CC reader Gene Herman ran into this rather convincing conversion of a Dodge Caravan into a mini-pickup. I’ve seen crude hack jobs of this sort of thing, but this one is very professional. If someone didn’t know better, they’d undoubtedly be convinced it came from the factory like this, as a follow-up to the Dodge Rampage.
And its maker has dubbed it ‘Fargo’, the name used for so many years by Chrysler for its trucks sold in Canada and some other countries. Given how popular and well-loved the Caravan is in Canada, I might have tried to pull the wool over some eyes and claim it’s a factory truck. I can see some Canucks going for this; they’re so much more practical and thrifty than their profligate south of the border neighbors.
Here it is with its tailgate down. Very nice work.
Quite the contrast to this “woodie’ Caravan pickup I shot in Eugene a while back. The back of the cab is wide open, and the rear “tailgate” is held up by two bungee cords.
My only criticism is that its a short wheelbase Caravan; if it had been the long one, it would have been able to swallow 4×8 sheets just as well as a full-size pickup. Now that’s something to contemplate.
Quite impressive. I’m surprised I have not seen it. I know exactly where it is.
Every so often you see a really well done hacksaw job. This is definitely one of them. I could enjoy taking this to a cruise night somewhere. And, like you said, if this had been done on a Grand Caravan . . .
Wow, nicely done indeed! I will go one suggestion further – a long wheelbase with a passenger side ramp built out of the side door. This could have brought Corvair’s Rampside into a new era, only with a flat load floor instead of the horrible multi-lever floor that hampered the Vair.
I’m a big fan of phantom Ranchero/Camino conversions when they’re done right, and this one sure was. The reason it looks so good is that the guy who built it is a professional body man with a shop just across the river. He came along as I was photographing it and we discussed at length the great amount of work he had to do to make it look so convincing. The “Fargo” badge was the icing on the cake and shows his finely tuned sense of humor.
I, too, was surprised I hadn’t seen it around town before. The owner told me he built it eight years ago and it has been his winter transport ever since!
I saw this in a parking lot in Winchester back in the winter of 2008-9 – it looked pretty good then, too. I didn’t realize the creator had just finished it.
There are some interesting cars up in your neck of the woods – someone in Fitzwilliam somehow registered a VW Touran diesel that I used to see around the neighborhood also.
I need to get out to that corner of the state and see if I can run across it. Very well done/sharp looking
That’s where his shop is located, Andrew.
Gene: did he make any reference to stiffening the floor? He chopped a unit body. Without stiffening the floor and sides the flex must be horrible.
I specifically asked him about that, Wolfgang. He didn’t but did put some diagonal bracing in the sides. He also told me that he doesn’t load it heavily, although he does occasionally haul parts for his shop in it. So far, so good.
Being designed for the full minivan, it probably has the greatest heating and air conditioning in the entire world. 🙂
HA! You could probably freeze or cook a whole side of beef in there!
The same also seems to be true for modern HVAC systems in pickup trucks–that is, since they’re designed for large crew cabs, the same system in “just” a regular cab will cool you down or warm you up in no time at all.
Answer to the short wheelbase issue: drop the tailgate and tack a red flag to the end of the panels or 8 foot lumber your are carrying. This is what I did with my 6.5 foot short bed regular pickup. In fact 8 foot long stuff doesn’t even extend beyond the edge of the open tailgate. I do want to let those behind me know there is something sticking out though. By the way, I always secure the load when carrying it this way.
I like the conversion. I don’t know why vehicles like the Avalanche and Ridgeline aren’t more popular. I do know one owner of each and they love the versatility of their trucks; works for them.
Ridgeline and Avalanche had cramped beds and were expensive compared to traditional pickups. I shopped Avalanches but I couldn’t justify the additional cost over a pickup. The Ridgelines cost about as much as a full size but towed quite a bit less.
I do like them but they both missed the mark as far as what most pickup buyers are looking for and what they will spend for it.
This custom is very nicely done but the reality is that regular cab pickups don’t sell much anymore. A crew cab with AWD is something I’d be interested in. This large deep bed is what they should have put in the Ridgeline.
The Ridgeline could’ve had a large, deep bed if 1. it was offered with a FWD-only option (think a Dodge Rampage, VW Caddy or more recently, the FWD ProMaster van) and/or 2. Honda hadn’t added the under-bed storage feature/gimmick.
