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Hemmings Motor News has been around since 1954. We're proud of our heritage, but we're also more than the Hemmings full of classifieds that your father subscribed to. Aside from new editorial content every month in Hemmings, we have three monthly magazines: Hemmings Muscle Machines, Hemmings Classic Car and Hemmings Sports and Exotic Car.

While our editors traverse the country to find the best content for those magazines, we find other oddities related to the old-car hobby that we really had no place for - until now. With this blog, we're giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what we see and what we do during the course of putting out some of the finest automotive magazines you'll ever read.

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Could You Spot an FBI Surveillance Van on the Street?

Posted June 09, 2022 5:00 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: astro chevrolet

In the movies and on TV, the stakeout vehicles always seem to be pretty obvious, such as an unmarked windowless van sticking out like a sore thumb among a bunch of daily drivers in suburbia. That's partly for narrative effect, to avoid confusing the viewer, but how does the fictional world compare to real life? This real, actual FBI surveillance van that Mecum sold at its 2022 Indianapolis auction gives us some indication. Chances are, most people wouldn't give it a second glance.

Believe it or not, this 1992 Chevrolet Astro was only just retired in 2021, with 45,000 odometer miles claimed in the auction listing. And, yes, a clean Astro going on on 30 years old might seem conspicuous to regular readers of our Carspotting posts, but to the average person on the street it's just some old van, completely shrouded in a Somebody Else's Problem field.

On the outside, this Astro looks perfectly normal down to the aluminum running boards. Look a little closer, and there are few telltales to hint at anything beyond the ordinary. Would you pick out a small antenna and roof vent on an Astro as out of the ordinary? Probably not because, once you accept that you're looking at an Astro conversion van, any associated weirdness fits into the overall picture. Ditto for the curtains behind the front seats. Not at all normal for most cars, but easy to dismiss as part of the package. Heck, the strangest detail might be that the FBI didn't bother to upgrade the basic AM/FM/Cassette aftermarket stereo to something more modern.

Open the sliding door, however, and this van reveals its true purpose. Or at least some hints, as there's no actual surveillance equipment left inside. All that's left is a table for gear and an electronic control panel for powering any manner of cameras, microphones, and wireless monitors. There's also a heater with a residential-style thermostat, and some ceiling-mounted fans to keep cool on a sunny day.

As far as this van goes, the current setup seems ripe for some kind of Van Life conversion. And with that thought, consider the current plethora of van-based campers and how little they reveal about their interior from the outside. Yes, it's most likely they are actual motorhomes, driven by a middle-aged couple on a road trip to a national park. But you never know, that Winnebago down the street might just be the feds snooping on your neighbor with the inexplicably large car collection.

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Re: Could You Spot an FBI Surveillance Van on the Street?

06/09/2022 12:54 PM

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Re: Could You Spot an FBI Surveillance Van on the Street?

06/10/2022 4:17 AM

Now if you’d identify your home router as ‘FBI Surveillance Van #3’, would be the talk of the neighbor that all vans are under suspect?

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Re: Could You Spot an FBI Surveillance Van on the Street?

06/10/2022 8:27 PM

Could You Spot an FBI Surveillance Van on the Street?

If you see a suspicious van parked on your street, rename your Wifi "FBI Surveillance Van" and see if they leave.

https://www.topsecretwriters.com/2020/02/fbi-surveillance-van-wi-fi-joke-dont-fall/

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Re: Could You Spot an FBI Surveillance Van on the Street?

06/13/2022 2:53 AM

Not from here. This is an FBI-free zone.

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Re: Could You Spot an FBI Surveillance Van on the Street?

06/13/2022 4:39 AM

Says you…

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Re: Could You Spot an FBI Surveillance Van on the Street?

06/14/2022 10:31 AM

I would think the initial giveaway would be the steering wheel being on the wrong side. That would be followed by all of the locals muttering 'who's that stranger' whilst sharpening their pitchforks.

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Re: Could You Spot an FBI Surveillance Van on the Street?

06/17/2022 7:15 AM

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Re: Could You Spot an FBI Surveillance Van on the Street?

07/03/2022 6:42 PM

Where I live, I would be more likely surveilled from the sky as I live off road and not seen from the street.

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