That’s a picture of my Dad, a couple of years before he passed away, so around 1993 or so. Pictured with him is his van, nicknamed “Finbar”. He loved that van (I think) and my Mom and him traveled far and wide in it. They’d always been inveterate campers and when my brother and I were smaller we often car-camped, here in the U.S. mostly in our used ’77 Pontiac Ventura at first.
Finbar eventually met his maker when one evening he somehow burst into flames while conveniently parked in front of our neighbor’s house instead of our own, leaving a huge burn mark in front of their house. My brother and I had several “theories” about the fire but my Mom insisted there was absolutely nothing untoward about it, and “cars randomly burst into flames all the time”. I was never a fan of Finbar, as I think I was too snobby in those days and found it embarrassing to be seen in a highly uncool metallic brown old Dodge van in the West Valley area of Los Angeles As a matter of fact I don’t think I ever went for a ride in Finbar and I know I never drove him. Nowadays I’d love to check him out and would be all over it…
This picture is of my Dad, myself on the left and my younger brother on the right, likely around 1982 on some camping trip in the Pontiac. If you look at the hats instead of focusing on all three us in our peak dork phase, you’ll note that I’m wearing a hat that says “Chevy Van” and my brother has one that says “Ford Van”.
I think we picked them up at a random gas station somewhere in the Mojave desert or thereabouts. We somehow always picked the hottest possible places to go to at the hottest times of the year. Having a van was wishful thinking at that point, the family budget didn’t allow for it. Oddly, in hindsight I realize we’ve never had a van from either Chevy or Ford and my brother has never had any sort of van.
A year or two later my dad came home with this van, pictured here in my dorm parking lot when I took it to college for a couple of weeks while my ’79 Mazda 626 likely had blown another head gasket or similar. It’s either a ’68 or a ’69 VW, and when we got it the front was completely caved in from having hit a telephone pole dead center, hence the very affordable price. My dad sourced a front end from a ’69 or ’68 (in white, but the opposite year of the van itself) and set about carefully cutting the damaged front of our van off at the top of the A-pillar and under the doors all the way across the cab floor and then grafting the undamaged front end on. He did a great job as once he painted it all the same factory beige color you couldn’t tell, the doors sealed like factory, and it never leaked. This was all done in our driveway within a couple of weeks.
We had that van for about six or seven years and drove it all over the West Coast including up to Vancouver and the San Juan Islands. It was never fast, it once blew a cylinder just outside Centralia, WA, making for a very long day while it was repaired, but it always got us wherever we were going and back. My dad built two huge plywood boxes with carpeted and hinged lids on top that when put inside the van in place of the center bench made for a perfect sleeping platform while providing tons of storage. The other big memory is the call for “Bungee!” whenever it needed to be in 4th gear to prevent it from popping out of gear. The bungee hooked to the back of the base of the passenger seat and held the stick in 4th perfectly. It was the passenger’s job (usually Mom) to fish the cord out and hook it on.
Those were the only two vans my Dad ever had, I’ll bet he would have loved something like Paul’s ProMaster Camper or any of the current minivans.
I myself have had two vans to date, well, minivans actually. The first was this 2005 Toyota Sienna XLE, pictured at Bonneville Salt Flats that we purchased used and I’ve covered in a COAL. It was a very good van, rarely if ever let us down and curiously perished in a fire as well, this time when our own house caught on fire and consumed the van.
My second van was this 2006 Honda Odyssey EX-L that we got after moving to Colorado, also used. Another good van, there wasn’t much better or worse than the Toyota in my mind between them; the Toyota probably gets the nod between the two if I had to choose but that could be just because I wasn’t ready to give up the Toyota when it was destroyed. Again, it’s been covered in a COAL but eventually it was time to let it go as well. If we ever got another van, it would likely be a Kia or a Dodge Minivan, I think both are good vans and a great value, especially used. I don’t think I’d ever get a fullsize van, I’m just not into camping enough and don’t haul enough that needs to be in an enclosed space. But I am definitely a fan of vans nowadays and absolutely see the benefits.
What about you? Do you have a van (or two) in the driveway? Or would you ever consider getting one or if not, why not? What’s your favorite? Did we miss out not having a Chevy or Ford?