Remember also that the Avalanche had a mid-gate that could convert the truck from a six-passenger/5′ bed pickup to a three-passenger/8′ bed pickup. There must’ve been enough people at GM convinced that their competitor to the 2001 F-150 SuperCrew (which is what the 2002 Avalanche was, since a true crew cab/5.5′ bed Silverado/Sierra 1500 didn’t come out until 2004) wouldn’t be a proper truck unless it had this feature.
I don’t think AWD is responsible for the Ridgeline’s high bed height…after all the rear footwells aren’t that high. It’s due to that rear trunk, which requires them to put the spare tire between the axle and bed, as you can see below. I’d much rather have a deeper bed, but I can see why some people like the trunk.
The midgate and better ride quality were good reasons to buy an Avalanche. But those sail panels and not having space around the wheel wells made them cramped and awkward when loading and unloading. Combined with the high price and somewhat controversial looks (which Honda then cribbed), it’s easy to see why they never really took off despite their appeal.
What a damned useful idea. Wonder if it would have caught on if Chrysler built it.
My first thought when I saw it too, Jim. I think Chrysler missed a good bet when they didn’t build this if they could have done it at price point that worked for them and the car buyer.
They already had the Dakota, which is basically, a RWD minivan with a bed out back.
Don’t they have a full frame and a v8?
Yes, it is a full frame, but it is the basic same size as the minivan. I have both.
That’s why I read the comments first. Someone often says it first. This thing needs to be factory. Good sized bed and short overall vehicle. If you do service work it would be perfect for urban use.
I’m wondering if this could get a following if they did it with the new Pacifica. Now would be the time to experiment in the smaller truck segment if there ever was a good time.
I am not sure if it would have caught on with the public of if Dodge would have really wanted it to. At the same time Dodge had the little Ram 50, the midsize Dakota and the fullsize Ram. (If this is a 1994 model then the Ram got its attractive mack truck redesign)
Very nice. About a year ago I saw a Caravan cut in half behind the front seat with the rear half made into an enclosed trailer. The workmanship first rate. It would look great being towed by this Fargo.
I just saw one of those the other day on I-80 passing through Utah. It was being towed by a Toyota Sienna. My first thought was to wonder if the Chrysler tranny gave up again and the owners just bought a Sienna instead and made the van into an enclosed trailer 🙂
HA! That perennial Caravan problem was the genesis of this project. The owner told me he got it for next to nothing with a toasted trans and decided it would be a good starting point for this project when he saw how free of rust it was.
Around 1990 I saw a Rabbit with a Rabbit trailer made out of the rear half cut at the B pillar and the front closed off with sheetmetal, it was done well.
They had identical paint and wheels, it looked pretty cool.
It probably wouldn’t have any trouble hauling it. It has a 3.3 V-6 under the hood.
It’s a Caddyvan! And are those wheels off a Sebring?
Yup. 17 inchers if memory serves. Good eye, rpm. One coil and one leaf each were removed from the front and rear springs respectively for a better stance.
I’m impressed! VERY professional job! Almost makes me want one.
That actually looks quite good! Needs some period-correct Dodge hubcaps though, not the early-2000s Sebring rims.
My aunt owned a ’95 Voyager in the same color; brings back fond carefree childhood memories 🙂
I would have gone with the 5-spoke wheels from the Caravan “Sport” of the period myself.
Those are nice looking rims and I know of a few Minivans around here wearing them. Would be nice if I found a quartet in a junkyard since I would like to have them.
When I saw this yesterday on the Cohort I was sure it would be a hack job….and was pleasantly surprised. Then I wondered if this could have been the inspiration for the original Ridgeline.
With all the interest in crew cabs, it seems the more logical alternative body style might be a Grand Caravan with the same smallish bed, especially since this van (probably?) only seats the driver and 1 passenger.
Kudos to the gentleman who did such exquisite work.
Hmm, maybe I ought to try this with my Pinto station wagon.
Mine probably wouldn’t look this nice.
There was a Pinto wagon done like that running around Kitsap County a few years ago. It had a Pinchero chrome molding on the tailgate, and iirc a 302 V8.
Quite an impressive conversion. As nicely done as this was it’d be easy to assume that this was factory done, maybe even a one-off job.
That’s the name of the game, CNS. 😉
Don’t mean to throw the thread off, but I think it’s a good time to throw in this link.
This fabricator also did a top notch job.
Just style certainly not as practical.
I think this is an improvement in that it looses the fishbowl look that cursed the Pacer from day 1.
Looks nice, especially for a Pacer (Pachero?), but also somehow reminds me of a Daihatsu X-90.
Nice. I think part of the reason it looks so good (besides the expert craftsmanship) is the fact that it is a short bed. Nice proportions.
