(first posted 4/28/2016) In 1971 and again in 1972, Dodge pioneered two very significant developments in light trucks. The 1971 Maxiwagon/Maxivan (foreground) was the first extended-body large van, which allowed it carry 15 passengers or just more cargo. It took a few years, but eventually both Ford and Chevrolet got on board, and today extended body (and high-roof) vans are very common. The only mistake Dodge made was in not extending it quite far enough, so in 1978, its rear end was pushed out another eight inches, as conveniently seen by one of the later versions in the background.
In 1972, Dodge pioneered the first extended-cab pickup, the Club Cab. It too should have been longer, as Ford soon showed with its much more successful Super Cab. But Dodge’s pickups didn’t sell nearly as well as their vans, and so Dodge just limped along with it, and never got the boost they had hoped for. But their B-series vans were perpetual strong sellers, and the Maxiwagon and Maxivan played a big role in that.
Admittedly, Dodge wasn’t the first to extend a van by elongating its body behind the rear wheels. Ford did it back 1965, with their Econoline ‘Super Van’.
That prompted Dodge and GM (Chevy shown) to come out with extended versions of their compact vans, but they did it by extending the wheelbase, not just the body, which is of course the preferred course for better weight distribution.
Dodge’s all-new B-series vans arrived for 1971, in three body length and two wheelbases. The shorty van, which sat on a 109″ wb, was available in 5 and 8 passenger versions, as well of course as a cargo van, as were all of them. These were quite compact, with an overall length of only 176″.
This shorty passenger van is from the post-1979 period, with its larger nose. Chevrolet and Ford both had short versions of their new engine-forward vans, but they never sold all that well, and were eventually discontinued. Ford’s last one was in 1988, but I can’t peg down the last year for the Chevy/GMC. Dodge kept making the short ones, perhaps in part because the then-popular Super Shuttle service bought them in large volumes. Did they make them right to the bitter end, in 2003?
The next size was the 127″ wheelbase, with the normal body. These were the volume sellers, and the passenger version could accommodate up to 12 passengers, in three rows of seats behind the front two seats. They were also popular for conversions of all sorts,which was the rage in the 70s. This ’73 is a survivor from that era. It’s 194″ long.
So far, I’ve been able to use shots from my files, but I don’t have a 127″ wb regular body passenger van. It was obviously aimed at large or growing families.
That brings us to this Maxivan, which I shot the other (beautiful) morning on my pre-breakfast walk with the dog. The 18″ rear extension is very noticeable, especially on this one, as it has suffers from some sort of body disease. Hyper-extended rear end? Overall length is 212″, still shorter than most big American passenger cars of the time.
In it s first few years, engine choices were limited to the 198 and 225 CID slant sixes, and the 318 CID LA V8. The 198 was probably installed in a few manual transmission short vans, but realistically, the 225 was the six of one wanted one. Given that these were quite a bit bigger than the A series that they replaced, V8s were the more common way to go, except for the very thrifty and in the shorter versions.
The 360 became available in 1972, and in 1977, the 400 and 440 big blocks were even on tap. But that was for just three years only, as the sudden jump in gas prices in 1979 put them out to pasture in 1980.
This is a B-300 series, identifiable by it’s full-floating rear axle and eight-lug wheels; basically the same chassis components as used on Dodge’s so-called 3/4 ton pickups.
Although these B-Series vans did share drive trains and chassis components with the D-series pickups, they were different in a key respect from them as well as the vans from Ford and the later post ’96 GM vans: these are unibody vans (the 1971-1996 GM vans had a similar unibody). They do have substantial chassis “rails”, but they are welded directly to the floor structure. The advantages were the usual: lighter weight and a slightly lower floor.
Even the cutaway versions used for RVs kept this floor structure, like my ’77 Dodge Chinook, here at Glacier.
This larger Class C is still sitting on the same 127″ wb ‘platform’, with extension rails to support the long rear.
There are extended wheelbase Dodge motor homes from this era, and presumably they have some sort of frame rail extensions welded to the existing uni-rails. if I ever find one (they’re getting rare), I need to look under it to see just how these unibody platforms were extended this far.
