The Bug Van was the name given to the Dodge surveillance van used by Stan Switek and Larry Zito for their surveillance duties on Miami Vice. Over the course of the series, several Dodge vans assumed this role.
Switek and Zito used several different Bug Vans over the course of the show, but all were based Dodge van chassis. Initially, the van was white and featured a large but rather crude spider mounted on the roof. It also introduced the fictitious "Bug Busters" company, the name if which was painted on the side in simple blue lettering, designed to give the surveillance van the appearance of being owned by a pest control business, thereby helping it "hide in plain sight" whilst on operations.
The original van was soon replaced with a much more elaborately modified one adorned with an elaborate, comical giant flying ant sculpture on its roof (complete with flapping wings). The Bug Busters lettering on either side was also repainted in much larger, purple text.
For season 2, the van was updated again, now adopting a green color with a far more elaborate livery, consisting of a horde of giant black termites swarming over its bodywork. The flying ant roof sculpture was also repainted, this time in a more cartoonish green and black, matching the colors on the rest of the van.
These early Bug Vans, with their elaborate and humorous roof ornaments, were in line with the more light-hearted nature of Switek and Zito (and the show in general) in early episodes.
For the start of season 3, the van's appearance was dramatically scaled back, with the removal of the roof ornament and the custom paint scheme and logos. The new, plain van was far more in line with the dark tone the show had adopted, and fit better with the more serious portrayals of Switek and Zito from this point onwards. After Zito's death in "Down for the Count (Part I)", Switek took to reading magic trick books when he was on operations in the Bug Van, as his partner was never replaced on the show.
The van usually stayed at a distance from the main action owing to its nature as a surveillance vehicle. However, it did occasionally become more actively involved, most notably when it was stolen by Izzy Moreno in "Bought and Paid For"; Switek and Zito soon recovered it, and used the threat of prosecution for its theft as just another means of coaxing valuable information out of Izzy.
The first Bug Van used in the show is only seen in the episode "Golden Triangle (Part II)". Although never seen particularly clearly, this was a Dodge Ram Van with double side doors with inset windows -- all of the later Bug Vans would feature a single sliding door in the rear cargo space with no side window(s).
The Bug Van used for the remainder of the first season was a 1981 Dodge Ram Van and was fitted with the far more elaborate flying ant roof ornament.
For the second season, the van was replaced again -- although the roof ornament was retained, the van itself was changed to a 1979 Dodge Tradesman with a new and far more elaborate paint scheme and livery. This van was retained for the reminder of the series, although, as previously stated, the flying ant and custom paint scheme were removed at the start of season 3, leaving the van just a plain green and much more inconspicuous.
- Originally, the name "Bug Van" was a play on the fact the van was outwardly a pest control vehicle with a giant bug on the roof, and the fact that it was also used for electronic surveillance (often called "bugging"). However, when the van was stripped of its decorations in season 3 this pun was lost -- perhaps another indicator of how the show was becoming more serious.
- The alias Switek uses whilst gambling throughout season 5, "The Bug", is no doubt inspired by the Bug Van and his role as a surveillance expert.