Here’s my one and only van experience; https://www.curbsideclassic.com/cars-of-a-lifetime/coal-1985-chevrolet-g20-sportvan-go-west-young-man-in-a-1-van/. A certain part of me still yearns for a camper van but I just now it’s not practical for the kind of back-country camping I do. Hard to beat the 4×4 truck and camper combination.
I still think it would be cool to counter the ever-rising popularity of old VW vans with a ’70 Econoline fixed up with a 302 and OD. Way more practical and durable than a VW. Combine that with the angry “face” of the Econoline vs the friendly “face” of the VW and you’ve got the perfect bizarro hippie van.
Of all automotive alternatives out there, vans have suited my purposes better than any other. So I have owned a bunch of them.
In 1970 I bought an Econoline E-200 cargo van brand new. Never a problem with that. Not sure why I sold it. I have also had a ’66 Dodge A-100 short wheel base cargo van, a ’68 Chevy Van (for resale), and (my current ride) a ’96 Aerostar short wheel base cargo van. Along the way I have had a number of compact pickups or extended pickups that I converted to van-like, camper-like vehicles: an ’86 Nissan hardbody, an ’88 Toyota long wheel base, a ’59 Volkswagen pickup, and a ’61 Econoline pickup (also bought brand new).
My favorite? Probably the ’66 A100. But I have grown fond of the Aerostar. It serves so many purposes well (including a traveling bunkhouse) and just keeps traveling on.
Definitely have an itch for one of the more compact Promasters or one of the longer Transit Connects. Will see how they pan out long term for my next used purchase.
I encourage people to buy used, stripped out shells and then modify them to suit your needs. (Storage, number of seats, bunks, insulation, etc). Gussied up passenger vans have too much corporate/consumer plastic built into them which only gets in the way of making the best use of them.
1984-91 Chevy or GMC conversion van with 5 windows on each side, 2 tone paint job and a 350 V8 engine
1984-91 Ford Econoline 250 Van with 5 windows on each side, 2 tone paint job, my dad used to have a 1984 Ford Econoline Van with a 302 V8 back in the 80’s, God I miss that van a lot.
Hello, JP “Vanman” Cavanaugh, here. Oh Lordy yes, yes, yes.
I spent extensive time in Dodge and Ford vans as a kid and became a convert. I put many miles on all three of the “big 3” old-school vans. I hated the Chevys (and thus would never wear your hat). I just didn’t like the way they drove, and their structures rattled and quivered.
The 3rd gen Ford (and 4th, for that matter) quivered a bit too but they were smoother and quieter. The Dodge was my favorite for its stiff structure. The one I drove most had a 360/Torqueflite and was a delight. That was the one in which I learned about rolling driver changes on the interstate highways.
Since then I have personally owned a 94 Ford Club Wagon, a 96 Honda Odyssey, a 99 Town & Country and currently a 12 Kia Sedona. In today’s WSJ there is an article about how vans continue their death spiral. I hope to get back for another one before they all go away. But if I don’t there will surely be a nice old B series Dodge out there for me to adopt.
Van preference? No van. Oh, wait. I do own one; perhaps I have mentioned that 2000 E-150 of mine a time or thirty around here. And one is my limit on these things.
Okay, vans have a purpose. I transported a post-operative female halfway across North America in ours, which I why I bought it. It does work out well for moving a full length couch, hauling home a new washing machine in a snowstorm, and moving people. We’ve spent the night in it a few times when we took it west in 2010.
Otherwise my tolerance for them is fairly low. Access to the engine for various maintenance items (plugs, hoses, thermostats, etc) sucks in a big way. Mine is more difficult to drive than my F-150 4×4 and it gets about the same crappy fuel mileage. Driving it in crosswinds is enough to make a priest curse. Parking garages create undo puckerage in one’s nether regions due to the height (which exceeds that of my evil crew cab 4×4 pickup). Visibility is horrendous as the only times I’ve ever backed into fixed objects is while piloting a van.
If any type of automotive conveyance should be banned, it’s these blasted things.
However, there is something about it that is a mixture of a termite and a mosquito. It bites you and then burrows under the service, the appeal ultimately growing although it may take a while. In my case, that was about eight years.
At this point in time I’m keeping it limbered up until life is more conducive for travel. At that point my plan is to put some new light truck tires on it and hit the roads, exploring the nooks and crannies of North America.
But I will not by a second one. Not happening.