Wonder if the factory built them, how well would they have sold? I like it.
Gee whiz, that’s some really nice work! I think I might like it even better if its basis had been the 1st-generation (to ’90) van, but this is really sharp.
I was super impressed by the quality too, Daniel. There’s much more to this project than meets the eye.
For instance, a working tailgate is my litmus test for these kind of customs. Of course it was made out of the bottom section of the rear hatch, but he had to lower the rear bumper about an inch for the tailgate to clear it in the open position. Once he did that, he had to make a pair of curved pieces to fill the gap that was left under the taillights. Looks like it grew there organically now.
It’s all about the details, innit?
I keep looking at it and I can’t really tell what he did to the bumper compared to that white van and would have had no idea if you had not said something. Very well done indeed.
I’m a bit surprised he doesn’t use it as a rolling billboard for his shop. It would certainly be a solid testament to his talent.
The execution is great, but the idea? Is not so good.
I am a convert to the church of minivans, and until very recently had one and will be replacing it with a Pacifica once they appear on dealer lots. There are two enormous advantages of a minivan over a truck:
A) you can carry people as well as things in some combination thereof. So if you purchase a large piece of furniture but also need help moving it you can put furniture plus helpers in.
B) whatever you carry is covered and locked, so if, for example, you are moving a friend from Memphis to Nashville and it’s raining, no problem! Everything is covered. If you buy a 7 foot door and then need to stop somewhere else to pick something up, no problem, it’s covered and locked. You can keep a toolbox, cables, etc, in the car, no problem, which you cannot do in a truck.
I do not know what you can really do with a truck more than you can with a minivan; carry tall objects like a refrigerator, I suppose, but that is too heavy for me to move anyway. I suppose you can carry dirt or something but that is easily remedied by putting a sheet of vinyl in the back.
I admire the execution but don’t see why this is better than the original van.
Not better. Just different.
You can stand up when loading and unloading a pickup. They also keep the smelly and dirty stuff out of the cab and their beds are far more durable and better able to withstand abuse.
It all depends on what you use them for. I have a minivan and a pickup. The pickup does 90% of my hauling. It’s just easier and when the family is with it holds a lot more than the van does.
C) a mobile shop, combined with B). And yes I know, it’s a panel van, not a minivan.
Fargo trucks were sold in Canada through the Chrysler-Plymouth dealer network. Dodge (paired with DeSoto through 1961) had their own trucks. Yes, certainly a lot of mechanical and cosmetic overlap, but up until the early 1950s, their grilles, ornaments and hubcaps were distinctive.
The subject truck certainly does appear to be well done. It appears to retain a Caravan style grille. Given that Fargo trucks were associated with Plymouth dealers, maybe a Voyager grille would have been more appropriate?
I bet the heater and A/C work spectacularly well in this thing.
Fargo has been gone from Canada for so long only auto enthusiasts remember them anymore-the name means nothing here anymore.
As a shorty Caravan owner myself, I’d say it’s very well done but not good for my needs.
But if it had a removable fibreglass topper then I could keep the seats in it and haul the family around. Like a Ramcharger, or a Cararamcharger.
Or course then the body would lose all torsional rigidity, but still…
On the subject of HVAC, there’s a really small space to heat and cool, but I wonder how well the flow-through ventilation works since the vents toward the rear of the passenger compartment are now gone.
I have driven hearses for several decades, and with the sliding divider glass closed, sometimes the heat and A/C don’t always work as well as you would expect…I think it has to do with air pressure building up in the front part of the cabin…
Given the craftsman’s attention to detail elsewhere, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn cabin air exhaust provisions exist.
That’s actually nicely executed. I think it needs a little extra cab behind the door to balance out the overall look, and leave some lockable space inside. Beyond that, this could pass as a factory prototype.
I would have both , but definitely one of these
If the factory had done this, I wonder if they would have felt compelled to move the rear axle forward for better load weight distribution.
Very cool custom, excellent work.
Moving the rear axle forward would only worsen the weight distribution. The best way to carry/distribute a heavy load is between the two axles, not over the rear axle and behind it. That’s one of the reasons modern pickups have a longer wheelbase, which has allowed them to increase their max weight capacity.
anything aft of the rear wheels would only serve to take traction off the driving wheels, which are up front. Completely different dynamics than a rwd pickup.
The people who did that hack-job must be really talented. Even the paint-job look like Chrysler did it themselves. The Fargo badge looks nice and the wheels too but are the only things no period correct but match look great on it. The person doing the conversion really has an eye for detail. Removal of the hood ornament negated the logos on the wheels being mismatched to the vehicle.
