Last November, I walked by this long ‘n tall Dodge B-Series camper van. It’s based on the Sportsman Maxiwagon, so with the long wheelbase (127”) and extended rear overhang. Furthermore, it has a raised roof with side windows.
It got its first registration in the Netherlands in May 1981, it was imported into my country as a used, though still fairly new vehicle…oh look, there’s a 1982 Saab 900 EMS in the background. Too bad folks, I don’t have more pictures of that sweet Swede.
The Dodge is powered by a V8 (displacement not registered), running on LPG. The two-tone cabin cruiser can float around
road-tax-free, given the fact that it’s older than forty years. Apart from that, reduced taxes apply to all types of camper vans and motorhomes younger than forty years.
Maxi airy greenhouse, with a sliding door on the right side (instead of two hinged doors). Of course you’ve already identified the vehicle on the Dodge’s left side.
I hope the CC-commentariat can come up with any additional information about the Big Dodge. Besides Sportsman and Maxiwagon, there were no other clues on the whole van.
This pre-1979 B-Series Family Wagon Royale by the Travco company comes close, although it’s not a Maxiwagon. Feel free to fill in the blanks.
Related articles (by Mopar Camper Van Man Paul Niedermeyer):
CC Outtake: 1977 (or so) Dodge Maxivan Camper Van – The DodgeMaster High Roof
CC Capsule: 1973 Dodge Balboa Motorhome – Porky’s Piglet
Auto-Biography: 1977 Dodge Chinook 18 Plus (Concourse) – The Beginning and End of a 15 Year Love Affair
Curbside Classics: 1971 Dodge Maxiwagon And 1979 Dodge Maxivan – Dodge Pioneers The Really Big Van
There were lots of companies making these raised roof vans during this era (’76-’79), which was a peak time for RVs of all sorts.
There were a number of companies that made the extended roof, and even more that bought them and installed them as part of their conversion. Many of those conversion companies popped up over night during the boom era and just as quickly faded away.
Interesting find and I like the wraparound rear windows more than I’d surely like driving this rig, but surely that Cadillac Escalade EXT Pickup (Fancy Avalanche) next to it has to be a rare sight over by you as well, no? They are already rarely seen over here.
The Caddy is a very rare bird indeed. The less fancy Avalanche is more common, just like other US pickups (although they’re not on every street corner, of course), especially new and previous models RAM 1500.
Wow, I cannot believe that is 40 years old. Great catches with this, the Saab, and the Caddy; thank you for sharing these photos. What sort of person do you suppose drives a van like this in the Nederlands?
According to its registration (license plate), the current owner bought the van in November 2010, so that person must like the van, otherwise he/she wouldn’t have kept it for so long.
Other than that, I can’t give you more information, as I didn’t see/meet the owner.
Like Paul said, lots of regional companies converted vans to campers or to luxocruisers and not a few of them were in the fiberglass boat business at the same time – which made these roof pieces make manufacturing sense. The better ones usually carried some identification of the company. So perhaps this was not done by one of the better ones.
The V8 engine in these would have been either a 318 (5.2 L) or a 360 (5.9 L). These would scoot out quite nicely with the 360. If you could get it started. Chrysler products of this era could be quite finicky on whether or not they would run.
Yes, I had a 1983 Dodge camping van with the 318 engine. Absolute gem of an engine in every respect except, as you say, starting it. Well, the first cold start of the day at least. After that it was normally fine.
The problem was the auto-choke on the Carter carburettor. Theoretically you set it by slowly pressing the throttle once or twice depending on how cold the outside air was. It would always start first turn of the key with the engine on extremely high idle. So good, so far.
Trouble started if you tried to actually go anywhere. As soon as you touched the throttle again the choke would kick out and the engine cut out. You had to let it warm up for quite a while before it would drive.
I actually had a brand new carb installed thinking that would solve the problem but, no, it was exactly the same.
I experimented with different starting techniques before I eventually found a trick to it (I won’t bore you with details) but even that was hit and miss.
Luckily, through most of my ownership, I lived where I could drive away on idle only without touching the gas as the road was level or slightly descending before I needed climb a small upslope.
By then I was doing 30 MPH and I could feel the engine hesitate as I opened the throttle but it would pick up again and be perfect the rest of the day.
I travelled around about 20 of the Western states and provinces in that van. Basically wore it out but, as I said, awesome engine.
I had the same issues with my ’77 Dodge van/Chinook, with the 360. It tried to kill me several times pulling into a highway. I finally installed a manual choke. That essentially solved the problem.
HA! It is nearly always the case that the obvious solution is the best one. I am stunned, in a negative way, that it never occured to me install a manual choke. DOH!
Great find Johannes. At the time, I thought the full-sized Dodge vans with the quad rectangular headlights gave these the most attractive noses of all the domestic vans. Better looking than the dual units on the Econoline. Plus cleaner, more modern, and stronger looking than the Chev and GMC van designs. The four headlight design also integrated well with the bodywork dating from 1971. The Dodge pickups equally looked much improved in their four headlight configuration. A clean design feature Chrysler wisely maintained with the introduction of the Voyager and Caravan minivans in 1984.
If not for the cost savings, Chrysler should have dropped these dual round headlight noses after 1978, with the exterior freshening for ’79. It gave them a distinct fleet/school bus low budget appearance that looked okay on the previous version vans. Made worse when seen on stripped short wheelbase versions with the updated exteriors. The featured van would really benefit stylistically, with the four headlight design.
Looks good Daniel!
Well done and looking good!
Question. Is LPG common at gas/petrol stations here? Here in Minnesota they are few and far between making it a real challenge to own such a vehicle in pre-internet days.
LPG is available at almost all gas stations, certainly outside built-up areas. Regulations for storing/selling LPG in town and city centers are more strict.
It’s by far the cheapest fuel per liter. It was a much more popular fuel in the past (eighties and nineties), when many common family cars were bi-fuel (gasoline + LPG).
If you see a modern-era US pickup or full-size van in the Netherlands, you can be sure it drives on LPG. Well, unless it has a diesel engine, of course.
Other usual suspects are US land yachts from the seventies.
I find that I’m incapable of making a comment that does not make a snide reference to a serial killer, a child molester, or a skit from SNL starring Chris Farley, so I will refrain. Let’s just say this van represents the absolute nadir of Chrysler Corp from a quality standpoint, and best represents the Bad Old Days at Chrysler.
On a side note–the new ad supplier was a BAD MOVE!! They are now more obnoxious, intrusive, and in your face than ever, and I HATE it! It is so bad it now blunts my enjoyment of this site. I recommend you return to the prior format
WOW! Did Santa forget to visit you this year?
Growing up we had a 1974 Dodge Maxiwagon with a camper conversion by TEC, or Travel Equipment Corporation. It had a pop top, instead of the fiberglass raised roof seen here, but TEC made both versions. Ours had barn doors in the side and rear, but only one of the four was useful for egress as cabinets blocked the other three.
With the roof raised, my six foot tall father could stand up inside. At night, a double canvas hammock on an aluminum frame could be fixed at roof level. That’s where my sister and I slept.
But, as others have said, a lot of companies were making these. There might be an identification plate inside somewhere on a door jamb or under the hood. Of course that requires access to the inside of the vehicle.