Dodge utterly dominated the cutaway motorhome market during the 70s. Chrysler built them in large volumes, and it became a significant profit center. Most are powered either by the 360 or 440 V8s. Combined with the A727 HD Torqueflite, these drive trains are hard to kill, and helps explain why so many of these now quite old Dodges are still on the road. Or parked for long periods of time in certain parts of town where nobody minds.
But the RV industry is profoundly cyclical, much more than the car and truck business. Its cycles are exaggerated, and during recessions, it takes a severe beating. The second energy crisis and the nasty recession that followed, beginning in 1979, absolutely reamed Chrysler’s motorhome business, and as part of their near-bankruptcy reorganization in 1980, they completely pulled out of that market. That explains why motorhomes from the 70s are mostly Dodges, and the ones from the 80s are all Fords and Chevys.
This looks mighty familiar, as its pretty much the same as my ’77 Chinook, except for the seat upholstery and steering wheel design. The front compartment of these is pretty miserable, as the driver’s feet are pushed into a small area due to the wheel housing. I end up propping my left foot up on the housing, for lack of any place else to put it. But that’s still much better than what the passenger has to deal with, as the engine (and its housing) is offset to the passenger side. that results in an absurdly small are for their feet. And of course it’s noisy, and the engine throws off heat. I’m going to be looking for a replacement this coming year.
This Maxiwagon has the optional single captain’s chair in the back.
These old vans inevitable tend to attract clutter. No need to ever throw anything out, when you have this much room.
Dodge had the extended van market for itself for a number of years.
It wasn’t until 1978 that Ford copied Dodge and once again pulled out the ‘Super Van’ name, as it had done back in 1965. Like the Dodge, the rear-most seat lacked a window. Unlike the Dodge, Ford added a a bit more; 20″ instead of 18′, resulting in a whopping 226″ overall length. The Ford was a bigger van to start with, sitting on a substantially longer 138″ wheelbase, most of which went to putting the engine further out front, which resulted in a much smaller ‘dog house’ engine cover in the front compartment.
Dodge was not about to be outdone by Ford, and give up the lucrative 15 passenger market. So for 1978, Dodge came up with a new rear end cap, eight inches longer than the old one, resulting in a total stretch of 26″, and a total length of 224.7″, still a bit less than the Ford.
But this time, there were windows back there, so all those kids heading off to camp could see where they were going. of course, nowadays that wouldn’t be necessary, as kids have totally stopped looking out windows. Might as well just ferry them in a windowless van as long as it has Wifi.
Dodge took two year to transition to its gen2 version of these vans, although maybe v1.5 is more appropriate. In 1978, Dodge changed the body from the cowl back, eliminating the small windows and putting the side rear doors (sliding or twin hinged) right up against the front doors. And of course the new extended Maxivan was part of those changes. But the ’78s still had the previous sloping nose. In 1979, the new blockier front end arrived, to make the transition complete. A new dashboard was also part of the make-over.
Here’s how the passenger side doors were before the change. On the short 109″ wb jobs, the little window behind the front doors was just eliminated.
I’m not really sure of the exact year of this Maxivan, as they looked pretty much the same for a number of years.
This one belongs to a handyman, and it’s always filled to the gunwales. Realistically, this is what I should have, and just store much of my tools in it instead of loading and unloading.
These extended 15 passenger vans were very popular with church, athletic, educational and other organizations that needed to haul lots of kids, mostly. But they got a bad rap when a disproportionate number of them rolled over or otherwise wiped out, due to a combination of the heavy loads and inexperienced drivers. There were lots of lawsuits, and ironically, Dodge eventually got out of the business, and stopped building their extended vans. A lot of the 15 passenger Econolines got dual rear wheel axles to improve their stability.
GM took its time getting into the extended van business, but when they finally did in 1990, they did it right, by extending the wheelbase instead of just the body. The wheelbase grew by 21″, to 146″. Overall length was 223″, still less than the Ford. But regardless of the approach, these long vans had a rep for feeling a bit squirrely in high wind or on curvy roads.
