Earlier this week, some of you might have been questioning my sanity after reading my essay on Tuesday about Illinois’ recent shelter-in-place order as I had related it to a Ford F-Series pickup from the mid-’70s with a flat tire. Don’t worry. I’ve since met with my therapist (remotely) a few days ago, but that’s neither here nor there. Just one month ago, I had written about a ’65 Ford Econoline spotted in my neighborhood. Looking westward in that general direction from my living room windows this past weekend, I remembered another once-traditional, rear-wheel-drive van I had seen parked on the street here in Edgewater: the two-tone beauty pictured above.
I was in elementary school when the Chrysler minivans had made their hugely impactful first appearance. At that time, and to my young eyes, the Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan seemed novel, innovative and actually a bit futuristic. This may be hard for some of the younger readers to fully understand, but there was a time when the minivan was not necessarily associated, in an admittedly pejorative sense, with “soccer moms” and a certain staid, sanitized, sheltered, suburban existence. (I’ll qualify that by saying that two of my siblings own minivans.) The Voyager and Caravan were genuinely cool. Before they arrived, though, transporters like this GMC G-Body were what most people thought of when thinking about a “van” in any form.
Such a composite naming structure seems excessive for such a simple beast as this. “Oh, no. It’s not just a ‘Rally Wagon’. It’s a Rally STX, thank you.” This very-1980s trend wasn’t limited to General Motors. Ford’s alphabet-soup-suffixed pricing tier structure also felt overwrought. (“You drive a Mustang ‘L’? Sorry. I’ve got a Mustang GLX, and I just can’t be seen with you.”) I’m unclear on the model year of our featured van and also didn’t get a clear shot of the license plate, but it’s got to be from ’85 at the earliest and ’91 at the latest, given the front grille and lack of chrome surrounds on the side-market lights.
This top-tier Rally STX is on a 125″, long-wheelbase platform with an overall length of just over 202 inches. Some of them were built in my hometown of Flint, Michigan, as well as in Lordstown, Ohio and also in the Scarborough division of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I have limited experience with these kinds of vehicles outside of a handful of childhood memories of having sunk luxuriously into the “captain’s chairs” of a conversion van. These conveyances were once very common. My brothers and I even had a slot-car van, though it was a Ford Econoline. It very tricky to corner when racing against the red IMSA Chevy Monza or blue ’71 Plymouth Satellite on the track we would set up on the laundry room linoleum, but its built-in handicap of being somewhat tall and cumbersome made it fun to “drive”.
Today is already the second Friday of Spring 2020 in the northern hemisphere, and I wish I could be outside walking around my neighborhood, as I was when I saw and photographed this van. Maybe a quick break and a couple laps around my block are warranted while I work from home, provided that I thoroughly wash my hands when I return home after handling door knobs, pressing elevator buttons, and so on. If anything, being “held hostage” in my own dwelling by a global viral pandemic has given me an increased appreciation for a lot of seemingly simple things I am definitely guilty of having taken for granted prior to COVID-19’s appearance. In the meantime, we’ve all got to rally to get through this. Be well and safe, Curbside readers around the world, and have a good weekend.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Monday, July 1, 2019.