custom vans

Cosmic Cruiser, Ivan Benic taking it to the extremes

March 1, 2003

Finally got around to fixing up the Cruiser pictures ! Have consolidated them now and added some detail pictures that I took last summer at Vanfest.

The Cosmic Cruiser Story 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well the story behind the Cosmic Cruiser would take a thousand pictures. It has been under construction for 26 years now, gone through 3 major transformations and in 2001 will be on it's way to Croatia, the third continent on it's incredible journey. Most vanners can only dream of building the ultimate van, Ivan Benic dreams up the idea, then just does it. His first version of the van was a show stopper and poster van, version two went where few have treaded, tandems front and back, version 3 extended the van to over 30 feet . . .
I first saw this wild creation at Van Canada in 1977, Ivan towed it in on a trailer behind another van. A major crowd gathered around it all weekend and Ivan told us his ideas of what he was going to do with it, waterfalls out of the wheelwells was one I remember ... The next time I saw it was at an ISCA show in Ottawa, sure enough there were waterfalls, as well as a computerized bar and the wildest wraparound mural of the time, done by Ivan himself. It was no surprise when I saw the posters of it next to Farrah's in the department stores in the late 70's.

Here's Ivan's own version of how this incredible van came to be:

The idea in the beginning was just to build a van as I thought a van should look. The original front end as shown the first year was influenced by some people around me at the time. I decided to change it first chance I got. In Chicago where the van was first shown, it actually seemed to scare people so therefore I felt it was way too wild. From that moment on I decided not to let other people influence any of my designs. So I consider the teeth as a mistake.When the mini van came out in 82 I thought that it was a copy of the cruiser , naturally removing the wild curves and rounded panels they got closer to the crap they were producing at the time . The fist time I overheard someone tell his wife that the Cruiser was a customized mini van I decided to cut it up. On one of my trips to Virginia I lost three lugs on the right rear and four on the left, it was at that time in 81 I decided that more wheels were necessary to improve on the ride and safety. After the nationals in 82 I started to think of a new van because the Chrysler mini was way to close to me. Knowing how many man hours it would take to just chop a new one and get it ready I knew that a completely new van was out of the question. In the spring of 83 the van was gutted and in Sept. of that year I welded in another front axle and built two fenders and a hood , looked at that for awhile and than one afternoon I decided to build the nose. I quit at 4 am and my workers found me sleeping on a door panel in front of the van. The front end was finished.The reason that it turned out the way it did was that I was all alone to my thoughts , no sketches just a hammer a roller and some sheet metal. Other than a headlight change It is exactly the same as the day I first built it in 83. All this was done and I still had no idea how the two front axles were going to be linked. The idea for that came to me one night when a friend was taking me home from a late night at the shop (too tired to drive). The van then sat for the next year in the back of my shop. About Oct 84 a promoter of a show offered me some big money to bring it out for his show in Toronto. So I got the money up front, got some more from my friendly banker and the first show was in Toronto in the last week of Jan. The next spring the Cruiser came out on the cover of Vans and Trucks magazine which incidentally was the first mag that wrote a feature about me 10 years before.The Windsor Star on their own put the Cruiser on the front page and sent the article world wide ,I received congratulatory mail from all over, the most interesting one came the day I drove the van inside the shop to cut it up for the stretch, it was addressed to Ivan Bench Cosmic Cruiser Windsor Ont. Canada. It was written by a vanner from New Zealand who didn't have my address. In some strange way all the hard work was worth it at that moment. The stretch took about 6 months because of its size we had to rebuild quit a bit. Rear floor was sagging because the body support was just stock sheet metal and the weight of the body was bending it at the sides of the floor , the frame up front also had to be redesigned because of the size. Since the stretch the Cruiser rides finally the way i thought it should .At present I get about 10 MI per gal at 70 and goes down from there.Over all I have only one regret about the whole thing, I don't show it enough.The most interesting deal I put together because of the van was an all expense paid trip to Australia(10 Months). Of course there are more to come I just have to get out more. Some of the featured city's where the cruiser appeared Detroit, London, Toronto Montreal, Quebec City, Edmonton,Calgary, Chicago, Pontiac, Columbus Ohio, Pittsburgh, Erie, Niagara falls , New York city, Atlantic City, Washington, Virginia beach, Raleigh NC. and a bunch in between. Many thanks to Windsor van shop for version 1 interior, The Trim Shop for version 3 interior and Cyber biker for version 2 interior."

Many thanks to Ivan for the many emails to do this feature also to his good buddy Carl (Cyberbiker) for many of the pictures.Check out the other incredible work Ivan has done here:

Photos from Ivan and Carl's website as well as from Virtual's archives.

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 The Cosmic Cruiser at Vanfest 2002

Cosmic Cruiser Feb 2012