In 1994, the Dodge vans got another facelift, with a more aerodynamic front end. And finally, the engines were entering the modern era too. Back in 1988, the 3.9L V6, basically three-fourths of a 360 V8, replaced the slant six. The the 318 finally got fuel injection, and the Magnum treatment. In 1989, the 360, now called the 5.9, was also treated to fuel injection.
And in 1998, the engines were pushed forward, resulting in a more user-friendly and drastically updated front compartment, thanks to a smaller engine housing and a more modern dash. The outside rear view mirrors were also now the modern style mounted near the front of the window, which had lost its vent pane. This resulted in the Maxivan/Maxiwagon now being 231.2″ long, or some 20″ longer than the first version.
Despite constant upgrading of performance, safety and other aspects, the Dodge vans were hopelessly out of date compared the the competition from Ford and GM, both of whom had continued to invest in their vans, while Robert Eaton was stashing away cash for a rainy day; until Daimler got their hands on it. The Dodge van, still largely the same basic vehicle since 1971, soldiered on through 2003, after which time it was replaced by the Sprinter, a Mercedes product.
And now of course, the Ram Pro Master, a Fiat Ducato adapted to the North American market, has given Chrysler a competitive product in the field again, with FWD no less, and a wide range of lengths and roof heights. Now GM is playing third fiddle, having failed to invest in a modern van. It’s very high on the list of possible replacements for the Chinook. (Update: I bought one last year and am completing a complete camper conversion at this time)
The 1971 Dodge Maxiwagon/Maxivan led the way into an era of ever bigger and more versatile vans, and gave Dodge the single most competitive product against Ford and GM for years. That warrants an extended round of applause.
CC 1979 Dodge B100 Van: Is It The real Thing? T. Klockau
Autobiography: Zen and the Art of Roadside RV Repairs PN
I like that you can adjust the distributor position on these vans while driving, among other things.
In the mid-’70s we had two variations of this type of Dodge van in the UK, a chassis cab and a huge extended and tall screen/roof van (seen in this advert: https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3666/11416915974_0233d545c2_b.jpg mixed with other Commer and Simca derived models). With the messy end of Chrysler UK these vans ended up going to Renault who put their own plastic front on the later examples: http://miliblog.co.uk/wp-content/gallery/brit-1980-in-service-carsvans/dodges46-4×2-van-09-kf-76-white.jpg
Interesting ad ! A mixture of French, Spanish, American and English commercial vehicles with Chrysler as their parent. Or Ma Mopar, as they say.
Father had 2 of these, a ’75 and a ’78 Maxivan. The latter had one of the greatest drivetrains of all time , a 440 with the 727 Tourqueflite. Had over 250000 miles on it when he sold it, and the engine and transmission were never ever out of the vehicle for any reason.
These Dodge vans from the early 70s had the best front end styling of the three, with nicely done bumpers and grilles.
If its possible for a big box on wheels to be handsome, these were it.
+1 I’m no van guy but these old Dodges just have something special about them
Yeah, when i think 70’s vans, only the Dodge’s come to mind, as everything else was just an afterthought.
I’ve had one ride in a Dodge Maxivan. It was 1988, and I was in college. A professor drove a bunch of us to Wright-Patterson AFB to see freshly declassified machine translation software. Anyway, it was a highly windy day, and I sat in the very back row. The front of the van stayed in its lane — thanks to the prof furiously sawing that steering wheel back and forth — but that back end swung back and forth as if it were only lightly attached to the rest of the van.
It was an interesting ride I wished not to repeat. I bummed a ride back to school with a buddy who drove his own car out there.
How old was that example Maxi at that time?
I’m sure that if
1) suspension parts were in usable condition
2) correct tire pressures maintained – 55psi front, 80 rear I believe.
3) alignment meticulously maintained
Such sawing at the helm would be mitigated or unnecessary to keep the van straight in a lane.
Probably the most famous Maxivan of all, Richard Feynman’s ’75 model…..
Do we know what building that is behind it?
That may be at Fermilab in Batavia, IL
Thanks. It’s (appropriately) gorgeous.
I believe it is at the Fermilab site west of Chicago.