C’mon Shafer, you need to embrace that inner contrarian of yours and become a VanMan! The whole world either hates or ignores vans. Let your freak flag fly! 🙂
Based on appearance alone, my favorite is the Dodge Van of the seventies, like the featured “Finbar”… How’d you all come up with that name? I know what FUBAR means, but I’m at a loss on this one, Jim.
The only two vans I’ve ever driven were both dark blue Fords: A buddy’s ’79 Econoline that he fixed up himself. And a newer Econoline (1984 maybe?). It was my second wife’s step father’s van. It was set up for a paraplegic with hand controls and a lift. Somehow the Ford dealer talked him into the heavy duty suspension with eight-lug wheels and that thing rode like the jacked up truck that it was.
Best Van Names Ever: The nod goes to Chevy with “Vandura” and “Astro”.
I always hated minivans (it’s probably why I never had kids), but finally caved on that one (the van, not the kids). I went skiing one time and we were caught in a very heavy snowstorm in the Western Maryland Mountains and the Dodge Caravan in which we were traveling got us thru those conditions safely with its FWD. I was impressed. Later, my boss got the much fancier Town & Country in navy blue, and for once, I actually appreciated one of these thing’s appearances. It was a VERY nice place to be inside, too. His was loaded.
Finally, the “Beaten with an Ugly Stick Award” goes to (envelope please) the Pro-Master, taking the title from the vehicle it replaced, the pituitarily challenged “Sprinter”. BUT, having said that, we’ve all heard the phrase “Her Beauty is on the Inside”… Paul… Your van is the Coolest. Van. Ever!
Finbar is Irish for fair headed one
I asked my mother how Finbar came to be named Finbar….It turns out there is a church in Burbank (sort of near our house at the time) named St. Finbar and when they looked it up, it turns out he was a traveling Irish priest, so they kind of liked that idea as they liked to travel as well and the name stuck to the van. I don’t think they ever attended that church, just drove by occasionally.
Yeah, I don’t really get it either but there you go.
I know that they are slow, unsafe in a front end collision, blah, blah, blah but I love my split window VW Buses. There’s just something about sitting behind that big steering wheel and that view of the road that just makes me want to hit the backroads and drive and drive and drive.
I loved our old TownAce. Noisy and slow but seated 8, took plenty of luggage and the party trick was that you could lay all the seats completely flat, making for a completely flat sleeping platform. Only got rid of it in 2013, due to corrosion in the cooling system. Had some great family times in that van.
Image didn’t upload, let’s try a smaller version…
Several friends had Ford Econolines growing up, but my van experience started with our 96 Windstar, then 2007 Caravan and new 2015 Grand Caravan. My father in law is a Ford sales guy, since Ford no longer makes minivans we buy vans that have been traded in on Fords 🙂 and they all have COAL articles.
Just got back from trailer camping yesterday, here are some of my favourite things. Grand Caravan, canoe, pop up trailer, beer and Mrs DougD 🙂
That looks like a great afternoon or entire weekend assuming there’s a cooler nearby with replenishments!
Did anyone else think “Uncle Rico” when they saw that first photo? That whole scene looks like something out of Napoleon Dynamite — Dodge van, parked at a campsite, rolling grassy hills in the background. All that’s missing is a raised roof on the van.
Getting on to the actual question, to quote Jerry Seinfeld, I’m not a van guy. I suppose if I had to live the van life I’d go with the popular choice of a VW Westphalia. That’s assuming money is no object since those things sell for serious money. It wouldn’t need to be a classic split window bus; I’d take a 1980s era Vanagon.
We had a ’97 Caravan and an ’03 Town & Country. For us, they were both just big, cushy cars with a lot of room.
Neither the wife or I has any interest in owning a larger van.
Never even considered.
I never felt as uncool driving or enjoyed driving less as when I was driving a big van.
I’ve driven several over the years as work vehicles, and they’re great for that.
Maybe if we ever have the need to “take it all with us” we’ll get one.
But usually I like to travel light and “leave it all at home” when travelling.
Just comfy seats, some torque and a little fuel economy, please.
And a car silhouette. Not to be confused with an Olds Silhouette.
I just like cars better.
Keep the big boxy shape.
If we need a “bug-out” vehicle in case of an EMP attack, we’ll be in our neighbor’s Model T because it will be the only car that starts anyway. Clickety-clacking our way to safety with backpacks of MREs and jugs of water. No luggage room.
