(first posted 9/15/2017) BAM! Seeing this Dodge van bouncing down US 67, I was automatically transported back to the late 1970s.
The late ’70s was a great time to be a child as the cocktail of disco, disaster movies, and loud polyester clothing dug into my psyche like a hungry eagle clasps onto an unsuspecting fish and it has vibrantly colored my outlook on all things in life. The torrent of thoughts this Dodge triggered almost enveloped my being, furthered by my piloting a newer rig cut from the same boxy cloth, helping the mental barrage of so many 1970s era goings-on crest even higher.
Seeing this Dodge, it wasn’t in the dark of the moon on the sixth of June, nor was I in a Kenworth pulling logs.
If anything, this rig falls closer to the chartreuse microbus. Seeing any shorty cargo van looking so copacetic is true eye-candy, even for the devout non-fans of vans such as myself.
Maybe this rig is packing the 360 (5.9 liter) V8 that became available in 1974 for the shorties. It would be totally bitchin’ if it did, not the grueler one built with a slant six would be. This one is worthy for a convoy to somewhere like Luckenbach, Texas.
While to these eyes vans are little more than annoying and oafish conveyances that inhabit the Spectrum of Unpleasant Things somewhere in the vicinity of root canals and prostate exams, don’t black saber me. Like root canals and prostate exams, vans also have a specific purpose in their tortured existence. Despite any appearances to the contrary, I do appreciate this particular Dodge for its stamina and defying the odds, bad color and all.
This Mopar Mama may not be a brick house, but it does toss a guy into a groove. Something about it sings to me…
And it does so almost as well as this brunette. Mrs. Jason, also a brunette, refers to a particular white van as a dream boat, but a Dream Boat Annie it is not. I’m not going crazy on you and it’s doubtful this sentiment has put me alone in the crowd.
Hey man, there was a crowd of these Dodge vans, on both the street and in the sales catalog. Take your pick; two wheelbases, three weight ratings, a choice of windows, and engines from that 3.7 liter leaning tower of power to four different V8s of the 318, 360, 400, and 440 variety – that’s magic, man.
Ma Mopar will set you up; with up to 440 cool beans under that skinny hood (but only on the longies), you could haul ass, or anything else, like a boss.
You could even get your Tradesman with a to-go box. Far out.
Of course, that’s just the same cab and chassis that was used for RVs during the Ford and Carter years. Even though Chrysler was in a heap of trouble as a company for most of the 1970s, they did dominate some market segments, such as the RV market. There just weren’t enough of those markets for Chrysler to remain in the black.
This ad is such a sign of the times, advertising a 63 ampere alternator as an upgrade. Arguably the closest in spiritual kinship to this Dodge nowadays is a Ford E-350 (didn’t they have that name before Mercedes?) with a standard 120 ampere alternator and an available 225 ampere unit.
So maybe you are asking yourself – what’s the driver’s seat like, dude? Let me tell you…
It looks like it was marinated in all that was the 1970s – but in a really tasteful way, man. Earth tones are always cool, always possessing some link with contemporary fashion, regardless of the times. And this color totally spanks all the uninspired black found in the gut of contemporary cars.
Forty years from now, people will likely be talking about how wretched the teens were with black colored interiors, fifty shades of silver on the outside, and space gobbling consoles the size of the Paracel Islands. It’ll be a real giggle-fest for them. Fashion changes throughout all the days of our lives.
The parchment seat color (that’s Dodge-speak, man) in our featured van was truly the best available as your choices only strayed from there.
That blue is as harsh as some guy nicknamed Leatherface giving you a manicure. Being surrounded by that much blue would be like sitting in an aquarium.
It’s doubtful the sinus infection green would be any better, although in the example seen in the brochure one could joke about being behind the green door.
Burnt orange (Dodge calls it saddle) would be a distant second choice behind the
tan parchment and one could always call it copper, which sounds much more timeless. Or maybe you want to call it saddle so you can get all Gunsmoke and yell “Saddle up, everybody!”.
With a wheelbase of 109″, driving this shortie while unloaded on rough roads would likely have you shaking like the audience at the premier of either Jaws or The Exorcist. Want a freaky-deaky thought? This Tradesman has a 0.5″ shorter wheelbase than a Ford Falcon! Is that far out or what? Dodge knew how to roll them tight.
Anyone with experience knows that rolling them tight makes them last longer. These Dodge vans were rolled really tight as they lasted from 1972…
All the way to the early 2000s. This ad shows a 1999 model – Dodge gave them another facelift looking like an underbite before the spark finally burned out. Thirty years is a mighty long time – it’s almost like the VW Bug of vans.
To make a statement that could have been said by Gene Rayburn, host of the inimitable and unparalleled 1970s version of Match Game, “Did you hear Jason found an old Dodge van? Surprisingly he didn’t gag. Instead, he ________”.
Pictures taken July 2017 outside of a car show in Monmouth, Illinois; this van was seen in-motion earlier on US 67 south of Rock Island, Illinois.