Thought the guys from The Big Bang burned it to the ground in Mexico trying to change a flat tire?
CHUCK LORRE PRODUCTIONS, #503
Two things to know about what you just saw:
One. That was really Richard Feynman’s van.
Two. Richard Feynman’s van was not injured in the making of tonight’s episode.
Inside Fermilab atrium reminds me a lot of the interior of the Disney World Contemporary Resort in Florida!
My only experience with these was a 15-passenger version of unknown vintage our church owned when we first moved to The Middle West. Its 318 was making ominous noises, so I carefully (expecting a rod to come shooting through the engine cover at any moment) drove it out to the farm, and our pastor and I spent a weekend pulling the old engine and replacing with a U-pull engine. That kept it on the road a few more years until it was replaced with a used school bus.
I can absolutely vouch for the poor ergonomics, too.
Even so, I found that the Dodge vans from
the ’80s-early ’90s had the most comfortable
stock seats of any large domestic van. 2000-
forward, and the seats were as stiff and hard
Our Church’s 2000 3500 needed lots of
engine work and still needs loads of under-
body work to cure that classic MOPAR rust.
Dodge used the exact same seats in the Omni and Horizon, where they were a bit too overstuffed and stole back seat knee room.
It just hit me that I saw a late ’70s or early ’80s long WB van in Peoria just a couple days ago. “Pre-CC Effect!”
I used to work with a woman who had a Plymouth branded window van from the mid 70s. Dodge vans were everywhere, but that was the only Plymouth I ever saw. On her van, the brand script on the rear door was partially broken off, so her van was a “mouth”.
Plymouth Voyager. For a few years in the early ’80s, C-P division especially, but also Dodge, renewed their efforts at marketing the “shorty” version as an alternative to the VW Vanagon and full-size station wagons. That ended, of course, with the T115s.
Yep, the Original Plymouth Voyager!
The father of a middle school friend had one of these; it was converted into a camper and, by the mid ’90s, reeked of mildew. It had a 440, because I remember his dad telling me about it; it apparently had “the pickup of a Corvette.” I do recall, since there were no seats in the back, being thrown about during acceleration quite a bit. It was replaced by a fully-loaded Pontiac Transport (sadly only with the 3.1/3-speed); I actually liked that van quite a bit.
Too bad I didn’t have as big an appreciation for domestic full-size vans as I do today. I think, with the wrap around rear window, that the Chrysler vans were easily the best looking at the time.
Funny, I loved the look of the early Maxi and considered it the best lookin van built. But the later one with the bigger butt and back windows never looked right to me.
I’m pretty sure the 440 was not offered in the vans, only the motorhome chassis, but I could be wrong. The bog-block 400 was though.
It was option in the vans for a few years, I know someone who has a 77 B-300 Maxi so equipped.
You’re right; the 400 and 440 were available from ’77 -’79.
1976 the 440-4 was available across the line.
That red Ram Promaster toward the end
looks like a giant aardvark or a Dustbuster.
BTW no one seems to have picked up that
the “captain’s chair” in photos #16 & 17 is
actually a piece of living room furniture.
A big chunk of my youth was spent around the 73 Maxivan that my best friend’s dad bought to replace his Travelall when I was in 8th grade. It stayed with the family until replaced by a 79 Ford Club Wagon.
With a 360, that big Dodge would scoot. Bright yellow and white two tone, with an interior identical to your first subject.
It was pure 70s Mopar in being a strong performer, tough as nails, and wildly uneven build quality, with one of the worst paint jobs I have ever seen on a new car.
The other advantage of the unit construction was that the Dodge had a really tight structure. The Fords and Chevys were more structurally challenged.
Chevy G-Series are unit body too. The ’96-up Express has a frame.
Wow, for a unit body, those were not very rigid structures. The ones I remember driving had rattles and squeaks coming from everywhere.
I think these vans are all rather prone to rattles and squeaks due to all of the doors and the lack of sound deadening on the cargo vans. The nicer passenger versions did have some sound deadening/carpets/etc, but a bare cargo van of any of these three makes is an auditory torture chamber.
