CC Outtake: 1981 – 1993 Dodge Ram Conversion Van – Past Its Prime

I’ve been walking by this 2nd Gen B-Series Dodge Conversion Van for several years – it sits in a parking lot near our home in suburban Tokyo.  Knowing how much our founder Paul enjoys these B-Series vans, I always made a note to shoot a few pics someday.  In going by last week, I noticed it had acquired an abandoned vehicle notice on the windshield; a sure sign it won’t be around much longer.  Time to get the camera out…

It’s in pretty poor shape now, but in its prime, this must have been a pretty snazzy custom van.  The workmanship looks fairly good – even in its present state.  It sits on the B-250 ¾ ton chassis.  I can never determine the year of these Dodge vans – they didn’t change much from 1979 to 1993.  In 1981 they did update the names from 100/200/300 to 150/250/350 – so this is a post-1980 extended length model.

Surprisingly, it didn’t have any graphics or decals identifying who made the conversion.  All I could find was this small plate on the back – “California Vans by ANIC Corporation.”  I tried a couple Google searches and came up empty – so maybe this came from one of the small conversion outfits so prevalent during the 70’s-80’s van craze.

Like the Ford E-Series custom van I stumbled across several years ago, it highlights the fact that quite a few of these made their way to Japan in the 80’s.  The 80’s were known here as the “bubble decade” – when the stock market and real estate assets were extremely inflated and folks tended to splurge.  These vans cost a pretty penny here when new, and with their engine size and exterior dimensions, would be very expensive to keep on the road (taxes, fees, insurance, etc.).  When the bubble burst in 1991, they were likely parked.

Another possible reason you see a lot of these abandoned is the lack of any dealer support.  Chrysler opened a few dealerships here, then after a couple years pulled up and left – only to come back several years later as FCA, and then do the same thing again.  Ditto with Ford – they made a big splash opening up dealerships, but only stayed for seven or eight years and quit in 2016.  There are private mechanics that can wrench on US models, but parts are always a problem.

It’s a shame this one has been neglected for so long – and that it won’t get back on the road.  Would make a great way to do some camping and touring when the cherry blossoms start blooming late next month.