Back in the days before smartphones and cheap tablet computers, parents planning to take some screaming ankle-biters on a long road trip needed some means of hypnotizing the little darlings into submission, something that didn’t involve extreme measures such as tranquilizer dart guns or child literacy. Minivan makers began installing airliner-style flip-down video displays in the 1990s, enabling The Slime to ooze out of tiny flat screens on the road. The General took this idea one step further, partnering with Warner Brothers to issue a special-edition Chevy Venture packed with Looney Tunes goodies and branding. I spent years trying to find one of these rare vans in the U-Wrench-It yards I frequent, and I hit pay dirt last month in Denver.
The WB was the top-of-the-line Venture for the 1999 through 2003 model years, featuring Bugs Bunny badging, WB-themed goodies, and cartoon compilations. The 2002 version even came with a complimentary membership in the VentureTainment Club and an MCI calling card!
It’s unclear today what the real benefits of VentureTainment were, but WB Edition Venture families got special beach towels, pajamas, ice chests, cameras, and other WB/GM-badged items suitable for family vacations.
The flip-down display measured 70inch diagonally and the WB Venture came with four sets of wireless headphones for passengers to wear while watching Looney Tunes cartoons (we can assume that no Plymouth Road Runner commercials made it onto the WB Venture compilation videos).
Some early WB Ventures came with 1983-style VHS video cassette players, but the ’02 was equipped with futuristic DVD technology. I think I need to build a car-parts boombox with a complete early-21st-century video player installed… just after I build one incorporating a 1988 Buick Riviera touchscreen computer.
Though I’m a member of the older end of Generation X and went on many family road trips during the 1970s, I never experienced such trips in the big Detroit station wagons of the era. Instead, we had a 1973 Chevy Sportvan Beauville, and that van offered an old-school solution to the sanity-shredding sounds of bored children: NVH so overwhelming that we yowling kids couldn’t be heard over a symphony of tire noise, oil-canning body panels, squeaks, differential howl, and wind shriek from open windows mandated by the lack of air conditioning.
This van even has Versatrak all-wheel-drive, a popular option in Colorado. The price tag of the WB Edition ’02 Venture started at $30,660, but you had to give The General 33,345 carrots to get it with AWD (that’s about $47,035 and $51,160, respectively, in 2021 carrots). All 2002 Ventures came with automatic transmission, air conditioning, and power door locks… but the cheapskate-level Venture Value Van (not to be confused with the GMC Value Van of an earlier era) had manual-crank windows.
This van still had most of the original documentation in the glovebox when it came to this place.
When you find a junkyard car with just the ignition key inside, it’s a safe bet that you’re looking at a dealership trade-in or insurance total. However, an ignition key accompanied by house keys suggests that the car may have been confiscated by Johnny Law under less-than-happy circumstances. If you’d like to see many such vehicles, just head to your local police auction.
At least this machine’s final owner knew the value of a dollar.
Kids could plug their video-game consoles into the Venture’s screen if they got sick watching The Ducktators on an endless loop while wearing Chevy-WB jammies.
Much quieter than a ’73 Beauville.
Perhaps GM scored a big victory by partnering with Warner Brothers, but we mustn’t forget that Mitsubishi made a deal with Disney for home-market ads back in the early 1980s. Yes, that’s the little van we knew as the Colt Vista on this side of the Pacific.
In China, this minivan was sold as the Buick GL8.
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