Your devoted investigator finally got in touch with Vanessa, alias "Vibrant" Vannie. She never was a race driver but she drove in a lot of meetings and races at the team golden age. We are going to get more information about her, the media hype about this charismatic character and her charm and mystery.
58063 Lunch Box (1987)
Note from the author: like most of you, I had never seen Vanessa before and I was quite nervous to meet her. When I entered the coffee place on the Champs-Elysees where we agreed for our meeting, she was waiting at the back of the room. She was wearing a white T-Shirt, a denim skirt and brown leather boots up to her knees. She wasn't wearing any jewel except her big diver's watch. The few wrinkles on her forehead hadn't the slighest influence on her natural charm: when she stood up to welcome me, her 1.80m height, her cool voice, her long blond hair spreading over her shoulders and her steel-blue eyes completed the scene.
Hello Vanessa, thank you for meeting us after all these years. What could you tell us about you?
Vanessa : Hello BaraToZ. First, I must say that I'm honored you requested this interview. As you know, I never was a race driver but only in charge of demonstrations in Tamiya races shows.
My mom was Italian and my dad from Texas: they divorced when I was 6 and I grew with my father in Texas. I've never met my mother since then. I used to live at my Dad's flat that was located right above his garage until I was 17: in this garage, he was repairing "muscle cars". I remember that I loved to watch him working on these steroid cars and their so "virile" engines.
He was also a driver US and Mexican races where he always brought me to help him and cook. This is how I met other drivers, including those from Tamiya's team.
How did you become the Lunch Box' official driver?
Vanessa : Ha ha! I was sure you would ask!
In fact, my father and I were travelling to races in an old yellow van in which I had installed a small kitchen. The van was our place to sleep and eat and sometimes my dad invited other drivers to eat with us. After a while, many drivers called our van the "Lunch Box".
How did this old yellow van turned into the legendary "Lunch Box" Monster Truck?
Vanessa : At the time, a friend of mine was a young ambitious driver who had a seat in a prototype F1-like buggy. His name was "Shakey" Roop. He was a Buggy driver and an on-road race instructor and Tamiya had just hired him to develop their new concept. He introduced me to Tamiya's directors: he was in love with me and had influence, so he suggested them this Monster Truck idea as a promotion performer before the races.
Tamiya felt this was a good idea to benefit from my yellow van "fame". So they designed a basic and spectacular Monster Truck they called "Lunch Box" and they officially gave me the wheel. Because it was made for pure fun, they adapted the Grasshopper's drivetrains as this model was quite a success for limited-budget racers.
I think many fans will be happy to know how the legendary name was born! How did you learn to drive such an unpredictable vehicle?
Vanessa : Tamiya sent me to Japan for a 3 month training with Willy who was a legend in stunt driving. He taught me everyhting about making the show. I keep very good memories of these three months.
Some even rumored closer relations between you and Willy...
Vanessa : I know, but at the time I was dating Shakey.
Note from the author: she suddenly becomes sad and stares at her boots. I prefer to move on to another subject.
Can you tell us about your present career?
Vanessa : I'm still active and Tamiya still sponsors me, which is a great privilege when you consider how many drivers struggled. As my truck was only made for fun and not for performance, people didn't lost interest. I keep on being invited to shows around the world and the public is still there. Today kids shout and laught at the Lunch Box popping a wheelie just like when the truck was released back in the 80's. Tamiya even released a "Gold" version of my Truck!
Vanessa, thanks a lot for everything. I'm looking forward to seeing you soon. I preciously keep your phone number in case I would need additional information.
Note from the author: she stands up, grants me a goodbye kiss and gets her fringed purse. Then she leaves the place like in slow-motion. Despite being a professional, my mind remains focused on this fantastic Lunch Box chassis.