Time is money, so they say, and you can waste a lot of both if your business keeps you out on the road. That was the problem confronting Jim Poure, president of $7-million General Alum and Chemical Corp., based in Toledo. With chemical plants in Toledo and Indianapolis, Poure found that he was spending as much as 14 hours a week on Interstate 69, traveling back and forth between locations. His solution: buy a customized van and hire someone to drive it.

"I couldn't afford a corporate jet," says Poure. "With the van, I can work or hold meetings without wasting two to four hours a day." Initially, he hired a retired fireman, available on call, to drive him around for $6 an hour. He has since added a full-time chauffeur/handyman to the company's staff.

The van, a Ford Econoline, is equipped with a removable oak writing desk, a removable planning table, six swivel captain's chairs, and a cellular telephone. There are drapes and venetian blinds on the oversize windows. Poure also uses the van to entertain clients, taking them on golf outings or to Notre Dame football games. For those occasions, he has a removable serving table, a cooler, and a bottle rack.

Poure had the van's interior refurbished at National Coach Inc., a wholesale van-conversion company in Elkhart, Ind., for about $4,590. If you buy a converted van from a dealer, says National Coach owner Joe Kamor, you can expect to spend from $22,000 to $30,000, "about what you would pay for a Cadillac or a Lincoln Continental."