No, to get that level of authenticity would require the paint to be peeling off in sheets down to the rusty-hued grey primer. Chrysler’s paint of that era was godawful, because they didn’t spend the money required for waterborne paint to work right at that time. The Mexican-built Chrysler vehicles were better because Mexico doesn’t have (or enforce) environmental-protection laws so the old solvent-based paint could still be used there.
I’m glad this guy’s enough of a pervert or curmudgeon to have put together this truck. I’m glad he’s not enough of a pervert or curmudgeon to have disfigured his creation with the seldom-seen sealed-beam grill/lights setup available only in ’91 on the Caravan C/V:
What the…? I have never seen one of those, and can’t even find another picture of this setup.
Ditto. That’s a new one for me. “Seldom seen”? Ever see one, Daniel?
I never have—not on the road, not in the wrecking yards—though I’ve not paid much attention. I always figured the “With sealed beams” listing in the replacement bulb catalogues was one of the fairly numerous errors those catalogues contain (all brands, same errors; the data all comes from one guy who does a very low-tech job of researching). Illustrations and part numbers exist in the ’91 factory parts cattledog. When I do a search on http://www.car-part.com for 1991 Dodge Caravan headlight assembly, on the next page I’m given the “Sealed Beam” options, and there do come up some results. Ditto when I search for grille (next page: “Mini Ram”).
If this small rectangular sealed beam setup really exists for the ’91(-’95) vans, then that’s interesting, but why’d they bother, considering they bought first glass and then plastic H4 versions of the aero lens/reflector from Sylvania for the export models. Weird. Also: fugly. It appears someone was tasked with taking every shred of aesthetic rectitude and design propriety out of the front end for this (vapourware?) industrial/commercial version. I can see it as a stopgap/mockup setup for test mules pending completion of the real pieces, but…yuuuuck!
Never seen that before, either. But Im gonna go out on a limb and say that I like it. Sealed beams have always looked better than composites to my eye…especially earlier variants. Theyre just oversized in most cases and look doofy. FWIW, I always liked that style of steelie that this C.V is rocking. Blacked out and dressed with stainless trim rings/chrome center caps, itd be a really nice road wheel on a ‘modern rat rod’.
It’s not the concept I have a problem with here, it’s the implementation; they picked the wrong lamps. Instead of the silly small 165mm × 100mm sealed beams with a faux-parking-light filler strip below it, they should’ve used the larger 200mm × 142mm sealed beams, same as on the ’87-’90 export and work-version vans—see attached photo and more of them here, here, here, here, here. There wouldn’t have been enough height available to do on the ’91-’95 exactly as on the ’87-’90 with its horizontal park/turn lamp below the headlamp, but that’s no issue; the ’91 corner-mounted park/turn could simply have been made taller to continue nesting outboard of the larger rectangular sealed beam.
Well now that’s just plain weird. Reminds me of the “fleet option” GMC pickups of the late 50’s that looked like the detailed grille insert had been replaced with flat sheet stock and chicken wire:
(Not my photo, found on google image search):
…or, more recently, the fleet-option Chevrolet Colorado as seen here with plain black plastic, or here looking much nicer with body-coloured paintwork.
Very nicely done!!
Its very nicely done except for the B pillar that should have more substance being a major strength feature in utes, then again it hasnt fallen apart so its probably ok.
“Fargo” is quite an appropriate name, even without the Mopar connection, because this vehicle is kinda funny-lookin’…”just in a general kind of way.”
Good idea, at least to me. And that is an absolutely fantastic conversion–the owner must be a first-rate body man indeed!
Excellent custom work. Compliments to the owner.
Reminds me of the Dodge A100 for the mid 60s.
Actually not a bad looking little Caravan-truck. Basically the tow-motor et al. is in the front, so who cares about rigidity issues… just drag the box around on 14 inch “casters” is all that matters.
Eat your heart out Ridgeline, there’s a new white-collar pickup in town…
The van/truck still lives. I’m his friend/neighbor. I did suspension, brakes, engine work on it and have taken it on several hundred mile trips. It drives beautifully. Mel built it, (small local body shop) for a winter/work truck so he can save his vette from abuse. Currently transmission is bad. He wants to replace it, I say no, It’s his call. I was glad to see this on internet, Mel doesn’t have access to internet so I called/showed him. Maybe we can save it. I hope so. Thank you all for kind words. We all love our vehicles.
Just seen in New Hampshire