with headers, small 4bbl and good ignition system and a C4 or modern AOD transmission
- · A limited-slip rear with gearing for balance of performance and economy
- · Mufflers that sound badass but don’t have a drone at cruising speeds
- · A state-of-the-art cooling system with a fan shroud and supplemental electric fans
- · A custom widened doghouse to clear V8 headers and provide maximum airflow
- · D&D front disc front brakes
- · Quality shocks and sway bars
- · Replacement gas tank
- · All-new gas and brakes lines
- · Aftermarket lap seatbelts
- · Extensive sound deadening throughout, particularly for the doghouse
- · Aftermarket or custom factory gauges from another Ford model
- · Low-profile seats
- · An MP3-ready multi-speaker sound system
- · Custom couch and/or bed with storage
- · Dramatic vintage inspired lighting
- · Custom woodwork using combo of beech wood, bamboo matting,
- bamboo accents
- · Vintage barkcloth fabric for door panels and/or drapes
- · Sisal-type flooring, cut as removable mats for easy cleaning
- · A custom widened doghouse widened doghouse tunneled to front dash.
- · Beaded curtains for privacy between front and back of van
- Bamboo Matting
- · Ice Chest/cooler/wet bar integrated into interior
- Extensive shaving
- Extreme lowering
- Gaudy murals
- Cheap shag décor
- A CB Antenna
- A Visor
- Roof vents
I’d also like to install a Vista Cruiser roof like the one on Rodney's van below, budget permitting. And while we're on the subject of Rodney's van, I've purchased a gull wing side cargo door for Pandora.
Imagine a seating scenario like, only with bark cloth and bamboo accents surrounding it. The seats themselves could be a mixture of pearl vinyl and velour.
Yes, Edgar Leeteg was quite a character. He managed to turn his painting ability into a life of boozing and high-balling and living in paradise. He took an art form that was considered lowly and beneath a true artist and made it legendary.
And while he was never completely accepted by the art establishment, he probably didn't matter a whole heck of a lot to him in the end. He led an amazing life. We'll toast to that.
So there you have it. The plan for Pandora is locked and loaded. She's waiting patiently right behind me. Now all I need is my lottery ticket to hit. Or to sell a kidney. Or a shit-ton of Vinvanco merchandise. Maybe all three. I invite you to subscribe to this blog, follow Pandora's progress and learn all about other vanners and their builds from our reoccurring 12 Questions interviews.
Until next time, keep the boxy side up.