The Libyans from Back to the Future in Their Van
Every year my friend Andy and I like to make an elaborate Halloween costume and wear it to the West Hollywood Halloween Carnival. It is usually movie themed and we try to do something that has never been done before, most of the time including a vehicle or an inanimate object. This year we had a few ideas, but I wasn’t going to be available until after 10pm on Halloween and we both work a lot now so we didn’t think we’d be able to do it this year. Then I was watching the Back to the Future on Back to the Future Day and as soon as I saw the blue Volkswagen van, I knew that was it. It was a perfect idea. We were positive no one had ever done that before. We deliberated for a few days whether people would find it offensive or if it was in bad taste or if we could even pull it off because our schedules were different for the week leading up to Halloween. But on the night of the 27th, we got started.
Thankfully we have friends that let us build in their condo, as our apartments are small. We try to keep it on a shoestring budget so our usual supplies are cardboard and colored duct tape. Also anything else from the dollar store or thrift stores to help with support and small details. We are both sticklers for detail so we try to make it as close of a replica as we can. Our costumes in the past were things that had many more small details, but this seemed to be an easier task for us. Andy went to get boxes and after sending pictures to me of himself standing in them we decided on a size and got 4 boxes to build the frame. We got the colored duct tape and then met up at the condo and positioned the boxes to decide how big we wanted the van to be. The decision was important because we had to be able to get it out the door. (We usually rent a UHaul to transport it so thats never a problem). We decided to build it, fold it somewhat diagnally to get it through the door, and finish supporting it in the UHaul the day of. We wanted it to be mobile so we could drive around the street throughout the parade and I came up with a good concept. Being the driver is sitting and the other guy is standing up behind him, I wanted to put an office chair inside and the standing guy would just push the other. Getting that was harder than we thought.
Once we figured out the frame set up with the boxes, we taped them together and began cutting. Usually we use exacto knives and occasionally a scissor. Constantly using pictures as reference, we measured out the windows so they were even, drew them and then cut them out. We went back and forth between whether we wanted to leave them open or put something as the glass, but figured it’d be better to see the driver if it was just left open. Once the windows were done we began taping the outside with the proper colors. The roof would be put on close to the end so we could step in and out of it though the front windshield, as the whole outer shell was kept in tact for better stability. After the initial taping was done, we added both bumpers, extended the front a little bit and began working on the detailing. Using thin pieces of black tape and other colors we made it look like it had doors, handles, break and side lights, and vents. We took two hand held mirrors and made them the side mirrors, got a steering wheel cover for the steering wheel, and bought 4 dome shaped battery operated lights for the front headlights. We cut out wheel wells and using big plastic bowls, made fake wheels to hang down in the wells.
The chair was a little issue. Neither of us had one and didn’t really want to spend the money to buy one. (shoestring budget.) I thought about borrowing one from work, but wasn’t sure how it would handle the wear and tear of rolling up and down a street all night. Time was running out and I looked on Craigslists free section but found nothing. Then I looked at the for sale section and found nothing cheap. (unfortunately I was doing some of this while driving home from work) Then it hit me that people in the free section said things like “all will be on curb” or “come get it before the garbage men do” and I realized there could just be a chair on the side of the road to use. Not 15 minutes later on my journey home did I see one sitting by itself on the curb. I almost crashed with how fast i pulled over and put it in my car. (it was kinda gross). I got it to the condo and began cleaning it and vacuuming it while 7 different spiders crawled out of it and the entire cushion had turned to orange sand. But we got it. Still had to figure out how to get the back to roll. We usually buy dollar store brooms to use as support beams and I found a couple of training wheels at the condo so I attached each wheel to a broom and taped each to the back corner of the van. Then I was going to put a support broom in the front that lays across the lap of the chair and when the standing guy pushed the chair, he in turn will push the whole van with the front being off the ground and the back on the training wheels.
The day before Halloween I was at work talking to my friend about the costume while I was staring off at another coworkers cork board. Totally forgetting about an item she found in the street a month or so earlier I jumped out of my seat to grab the Volkswagen symbol that had fallen off a car that she hung there! It was the piece-de-resistance!! That night put it on the van and it completed the whole thing. The day of Halloween, I had Andy photoshop a CA license plate that said OUTAPLTNM as a play on the OUTATIME one in the movie and I glued it to a piece of cardboard and put it on the back. We then went to the thrift store to get some last minute costume pieces we needed. Andy got the Uhaul in the morning and had to be somewhere so I spent the day finishing up the costume. Got it out the door and into the Uhaul to secure the roof and the crossbar. Was having difficulty getting the cross bar to stay as it came off, even after heavy taping. (It was also 80 degrees out so being in the back of a Uhaul for 2 hours wasn’t fun.) Alas I had to go to my commitment and Andy came back to drive and park near the festivities as parking is nearly impossible the later the night is. He was gonna spend the time helping to support the whole thing. He stopped at the dollar store for some more brooms and L shaped shelving supports to keep the crossbar in place. Later on I arrived and we got into costume, into the van, and off we went!
We had parked a few blocks away from the actual street the carnival was on so it took us a minute to get there. Andy had to push me up a hill in the chair (and all night for that matter). The minute we were in sight we were hit with nothing but praise, admiration, laughter, and cheers. It was awesome. We had another friend show up dressed as Doc Brown to run in front of us, with glow sticks as his plutonium, screaming “The Libyans!” as we chased him. We would also yell “Have you seen a Delorean?” or “Have you seen Dr. Brown? He stole something of ours?” or “Which way to the Twin Pines Mall?” Hopefully this helped some people figure out who we were. Though even those that didn’t it still looked cool to see two guys in a mobile, VW bus! Our interactions throughout the night were fantastic and we spent the whole time posing for pictures with everyone. It was an amazing evening and another succesful Halloween. We had another friend taking pictures and video all night. Attached are both. The video will really give you a sense of how our night went. I hope you like it.