(first posted 1/13/2016) The Toyota Van may be The Offical Van Of Eugene today, but up until just a few weeks ago, it had been probably at least five years (maybe ten) since I had seen one in the wild, anywhere, including here in Chicago. And what a sight! This one looked to have served as a real family workhorse, judging from the full passenger load and lower body-side damage. I’m guessing on the model year, going simply by the crosshatch-grille insert in the front bumper.
I always thought these were reasonably good-looking as minivans go, even if their excessive front overhang looked just a little bit off. These Vans still look somewhat futuristic in 2016, especially when contrasted with the U.S.-market seventh-generation Toyota Camry taxi cab behind it in the title shot. This juxtaposition made me question the exact model year when the balance of Toyota’s overall styling had tipped from cutting-edge to stodgy. (1994, perhaps? 1996?) The Van looks like actual effort from its stylists was involved. The Camry, while not ugly, looks completely uninspired.
This Van’s design made its debut in its Japanese home market in 1982, a full two years before it arrived in the U.S. for model year ’84. I’ve always thought “Van” was a pretty unimaginative model name for such an adventurously-styled conveyance. What was wrong with some variation of “Ace” with a modifier, like in its home market (“TownAce” / “MasterAce Surf”)? Many folks in the U.S. play card games, and an ace often beats anything that isn’t trump. Plus, “Ace” rhymes with outer “space”, from which this pod looks like it originated.
As this Van pulled away from the intersection, I noticed the trailer hitch on the back. This instantly instilled in me nothing but mad respect for this beast of burden. Like an angular, road-going, steel-bodied donkey, it trudged forward slowly and steadily through evening rush-hour traffic on the way to its destination. One just knows it got there.
As photographed by the author in The Loop, downtown Chicago, Illinois, on Friday, December 18, 2015.