I got off track quickly there, didn’t I?
Aussie panelvans were my favourite they’re a high roof sedan delivery, I tried Kombis and Bedfords while roomy they are tedious highway vehicles, VWs are awful in hilly country and barely able to maintain the speed limit on level going.
No experience whatsoever with (mini)vans, as in something with windows all around and seats all over the floor. Well, apart from a ride in a Mercedes-Benz T1 “Bremer Transporter” taxibus.
Still got my faithful 2002 Land Cruiser 90-series SWB panel van-conversion though, now with 368,000 km on the clock.
Other than that, numerous rides in single- and double cab panel vans during my younger years. Benz, VW and Ford.
I have a 1997 Pontiac Trans Sport.
Supposedly this van is considered to be the most dangerous van out there by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
However their own research shows that this van is not anymore of a death trap then any other vehicle on the list. despite there being hundreds of thousands of U-Vans sold from 97-04, the driver and passengers were far less likely to die in a U-Van accident then in a Corolla
In any case, I have no qualms at driving it. The van which cost me $500 and only needed a set of tires to pass inspection has served me well. It is so much easier to make dump runs and home depot runs with it then the truck. Which is why I traded in the truck on a new Hyundai Elantra and kept the van
Here is a pic of both the van and the Colorado on trade in day. I handed in the keys to the truck and drove home in the van. It is missing its hub cap but I had that in the back but was too lazy to put it back on at the time
…flock of rams in the background!
Ha, yes, big ones and little ones and even one very sunburnt one!
Third-gen (75-91) Econoline with the 300 I6.
Back in the late eighties my wife decided that she wanted/we needed a van. The details as to why have receded with time but we ended up with a Chevy Astro conversion van. It was nice for what it was and it was especially handy on vacations; the third row bench seat and the two captains chairs in the middle row came out fairly easily which resulted in a huge area for cargo. We didn’t have to pack suitcases, etc. as much as lob them in to the back of the van. Unfortunately my wife never really got used to using the side mirrors in lieu of the inside mirror for checking on what was behind the van. After several near misses while changing lanes she was spooked and decided it was time for Houston (the Astro) to move on. I offered to swap cars with her so she could drive the Mustang convertible that was my daily driver but she didn’t want to do that. After a relatively short stay in the jpj household the Astro was traded for a Toyota Celica, a much different sort of vehicle and one that my wife had more confidence in driving.
Houston is a fantastic name for an Astro van! A genuine LOL from me!
My company basically started with two Dodge vans from the 1970’s and a worn out old IH five ton, so I have a real soft spot for Dodge vans.
As we grew, we bought other brands, too, but the Dodges were always the ones with the lowest downtime. The LA engines are not much more high technology than a skillet and they seemed to last forever. When it was time for a rebuild, we did it ourselves. All you needed was a set of simple tools. We even still have a third Dodge, a long wb model with the 3.9 V-6.
My partner kept those vans going purely out of sentimentality but as time went on, they simply didn’t fit with our expanding business. We still have one Dodge we use for small stuff and we realise we lose money on it..
Tradesmen and business types always loved Dodge vans. The stuff that breaks on GM stuff like seat rails, door latches and the like, rarely if ever do so in a Dodge. Fords have a better record for this kind of stuff but they have engine problems galore an I steer clear of them. Maybe the 3.7 V-6 Ford is using now is better, but I haven’t head anything since they are too new.
So what replaced our trusty vans? Well, we are now using Ram Promasters, LWB and raised roof. It has like triple the load of the old Dodge and is much easier to load as it is much closer to the ground. They make a cracking commercial vehicle and so far, after about 300,000 km, they have been reliable.
I learned to drive on a 93 Econoline with the 6 cylinder, and have been an E-van fan ever since. As a musician E-vans have always been a presence over my 24-year driving life. I’d really like a late-model SWB Dodge B-van with the Magnum 318, though.
No real vans (yet), but I am the proud owner of two silver minivans. Believe it or not, I really like these minivans — they’ve got to be the most versatile and cost-conscious larger vehicles on the market.
The older one is a 2010 Honda Odyssey that I now use as my daily driver, and the newer one is a 2018 Kia Sedona. Having just completed a 4,300-mile vacation in the Sedona, I can pronounce it an Officially Good Van. I’m writing up an article on the Sedona… hopefully it’ll be done in a few weeks.
