MELBOURNE, Fla. — For years, surprised Space Coast motorists have caught fleeting glimpses of a psychedelic Saturday-morning-cartoon van with eye-popping turquoise and lime-green paint, orange wheels and a yellow bumper sticker asking “W.W.S.D. — What Would Scooby Do?”
Zoinks! It’s The Mystery Machine!
Sonya Conway’s Hanna-Barbera-ized 2001 Dodge Ram Van has drawn parking-lot gawkers across Brevard County since she unveiled her trippy paint job, valued at $6,000, about seven years ago.
“Driving across the Eau Gallie Causeway, a cop pulled up to me and flagged me over to the side of the road. And I was like, ‘What did I do?’ And he said, ‘I just want to take a picture,’” Conway recalled.
“I had a semi do the same thing. A semi pulled up next to me on Turtle Mound (Road), honked, waited for me to pull over. I thought something was wrong with the van, so I pulled over. He jumps out of his rig, runs up and he goes, ‘Do you mind if I get a picture of your van for my daughter?’” she said.
“I come out of Walmart, there’s 10 people standing there taking pictures. They’re everywhere I go. Everywhere,” she said.
In July 2009, a former Waste Management driver captured an eight-second video clip of The Mystery Machine motoring down a divided roadway, perhaps U.S. 1 or Wickham Road. The brief video has generated more than 166,000 views on YouTube.
Conway is a free-spirited Melbourne artist who specializes in faux painting and doll furniture design. She owns Sonya Conway Designs, an interior painting service, and All Dolled Up, an American Girl doll booth at Wildwood Antique Mall of Melbourne, and works as a cashier at the Viera Publix.
She previously drove a purple and yellow van decorated with glitter. But that vehicle fell apart. So she bought the used Dodge for $8,000. Originally, the Dodge was painted white — but “I can’t be driving a white van. That’s not me,” she said, shaking her head.
After receiving permission from her husband, Robert, to paint the van however she pleased, she decided to replicate The Mystery Machine. Craftmaster Auto Body of Melbourne took possession of the van for three weeks.
First, the body was painted turquoise. Then Conway labored for days after work masking off the van with contact paper and tape, and a coat of lime-green paint was applied.
Finally, Conway cut and glued $300 worth of vinyl lettering and flowers to the sides of the vehicle, and the wheels were painted orange.
The vintage vehicle remains alive in pop culture. The boy band One Direction toured Australia this fall in a pimped-out Mystery Machine Volkswagen van equipped with a 51-inch monitor, video games, lasers, hand-embroidered leather seats and a closed-circuit television system, CelebTV reported. Last December, a Vancouver man bought the 1994 Chevy G10 Mystery Machine featured in the 2009 television movie “Scooby Doo! The Mystery Begins” on eBay for $5,111.
As a little-known fact, Conway uses the Mystery Machine as her work truck. Rather than Scooby snacks, the interior is crammed with floor-to-ceiling shelving amid a hodgepodge of paint, tools, buckets, caulk, tape and other supplies. Unfortunately, rowdy hooligans zeroed in on the Mystery Machine two years ago and damaged the paint job.
“It’s a target of eggers. It gets egged. One summer, it got egged every day. This is all from eggs,” Conway said, pointing out ruined clear-coat on a side panel. “People are like, ‘Let’s go egg The Mystery Machine!’ And every day, I’d come out here and there’d be eggs.”
The ultimate question: Why did she decide to replicate the Mystery Machine?
“There’s no logical explanation. I’m just a very strange person, and I wanted something fun. White is not normal to me,” she said.