Junkyard Classic: 1997 Dodge RAM2500 Maxi Art Van – From The Urban Jungle To The Caged Yard

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.