Looking forward to it and hoping you can shed some light on the seat situation in the current Sedona, I’ve heard tell that while the center seats aren’t just life out-able, it’s a matter of four bolts and they come out so perhaps not nearly the deal breaker for some that it may sound like. My inquiring mind wants to know and I may not be the only one…
Yes, the non-removable second-row seats are a disadvantage of the Sedona. For us it wasn’t a deal-breaker because we still have our 2010 Odyssey (where the seats do remove, so if I need to haul big stuff, I can use Minivan #2). Given the relative infrequency with which I haul big things like furniture, it may not have been a deal-breaker at all for us, but it’s certainly a poorly designed feature.
I’ve seen Youtube videos about removing the Sedona’s rear seats by four bolts, but haven’t had a reason to try it.
Vanagon Westy with a 1.8T conversion, please.
I have never had a van and pretty much nobody in my family ever has either. The only exception is my sister who owns an Odyssey. I am not a van man. I have yet to drive a van I really like and I find they usually have poor leg room for my long legs. I have also worked on lots of full size vans and that’s why I’d never own one.
When I was young, dad shopped for a family car and we looked at the “magic wagons” but dad wasn’t convinced they’d be better than a wagon and he had bad luck with past Chrysler products, so we ended up with a Pontiac Parisienne wagon. Later dad considered trading the wagon on a new GM G-van because as a family of six we packed that wagon go the gills. In the end, he kept the wagon though.
I also remember as a young child riding in my dads cousin’s old Chevy van that only had one front seat, which I thought was weird. It was just used for farm duty.
I actually have a couple of friends that were van guys. One actually drove an AWD MPV as a single guy, but his co workers thought it was weird. He used it like a truck though. Another had numerous Astro and Safari Van’s for computer work, which he loved. He also bought a brand new Chevrolet Express van not long after they came out. It had a 350 Vortec engine and moved out very well for a van. It pulled a big travel trailer well. I drove it on a lengthy trip and it was a nice driving van, better than the Econolines of the time IMO.
Vans, you want vans, yes I’ve got one and have had many over the years, all Econolines/Club Wagon/E-series. The first was a 61 Econoline Heavy Duty, followed by some Nantucket, 79, 80, 82 and 88. Now I’ve got one of the last generation and 09 E-150.
The 61 was the typical sin bin style van with carpeted walls and floor through out the back. I did use it for camping on a few occasions, but it was mainly bought because there was profit to be made by fixing it and selling it so it didn’t hang around that long.
The others were all work, either for my mobile auto repair business or for hauling tools and supplies when I was building my real estate portfolio.
Most of them had at least semi-interesting past lives before I got them. The 82 started life as a wheel chair lift van before becoming the tow rig for the SCCA champ car for a number of years. The 88 was also a wheel chair equipped van originally but it was also a full on conversion van with the semi-high roof, TV, power rear seat/bed. In both cases those vans had originally had powered sliders that were operated by switches hidden in the grille. They and the wiring were still there as were the holes left by the mechanisms, but unfortunately all of the equipment was gone by the time I got them.
The 09 I currently have started life as a county ambulance and I still see its identical twin(s)? on occasion.
We also had a minivan a 98 Windstar, but the wife wanted to jump on the SUV band wagon, after driving one as a rental in the middle of winter in the snow belt. The van was traded in no too long after. That SUV is still with us though, 15 years and 11 months later.
Preference: AWD ProMaster with a conversion similar to Paul’s … but different.
Owned: 1985 Vanagon Westfalia.
Chrysler minivans are among my favorite vehicles (well, just about anything Mopar is my favorite). I was eight years old when my parents traded their ’91 Explorer for a brand-new ’98 Plymouth Grand Voyager Expresso. I loved that van. I love it when I see a clean example. I’m a guy and yes, I have a soft spot for Chrysler minivans. Twenty years later, there are still large numbers of the ’96-00 NS Chrysler minivans around, which disproves the negative views towards Chrysler’s perceived lack of reliability. They got it right after the first few years of the Ultradrive.
I loved the RT-platform 2011-16 Town and Country and the post-refresh 2011-current Grand Caravan. I’m not too much of a fan of the Pacifica, though I may have to rent one to decide if I like it (I probably will).
