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Minivan Full of 'Speed' VHS Tapes Captivates Brooklyn and The World

By Leslie Albrecht | February 3, 2017 1:25pm | Updated on February 6, 2017 7:47am

Just when the internet felt like a sea of bile drowning our nation's collective soul, along came a minivan full of VHS tapes of the 1994 movie "Speed" to provide a lifeboat.

A South Slope woman's tweeted photo of a dark blue van parked on 17th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues on Thursday morning has collected more than 12,000 likes and 4,000 retweets.

The simple yet powerful image shows the van's dashboard piled high with videotape copies of "Speed," the summer blockbuster starring Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, and a Los Angeles city bus rigged with a bomb that will go off if Bullock takes her foot off the gas. Simpler times.

The tweeter, Emily Hughes, a social media manager at Penguin Random House who also runs the publishing company's scifi and fantasy website, said the tweet "blew up" within a few hours.

"I feel like everybody needs something trivial, an unimportant mystery to think about right now," Hughes said. "The world is so crushingly depressing that having a little bit of escape is rewarding."

The mysterious movie-filled minivan raises many questions: Why, how, why "Speed," and, what's in the trunk?

Hughes wasn't the first to spot the van. It was seen earlier this month elsewhere in Park Slope and has also made appearances on Reddit and in Greenpoint.

The van apparently belongs to a band called Idaho Green that recently moved from Montana to Brooklyn. The band's Facebook page indeed shows photos of the "Speed"-stocked van crossing the country last summer. Members of the group could not be reached for comment Friday.

But wait, there's more. 

In 2014, a Washington State man announced a quest to collect all of the VHS copies of "Speed" that exist on planet Earth. Could the van be part of his ambitious project?

No, it is not. Ryan Beitz, Grand High Chairman of the World Speed Project, said the van isn't his, but he routinely receives photos of it from people who see it and think it's related to his movie amassing effort.

“I think it's great that someone else is as fascinated by the idea of amassing copies of 'Speed' as I am,” Beitz told DNAinfo New York in an email Friday morning. “It's hardly an original idea, of course. I've been doing since 2007, and I know there are plenty of other similar collections out there."

He explained his project in socio-political terms.

"As for the World Speed Project, we have tried to argue that the collection of useless objects with no general aim has the potential to undermine the demand placed on all of us by Capitalism to only engage in activities that produce something of value," Beitz said. "Thus, by engaging in something useless, we undermine the logic of purpose, which Capitalism narrowly defines as anything useful in the context of financial markets."

If this story doesn't cheer up Sad Keanu, we don't know what will.

UPDATE, 2:38 p.m. Austin Finn, a singer and guitarist in Idaho Green, confirmed to DNAinfo New York that the "Speed"-laden van belongs to his group.

Though some have speculated that Brooklyn's "Speed" minivan was perhaps a rival of the World Speed Project, Finn said he and his bandmates have been collecting the tapes with the intention of sending them to Beitz. (This could prove slightly complicated: Beitz now lives in Helsinki, Finland, Beitz told DNAinfo New York.)

The band, whose members hail from Huntley Project, Montana, met Beitz briefly several years ago when they played a show in Moscow, Idaho, where Beitz was then living and working on his "Speed" collection.

The band, moved by Beitz's tale, spent the rest of the tour buying copies of the movie at thrift stores.

"The van was pretty full with music equipment and eventually the only place we could put them was on the dashboard," Finn told DNAinfo New York in an email. "I plan on giving them to Ryan once I have enough...but 'enough' seems to constantly be getting bigger and bigger...there's like 50 or so in the van as of now."

Finn added that the van — a 2001 Chrysler Voyager with 350,000 miles under its belt — is named Brenda and has served Idaho Green faithfully through seven tours. And if you want to hear how the presence of 50 VHS copies of "Speed" has influenced Idaho Green's music, they're playing at Silent Barn on Feb. 12, Finn said.