There have been two kinds of people born since about 1960 – those who drive a Scooby Doo Mystery Machine and those who wish they were that cool.
Count Shawn Lawrence in the first group.
A lifelong fan of Scooby Doo cartoons, Lawrence brought a childhood dream to life four months ago when he turned his shop van into a tribute to America’s favorite animated Great Dane and the four “meddling kids” who rode with him from town to town solving seemingly supernatural crimes.
Lawrence is the owner of E Graf-X, a company that makes advertising signs and vehicle wraps. He hasn’t solved any mysteries yet, but he’s turned a lot of heads roaming around Wichita in his iconic van.
“Oh, it’s crazy,” he said. “People stop and honk and take pictures if they have a passenger.
“It’s our shop van, so we’ve got our ladders and tools and stuff in the back. People tease us when we go out in it: ‘Oh my God, the Scooby Gang guys came around and put up our sign.’”
One thing is certain: Scooby Doo taps the nostalgia reflex for Baby Boomers and every generation born since.
The original “Scooby Doo, Where Are You!” debuted in 1969 and has been an enduring hit – rerun, rebooted and spun off countless times over the years.
It was part of a wave of “message” cartoons that networks scrambled to produce after widespread parental complaints that Saturday morning TV had become too violent for little kids to watch. (Remember “Johnny Quest?”)
Every Scooby Doo episode featured a spooky, but not particularly scary, mystery. Chase scenes were set to bubble gum pop music and the villains were always unmasked and brought to justice at the end with no injuries.
The sentence “I’d have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for those meddling kids,” became a catchphrase that lingers.
For Lawrence, part of the allure of driving a Mystery Machine is that it evokes Scooby Doo values.
“Growing up, he kind of taught you right from wrong,” Lawrence said. “And now the world needs a little right and wrong.”
He said he always wanted to make a Mystery Machine, but didn’t own a suitable van until last year. The catalyst for the project came when he burned out the transmission in his truck and got bored driving around town in a plain white Ford E-250.
So in late October, he printed up a Mystery Machine graphic wrap – compete with perforated window clings of Scooby and the Scooby Gang – Shaggy, Daphne, Velma and Fred.
“Me and my son put it on in about three or four days,” he said.
Since then, his Mystery Machine has become a fixture at Wichita-area car shows. When Lawrence showed up at the Goddard Fall Festival, the organizers immediately slotted him into the town parade.
“It takes me 30 to 45 minutes to get gas, because people come up and ask questions about it all the time and ask if they can take pictures,” Lawrence said. “I’m like yeah, sure.”
Casey Shanks, the office manager at E Graf-X, said life hasn’t been the same since the boss started parking his Mystery Machine outside the office on South Washington.
“It’s funny,” she said. “Every day it’s out there, you see people pull into the parking lot, just to look at it and take their picture with it.”
And children often ask her if they can look inside. “It’s just got ladders and tools inside, so they’re a little disappointed when they see that,” she laughed.