I don’t feel that the Pacifica has a whole lot of the Chrysler minivan heritage. It has a cab-forward front end like NS/RS, but the rear end looks Hyundai-ish, plus it’s a little too busy on the side profile and appears to have taken some curves, bends and creases. The RT-platform reminded me of the S/AS-platform vans (1984-1990 and 1991-1995, respectively).
My posting keeps disappearing…trying again a million times.
My family never owns any form of vans but used a few from my father’s employer for transporting the medical equipments.
I rode the small school bus to the schools with deaf programme every day. It was Dodge B-Series Duracoach van modified for school bus operation similar to the photo below. Lack of air-conditioning in Dallas left us feeling tired and harried at end of long trips. Mushy and bouncy suspension made it harder for us to do homeworks, read the books, or even sleep. Tall body on single axle (before the federal regulations requiring duallies and certain width) meant lot of swaying at highway speed, inducing lot of “seasicks” amongst us. We had a dustbin next to the driver’s seat for collecting vomits. The 318 V8 barely had enough power to propel the bus, creating lot of buzz and vibration at highway speed and irritating us to no end.
After eight years of riding in the “mobile torture chamber” for one hour each way between home and school, I despised the vans and vowed them off for many years.
My brother has a Pacifica. Its nice, I guess.
Id rather have this, from when before vans were neutered and if I went to pick my kids up in school in it, I’d probably be arrested
That picture is just soooooo 1970’s…
I have owned a ’71 Volkswagen van – which I did not like and replaced with a Volvo 145 wagon. This was long ago.
Now I own Ford Transit Connect SWB commercial van (white, of course). I like it. Just enough power for all but Raton Pass and a few other hills. Great around town. It carries lots of stuff on the road and one or two bicycles easily (and upright) whenever I want. German quality design/engineering and cheap due to Spanish build and “chicken tax” manipulation. Very basic but exactly what I want.
Owned a couple of Greenbriers, a ’67 Type 2, a ’71 Type 2 w/Corvair engine, and now a ’04 Sienna with 150K. The latest is quiet, comfortable, roomy, reliable and gets 24mpg @ 80mph with the AC blasting. It will (barely) fit 4×8 sheets of drywall, upright, with one of the middle seats taken out. What’s not to love?
This was mine: ’69 Sportsman A-100, with a ’73 340 c.i./727 Auto. I still own it, and I keep fantasizing about getting it back on the road! Maybe I could start a “GoFundMe” page to finance the dream?! 🙂
Last night I was reading an article in a 1963 Car and Driver. Author was waxing poetically about how his Corvair Greenbrier was the ultimate transporter after some really neat mods including a $400 Golde top, Michelin X tires, bigger engine jugs, etc courtesy of John Finch. Claimed 80 mph with 6 adults, small children and all their gear. I Learned to drive stick (3 on the tree) in an 81 Chevy van. Followed up with my brother’s 68 VW Microbus. One of the most fun vehicles I’ve ever driven. Fast forward to 2016. A 2005 Chrysler Town & Country won my heart with its’ versatility and good looks. Stow and Go is the best thing to happen to minivans since they were invented.
Sorry. December 1964 Car and Driver-“Brown’s Bus : A Box Turned Into A Bomb by Barry Brown
All I remember about vans in my childhood is the sliding doors froze solid in the winter and it took took the whole trip to school before the huge cabin would warm up to non frostbite levels. Also my Dad promised me I’d get the 5-speed Jetta the van eventually replaced when I got my drivers lisence, guess what got traded in?
These are the only Vans I’ll ever pay for.
I’ve had experiences with plenty of vans; let’s just say that going back to the 1970’s the Dodge Tradesmen were my favorite vans.
After marriage and children, we didn’t have the money to buy a van. So, we borrowed my in-laws’ Plymouth Voyager T-115 frequently. I became a van fan again. Fast forward to 2001, we needed something to replace our crappy Mercury Topaz. I wanted a minivan, my wife wanted a SUV. Guess who won?
Fast forward to 2015, our last SUV was damaged in a deer strike and I needed some wheels. This time, I went for a minivan. If you’re just stuck in traffic, doing mundane tasks, hauling five friends to a wedding or stuff from the Home Depot, the minivan is absolutely fine for that.
