Like others at CC, I’m fascinated by platform longevity. Not so only in terms of mechanical genealogy as demonstrated by, say, the ’90s Caprice sharing bits with the ’70s A-body colonnades, but also as it relates to external similarities as exemplified by cars like the long-lived Volvo 240 and, as seen here, the Dodge B-series vans.
The origins of the B-series van have been covered before, so there really isn’t much need to go into the backstory. When Mopar ceased building the B-series in 2003, it wasn’t exactly the same as it was in 1971, but it was close enough that, when viewed with squinted eyes and from the right angle, you might be thinking it were 1979 all over again.
To pick up where the previous CC left off, 1998 was a pivotal year for the venerable vehicle. By that year, Ford was six years into the next generation Econoline, and GM was two years into the fourth generation of its heavy haulers. What was Mopar to do? Put old wine in a new bottle, of course.
A reskinned front nose was the most obvious change from the ’97 van, but there were numerous changes inside as well. According to Allpar, these included more power from the top-tier 360 engine, improvements to the brakes and unibody construction, a new dashboard and most importantly, the relocation of the engine a few inches forward to better cater to those pesky humans who wanted to sit up front.
Allpar also notes that in addition to the slight stretch forward for the engine bay, Dodge also moved the front seats and dashboard backwards to give the illusion of more room, when it fact all they succeeded in doing was making egress all that much harder, since the door openings where in the same location as they had been from the start.
In the end, much like many other Mopar products, there just wasn’t enough money to redevelop a new van, and the market was more than amply covered by the Econoline. The replacement van, the Sprinter, is a story until itself, but today we celebrate one of the longest lived platforms–thirty-two years in production for the Dodge B-series van!
This short wheelbase van was spotted hauling seafood awhile back, still plugging away as was intended. A little worse for wear, this van is probably sporting a 318 (5.2L) engine, but with no markings other than a RAM 1500, it’s impossible to tell. A 3.9 Magnum V6 was also available.
As a parting view, this B-series van shows us one of the last vestiges of its true year of origin–all other big vans had long abandoned the massive one sided door, and yet like the van itself, this option hung on long past its prime.