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Junkyard Gem: 2001 Chevrolet Venture Warner Brothers Edition

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During the late 1990s, minivan manufacturers began installing airliner-style flip-down video displays in their vehicles, theoretically allowing the grownups in the front seats to sedate the kids with video entertainment on long road trips. This idea now seems quaint in today’s era of tablets and smartphones, but this stuff was cutting-edge a couple of decades back. General Motors, already doing business with Warner Brothers by putting Wile E. Coyote in a Pontiac Grand Prix, decided to go ahead and offer a special Warner Brothers-branded Chevy Venture minivan for the 1999 model year. Sales of the WB Edition Venture continued through 2003, and I’ve managed to find one of these super-rare machines in a Denver-area self-service yard.

I spent years looking for one of these vans, then found two in the course of a single week: today’s ’01 and an ’02 a dozen miles to the north. When it rains Warner Brothers Ventures, it pours.

Someone pried off the Bugs Bunny badges on this one, but the badge shape is unmistakable.

Another indicator of the WB Edition Venture is the flip-down flat-screen with a special Bugs sticker. It’s just 7″ diagonally, but still fairly advanced for 2001.

Not so advanced for the time was the in-dash VHS videocassette player. The DVD format had been out for five years by 2001 and VHS was about as relevant at that time as 8-track tapes were in 1985, but WB Edition Venture buyers could choose between VHS and DVD. The original purchaser of this van opted for good old VHS.

You could plug in other sources of video, including gaming consoles. Because the Venture came with four sets of wireless headphones for back-seaters, the front-seat occupants could still listen to their music or just enjoy blissful silence as the kids carjacked drivers of Cartel Cruisers and Stallions in back. If you think the VHS rig and screen from this van would make for an excellent car-parts boombox, we’re on the same channel.

Just as was the case with the earlier Olds Silhouette and contemporary Pontiac Aztek, Venture buyers could get a built-in air compressor for inflatable pool toys and basketballs.

The Warner Brothers Edition came with Looney Tunes tapes or discs, kids’ pajamas, beach towels, a 35mm film camera with photo album, and membership in the VentureTainment Club (whatever that was).

I was well into high school when the first Detroit minivans appeared, so I never experienced a serious minivan childhood (my family had a full-sized Chevy Sportvan Beauville, with so much road noise that even the loudest kid sounds were drowned out before reaching the front-seaters). This rig must have been pretty good for long road trips back in 2001, though.

Even without the video screen, the Venture enabled the addition of extra distance between adults and ankle-biters.

Stress? None at all (some suspension of disbelief required).

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