Curbside Classic: 1986 Dodge Ram Van InterVec Falcon – An Ode To The Hermit Crab

1986 Dodge Ram Van B350 InterVec Falcon. South Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois. Tuesday, August 17, 2021.

I’ll state right off the bat that my knee-jerk reaction to crustaceans is that they’re nasty.  I’ve never been a seafood person, per se.  Back when I was in high school, unless cultural clues had told me otherwise, I would have looked at you as if you were crazy if you told me lobster was both expensive and considered a high-class food.  The big claws.  The beady eyes.  The twitchy antennae.  The multitude of legs.  No, thank you.

That isn’t to say that I hold such a view in midlife.  Little by little, I’ve waded deeper into the seafood waters starting probably out of necessity (shrimp fried rice was among the best bargains at the local Chinese restaurant when I was a poor college student), and then later because many of my friends like shrimp and I didn’t want to be left out.  I genuinely like shrimp now, even if it isn’t my absolute first choice.

Hermit crab photograph by James Tiono, as sourced for free from Unsplash.

Hermit crab photograph by James Tiono, as sourced from Unsplash.

When I was a kid, I found hermit crabs both fascinating and disgusting at the same time.  My first discovery that a random shell wasn’t just a shell but had a living thing inside of it surely blew my mind, especially if it had started moving across the ground, seemingly under its own power.  My mind’s eye can see my late father picking one up to show my brothers and me as kids, with him turning it upside down to demonstrate how a hermit crab would retract into its shell, a home of its own choosing, until it no longer sensed danger and would get back to its business.

With no pretense of giving a marine biology lesson, suffice it to say for the purposes of this essay that hermit crabs have a very soft exoskeleton that requires them, for their own survival, to select a suitable, protective shell based on size, opening, shape, and weight.  They will upgrade when necessary when they’ve outgrown the shell they’re in.  This will often happen en masse with other hermit crabs, with smaller ones queuing up for the discarded shells that have the room they now need.

1986 Dodge Ram Van B350 InterVec Falcon. South Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois. Tuesday, August 17, 2021.

When I passed our featured Dodge on the sidewalk last month, my first thought was that it looked very lived in.  It’s not every day that I have seen a Class B (built on a van chassis and the most easily manageable) motorhome parked on a main, collector street on the southern end of my neighborhood.  It also had out-of-state plates and while it wasn’t in bad shape by any stretch, a quick peek from the sidewalk into the passenger’s side door of the cabin gave clues that a lot of time had been spent in there.  This Dodge probably wasn’t a weekends-only vehicle that was off to a fancy camping village in southern Wisconsin for bocce ball and craft beers.  It appeared to be getting more use than that.

A license plate search showed this 19′ long example to be based on an ’86 Dodge Ram Van B350 powered by Chrysler’s 360 cubic inch V8 with 175 horsepower.  The Falcon conversion was performed by a company called InterVec (shortened from “International Vehicles Corporation”) which appears to have started operations in 1984 and gone out of business around 1997.  I have seen examples of the Falcon using both the Dodge Ram Van and Ford E-Series platforms, so InterVec did not seem to have had a clear preference in terms of donor van.  I was unable to find an abundance of information online for either InterVec or the Falcon conversion outside of sales listings and a few forums dedicated to their upkeep and preservation.  There appears to be a substantial following for these.

1986 Dodge Ram Van brochure photo, as sourced from the internet.

Speaking of which, I stumbled across one particular classified listing for a different example of Dodge Falcon for sale in Kentucky, where in addition to extoling its virtues, the owner had divulged that he or she had been living in the van for a couple of months while traveling between states.  That van was of a similar color scheme to this one, if slightly different, and if I wasn’t able to compare pictures of both on the spot, I might have thought that this example was the same one.  Prices for Ram Van Falcons of this vintage range from about $7,000 to double that, based on features and condition.  The presumed funkitude of a van that had been lived in continuously for that amount of time might have steered me away from that one, but that’s not a value judgement.

I’ve often wondered what I might do if my own circumstances found me in a place where I was no longer able to live in the manner that I’m used to.  While our choices absolutely have much to do with our current life situations, often times, unfortunate events can also happen outside of our control which can alter our path.  I’m not at all assuming that there’s someone living full-time in this van because they’re destitute, or anything like that.  My own modest home of my choosing in this somewhat densely populated area of the third-largest United States city of Chicago wouldn’t be for everyone.  I love where I live and the simplicity that comes with being responsible for only so many square feet.  I love spending time at my home base as much as I enjoy being out and social, if not more.

1986 Dodge Ram Van B350 InterVec Falcon. South Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois. Tuesday, August 17, 2021.

Maybe someone else, perhaps like the owner of a Class B motorhome like this Dodge, isn’t so much married to a physical address and enjoys being able to travel the country at will to be with loved ones and family, whether defined by blood or by choice.  What works for me may not work for the owner of this van, or for you, which is one hundred percent fine.  My question, though, is what happens when a motorhome that is used more frequently than average become uninhabitable or inoperable for some reason related to wear or age?  Like a hermit crab, would its owner/occupant then look for another, larger, nicer “shell” and shed this Dodge Ram Van Falcon, which would then be used by a smaller “crab” who is looking for a project to discover?  As with the end of this particular Tuesday, all I can do is hope that people are okay and content, regardless of the home environment of their choosing.

Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Tuesday, August 17, 2021.