Paul Niznik, 35, bought the 1987 Dodge van specifically for the project of creating the Mystery Machine.
"This was one of my few artistic endeavors," said Niznik, whose mother is an artist. He created the replica of the van driven by the animated cast of the Scooby Doo cartoon "and everyone likes it," he said. "Picasso didn't have anyone wave and honk and yell at his paintings."
Real dog goes with it
Just as Shaggy has Scooby Doo, Niznik had Daisy.
Niznik originally came up with the idea to create the Mystery Machine because his bulldog, Daisy, wouldn't ride on his motorcycle. "All I had was the motorcycle," said Niznik. "So when I thought car and dog, I thought of the Mystery Machine."
The Scooby Doo cartoon show, which has been running continuously since it first aired in 1967, again hit the mainstream with the release of the motion picture on June 14. To attest to its popularity, the movie grossed about $54.2 million on its opening weekend and, two weeks later, was still listed as number three on the box office list. It fell behind Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report" and Disney's "Lilo and Stitch."
"When you make a Scooby-Doo reference, everyone gets the joke," said Niznik, who was born the same year Scooby Doo first aired.
Niznik purchased the 1987 Dodge van specifically for the art project. "I could have bought an older car that was more shaped like the Mystery Machine [in the cartoon], but that wouldn't have gotten me around," said Niznik, who has driven it up and down the East.
Niznik drew all of the designs himself, using pinstriping to make the car look like it was sketched.
Sonny and Cher
However, just as the car turns a cartoon into reality, the show made real people into cartoons.
"Scooby-Doo was the first time you saw a cartoon of real people," said Niznik, remembering when Sonny and Cher appeared on the show. "[This car] takes a cartoon and makes it real. There is something funny about that. It makes you step back and say 'where am I?'"
What Niznik really liked about the cartoon was that the main characters were always scared. "What kids like about it is that Scooby and Shaggy are scared," said Niznik. "They are goofy, they make mistakes, and they are cowards, and kids love that."
Leaving notes on the van
Over the years, many people have left notes for Niznik asking about the van or wanting to see the inside.
"One guy left a note on my car asking my girlfriend out," said Niznik, explaining that he receives a lot of notes and tries to respond to all of them.
However, Niznik admits that most of the notes are from the neighborhood kids. "I try to park it where the kids are," Niznik said sitting on the couch in his Boulevard East apartment last week.
Niznik also keeps a Polaroid camera in his car and takes pictures in front of the van with the kids.
But, Niznik said, it is not just the kids who like to take a look inside the van - adults do too.
"I take a lot of pictures with police officers and firemen," said Niznik, adding that he gets pulled over all the time just so the officers can see the car. "It kind of brings out the kid in everyone. It makes people smile. That is why I made it."
Niznik also gives some kids who come to see the van different Scooby Doo toys.
Teaches people to fly
When Niznik isn't riding around in his self-made Mystery Machine, he is riding a tractor. Niznik owns his own business teaching people how to fly.
Niznik's school, where he teaches people how to paraglide, is set on farmland in Millerton, N.Y.
"On my farm there are a lot of rolling hills, and they all need to be mowed," said Niznik, explaining why a West New York resident would spend a lot of time on a tractor.
According to Niznik, paragliding is growing in popularity in the United States and has already become extremely popular in Europe.
"[Paragliding] is an amazing sport," said Niznik. "It is sort of an adventure thing. My business is a fun business. Learning to fly is a thrilling experience."
The Mystery Machine also comes in handy while Niznik is working. While on the job, Niznik finds himself camping a lot in the different fields that he teaches in. The van has a lot of room to carry his camping gear and people.
The inside of the van, though never completed, has electric blue carpeting and a couch.
"I am a tall guy," said Niznik. "I finally wanted a bed I can fit in."
However, after six years of driving around in the van, Niznik said he is ready to sell.
"Somebody out there really wants to have a Mystery Machine," said Niznik, adding that the new movie has added to the cartoon's popularity.
To learn more about paragliding or the Mystery Machine, visit www.flyny.net.