We here at CC do love us some art cars, so what better than a really big one in van form and in the junkyard! This 1997 Dodge RAM2500 Maxi spoke to me as I noticed it from several rows away and I found it just as hard to resist as if it was still white and had a Free Candy sign in the window.
Big commercial vans like this don’t end up in the junkyard that often with the body in this good of a shape, usually they just are kept on running and repaired as needed as it’s all about the utility aspect. I suspect the art didn’t do it any favors in that regard but wouldn’t figure that the need for a plain white paint job (even with a roller) would keep it off the roads.
As regards the art, I can’t really tell or decide what it’s all about? Tiki? African Jungle? I even got a little bit of a Keith Haring vibe from it at first but that’s obviously not it.
And then I got around to the driver’s side and really didn’t know what to make of it anymore. That’s a little freaky but I have to say it is well done. In fact the whole thing is pretty good, the colors used work well, and there definitely seems to be a method to the overall creativity as opposed to a lot of “art” cars that just seem to have random crap drawn or glued all over them. Then again, it’s the artist’s inner psyche that’s at work, not mine, so if it works for them, it’s all good. It’s even signed.
But back to the van itself as a vehicle. 1997 makes it a third generation van, which basically took the second generation and changed the look of the nose to be more in line with the pickups, and the taillights were changed as well. One year later the van got a much more significant update including a slightly longer nose to accommodate moving the engine forward for better crash protection among many other changes. But this one still has the older bones underneath.
The 2500’s were longer than the 1500’s, by almost two feet, but still two feet shorter than the 3500 and 2500Maxi, measuring in at 205.2″ for the regular 2500. 2500’s and 3500’s both had the same wheelbase (127.6″) which is longer than the 1500 (109.6″) so the 3500 and 2500Maxi just had a much longer end cap. This is the size of van that experienced carpet installers seem to use around here.
The roof is still white, which is smart in regard to heat or more likely the artist figured nobody would be able to appreciate any art on top of the van so skipped that part.
Popping the hood gets us a not very good look at the engine. Somewhere in there is a 5.2l “Magnum” V8 engine, rated at 225hp and 295lb-ft of torque as far as I can tell. The 318 seemed to have a lot of different power ratings between years.
Here’s a better view of it as most of it shares cabin space with the driver and passenger. As standard it was mated to a 3-speed non-overdrive transmission but a 4-speed was an option.
Panning up a hair shows us the dashboard, this is still the old design that wouldn’t be replaced until the next year and dates back almost two decades. There’s obviously been some updates but nothing too significant. The faux wood is an interesting touch in a cargo van though. Overall it looks fairly decent as a place to drive a vehicle except I can’t see where the left foot would go. In a Ford van like Mr. Shafer’s I tend to dangle it in the door step area and try to avoid thinking about side impact collisions, I did not notice if the Dodge had the same capacity. I imagine the “doghouse” would have a plethora of cupholders and storage space on top.
Of course it’s not just painted on the outside, there’s also stickers on the dashboard. I can’t identify any of these, so am either too old, too suburban, or just not “woke” enough I guess. Perhaps all three.
But I DO own that same Ace of Base CD! But not the Korn or Rob Zombie, sorry, that’s just a strange combination of tunes there. That gray paper is a Colorado Emissions Test Certificate, this van apparently passed even with an illuminated Check Engine light and was well within the limits so that’s not the reason it’s here.
Almost 293,000 miles is a decent result for a packmule such as this, I suppose. Still, even if the engine or trans gave out, it seems worthwhile to fix it. Oh well, let’s see what’s in the back of the van.
Aha! It looks like it used to be some sort of home-brew camper conversion, sort of like Paul’s but much earlier and much more basic. Same same but different, as they say in Asia. All of the useful stuff seems to have been taken out though and perhaps refitted into a similar but newer van, who knows. This helps explain the various National Parks stickers on the outside of the van, all of which it has presumably been to, but not the pizza and sandwich shop stickers. On second thought I suppose it’s the same with those, the owner liked probably liked national parks, pizza and sandwiches. I do too.
It’s sort of mesmerizing, look at the spider or whatever at the bottom middle-left and then a fish and some kelp or something by the wheelwell. The 4×4 is interesting and had me take a knee to check but it’s just RWD as usual. Perhaps it gets him through the chain control in the winter.
The 2500 Maxi makes sense for a camper in that it’s longer than usual, but still has a fairly decent ride compared to the 3500. I can’t imagine gas mileage as being too good though, even with the four-speed option. And the roof is too low for serious comfort, hence the obvious appeal these days of the much more modern Euro-based vans.
Built in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, lasted 22 years and almost 300k miles. Not too bad. It looks like it saw lots of the country as well, I could think of worse fates for a van (such as the aforementioned carpet hauler). Too bad its ride is over, I would have liked to have seen this on the road. Well, maybe just the right side, the left side I still don’t know about.