If I want a more engaging ride, I own six bicycles and a sedan. When the day comes to replace the Silhouette, I’ll probably be looking at one of the Mopars with Stow & Go. Ideally, I’d like the Hybrid Pacifica, but it will be a while before the prices come down on those
Having owned a van of one type or another since the early nineties it is hard for me to pick a favourite as they all had different quirks and strengths . First was a 74 vw type 2 warmed over with a Weber carb and headers. It taught me lots about working on vehicles. I liked the ease of repairs (but not the frequency) and it’s ability to go off-road. Then a 73 vw type 2. Next was an 81 ford econoline with a 4 on the floor and a 300 straight 6. I loved the space, cooler, bed and stove. It was one of the cheapest vehicles for miles driven. Close to 100 thousand miles for $3000 all in. Next was a 86 vw Vanagon. I really liked the dual heaters and the way it drove on the highway (warmed over with a set of headers). I liked the driving position as it reminded me of driving a city bus and could haul lots of gear and a small tear drop trailer. Next was a previa which I still have. I really like the reliability and I think it might be tied with the Ford for economic running costs. Also with the supercharger and Lexus transmission it is like a fast living room. It doesn’t haul as much gear as the other vans I have had thought. The current new to me van is a 1992 eurovan Westfalia. It has been the most expensive to date but at about $6-7k into it I am doing pretty good for what they are currently going for. I feel a bit out of my league camping in it as I have never had a working fridge, ability to sleep 4 adults and running water in a van. It continues a trend of owning and driving vans that are 2-3 decades behind the times.
I am tempted by the newer sprinter or dodge vans like Paul has but I will probably have to wait another decade or two. I also like to have a standard van but I don’t think the next one will have that arcane feature.
I have owned several vans from the “Big Three”. My current van is a 1996 Ford E350 Club Wagon. It came with the 460ci (7.5L) and as you would suspect it has a drinking problem, 10-11 mpg in around town driving. It also likes the good booze 93 octane other wise it complains. My favorite van was my 1979 Chevy Sport Van. A shorty with the 400 CI SBC and a TH350 combo. The original owners special ordered the van with no interior then took it to a local shop for a custom interior, brown shag carpeting, wood paneling, and two captain chairs only. I brought this van back from the dead and took on several long distance trips as well as my DD for a number of years.
We’ve had a few over the years.
’66 Dodge A-100, 273 V-8/ A-727 Loadflite
’72 VW 9-passenger
’74 Ford E-100, “customized”
’86 Dodge B-250 Class B motorhome (fiberglass raised roof), still in the family
’94 Dodge B-3500 12 passenger, leased for work
’13 Toyota Sienna, bought for my daughter.
Today, I prefer a pickup for driving position, engine access and loading options.
I’ve actually toyed with the idea of owning a true “custom van” & not just making small but notable adjustments to the vehicle’s factory design like I’ve done with every vehicle I’ve owned so far. When I still had my ’96 Ford Aerostar XLT, I thought about eventually getting one of the plain-Jane Transit cargo vans once they finally came to the US for the 2015 model year (after waiting for good used models of course) & customizing it with parts from other Ford vans in the past, including flip-out windows from ’75-’91 Econolines, port-hole windows from other custom vans (you know, for the “looks”), and even using older-style factory van seats from those times & installing them in the cargo area of the Transit for legal additional seating without necessitating extra mounting points for the seat belts (they would all be lap units). While the whole idea was fun, the reality of it all is that: 1) getting the van in the 1st place would be expensive, 2) you can’t just put extra seats in a cargo van & wham! it’s a passenger van (I researched all about this topic & there are MANY safety & legal hurdles to jump over in the process), and 3) when all was said & done would the finished product truly be better than just getting a vehicle already designed for 90% of how you intended to use it? In the end, the idea stayed as just an idea & I’ve been happy enough to simply modify my vehicle’s existing layout for my particular needs. I did it with the Aerostar and I’ve now done it with my 2011 Ranger & also my ’05 Chevy Astro. As long as I can keep the Astro running I have no “gotta-have-it” interest in any other vans.
Those Fords drive really nicely though. I could def see enjoying the kind of custom van your describing.
Ive always had the van bug myself, despite owning race cars, suv’s, many motorcycles etc. Still blame myself for not getting that flat black, -69 shortie dodge with cragars and sidepipes which i found at a dealer for a pittance when i was 18.
But ive owned a Fiat 600T van, with fitting hippe interior, patina outside, multiple vanagons, and now a minivan. Still considering what the next iteration of van should be.