I like the in the air shot looking down on the van since that is a good angle. Neat looking van and thank you for sharing this find. I agree the regular height roof is too low for me and I too am puzzled why this Dodge did not dodge the junkyard. Sure I have an illogical soft spot for these Dodges, but in reality they were outclassed by their rivals even the 2001 model year Ram Van I rode around in.
I saw a Chevy van in traffic the other day with a couple of rolls of carpet sticking out of the not-quite-closed rear doors and thought of these. A carpet installer who came to our house a number of years ago said that these Dodge Maxis were the only American vans that could fully accommodate a standard (12 foot?) roll of carpet.
Yes, as I recall there is a low step inside of each door for foot-dangling, but it may be farther back than on Fords. I just remember the front passenger’s comfy position that was one foot in front of the other.
There is a standard length 2500 Ram Wagon (passenger version) in my neighborhood that has been here for years. I still want it.
They still seem to use the old-school vans, I don’t think I’ve seen or used an installer yet with one of the newer vans that certainly come in long enough lengths but curiously nobody seems to use a cube van (or U-Haul style one) either which would solve that problem as well.
I had a 1980 Dodge Maxivan many moons ago and it at least did have the low step for foot tangling. Same dash as this one.
In my ’76 and ’77 the wheel well made a fine left foot rest.
I’m kind of surprised to see a van like this at the junkyard, even with all those miles. Given the newest of these vans are now 16 years old, there’s still a surprisingly large number of them still on the road, many of them still working hard for a living.
I’ve detailed my experiences with courier vans on this blog before, not to mention the “rescue” Maxi-Van we had at another of my former employers, which rescued the trucks in the fleet when they had a flat or a breakdown.
I can’t help but feel we’re losing something by losing this class of vehicle. Granted, these were not exactly paragons of engineering, but they served a purpose for many folks. Times change and with it our vehicles too.
When I first saw these pix on my phone, I couldn’t figure out what they used to make the design. But now that I’ve had a chance to see the pix on my laptop, I see they used a “Magnum” magic marker.
Maybe I should try that on the average white van…
I can’t believe how Chrysler just poked the trip meter reset button straight through the gear position indicator, its only a commercial vehicle but wow thats rough.
That was my first impression too but it’s just a photo thing, I had several images of the same basic shot and realized that it’s a shadow. The reset rod is just above the indicator and the angle makes it look like it goes right through it. I actually had text mentioning the same thing but when I looked at the other images realized that different parts of the letters were visible in different ones and eventually figured it out. We don’t generally give a lot of credit to some of the engineers but this one would have been too egregious, thankfully it’s not actual reality.
Thanks for clearing that up, i did wonder if it was a camera thing, but it all looked so real.
JIM STOP BEING IN MY AREA YOU’RE SCARING ME
This van was given by my buddy Dave after his friend stopped using it to go around most of the USA. Thing had literally no more life left for it.
We need more info! How long did he have it, what inspired him in regard to the artwork? What finally finished the van off?
I looked for you in the DryDock tasting room last week and didn’t see you. But if you weren’t wearing a big name tag I wouldn’t have known anyway… 🙂
Wasn’t there, an old fart like me doesn’t do much getting out and about these days.
According to other Dave, his friend Z got it in 2002. Paint is because he was in a group of people that did custom paint jobs that sometimes got tribal inspired or spiritual inspired like the one above. He used it to go through most of the states to the left of here, including Utah(hence the sticker and also cool to me because I was born in Moab and raised in SLC)
The van died because the parts were getting expensive and the overall condition was deteriorating quickly(it was not a particularly well maintained vehicle). He also started thinking he wanted something a little more practical than the land whale that this van was. Eventually it was given to other Dave in early 2015because he just didn’t want it taking up driveway space anymore. Dave saw no use for it and gave it to the junkyard a few months ago or more.
The 4×4 marking, fun fact, is due to the fact in 2005, Z and his crew wanted to give it a 4×4 conversion but it ended up being too much work and too expensive.
While I can’t do it myself, I really hope someone goes and grabs it. It’s an amazing van that lasted 12 years of traveling and almost daily usage with a sweet paint job that I’d hate to see go to waste.
Small aside, they did a tribal pinstripe/flame style paint job on a 1986 BRAT that could be in the junkyard as well, Might be gone, not sure.
Thank you for the backstory.
Yes, thank you Dave, it’s good to finally actually get some “closure” on one of these and know the story!
No problem! If there’s another junkyard post you’d like some info on, I could probably give some. I know people around here. 😉
Perfect for some Dajiban racing.
A 90s Dodge van sporting the same body from the 70s–truly the last holdover from the very bad old days at Chrysler. Not sure what it is, but of all the old vans from this era, the Dodges always come across as the most sketchy, creepy, and skeezy. I can only imagine how many vile acts were committed in the back of this “Sin Bin.”