Frankly, the quality of body construction and fit has jumped a huge leap with the latest generation of Euro vans. The Ford Transit I rented recently was in a different league, in terms of how the doors shut tightly like in a car. In my Dodge, they doors’ fit into the body is a joke; in the winter I get gusts of cold air all around them.
Body precision was just not good on these old vans, kind of like a lot of sedans from the era, but worse. Progress…
Wherever the tolerances started out, by the time each of the Big 3’s vans was replaced in the ’90s (or even 2003!), the tooling must have been worn out.
The telephone company used to run fleets of those old Dodge vans in my area. They must have had good luck with them because everytime that they upgraded, they got more Dodges.
I worked at a trim shop part time while in college for a number of years starting in 1990.
That first summer, the shop truck was a clapped-out ex-courier service ’76 127″ WB regular length with a 318, sloppy 3-on-the-tree and manual steering. Not fun. I don’t know the PO survived courier use with it, unless he was an inter-city driver, where it might just have been barely tolerable. Like any manual trans vehicle I get my hands on, I put myself up to the challenge of going up and down thru the gears without using the clutch, which I eventually mastered. It was thankfully junked the following year and replaced with a somewhat less clapped-out ’80 Chevy 1-Ton G30, which at least was auto, ps pb.
Come to think of it, I could copy and paste this into the “vehicle you most hated driving” thread.
Might be careful about choosing a Promaster/Sprinter replacement. I’ve read that they have a very poor reliability record. The Ford Transit might be a better choice for a new, full-size van.
Interesting that the standard long-wheelbase version, at 194 inches, is shorter than most modern “mini” vans (2016 Grand Caravan is 202.8 inches).
I’ve never been a fan of the full-sized van, having driven a few at odd jobs back in the day. I’m not a “big car” guy to begin with, much preferring something a bit more light on its feet and nimble, but these vans always made me uneasy, either as a passenger or the operator. There’s a certain sense of lacking stability that I am uncomfortable with. 25 years in the insurance industry has taught me that this class of vehicle, at least in 15 passenger guise is probably worthy of my mistrust. It is common in my business when writing commercial auto coverage for churches, schools or community groups for insurance companies to either exclude or impose restrictions on the insured entity’s use of 15 passenger vans, especially when being operated by “laypeople” (ie: members of the parish, etc.). The claims data and liability lawsuits arising from the very common use of these vehicles in these applications apparently speaks volumes, from an actuarial standpoint.
Not the best terminology. It would’ve been better to say “non-professional driver” rather than having to explain, *every time* that an ordained priest who daily-drives a subcompact is a “layperson” in terms of the contract…
Very comprehensive write-up! I had never noticed that there was a difference in Dodge’s extended-body vans.
In 1979, an acquaintance of mine bought a new Dodge cargo van with the 318. You could see daylight through a couple of holes in the welds between the ceiling and the side panels. Illustrative of just how bad Chrysler was at the end of the 1970s.
Dad bought a new gold colored ’75 shorty side windowless Dodge, with chrome bumpers, auto trans, am radio, power steering and 225 engine. He used it for his tool business, and the 1/2 ton was often loaded down with a lot of weight. The first time I used it to go camping up fireroads, I found out how flimsy the base tires were. As in getting 2 flats, the rocks on the road cut through the tires like butter.
After getting a set of 4 decent replacement tires, no more flats. The van gave no trouble and was a good work van, though as time went on the 225 seemed to lose quite a bit of power.
Friend bought a black ’77 that was identical except for 318 engine. They both had non padded steel dashes, low back seats and lap belts only, safety regs were really lax on trucks in those days compared to cars. His was also trouble free, and an aftermarket steering wheel and mags, along with a mattress and decent stereo turned it into his party wagon. He ran it up to 100k miles and it also was reliable and trouble free. They were good trucks for the era. They were also quite affordably priced in these trims new.
Classic Chrysler. Always a couple of vehicles that are class leading in at least a few respects, and a line up that otherwise consists of also rans or completely irrelevant entries.
I was given a mid ’80s GM G van based motorhome. Interior was trashed, and body was full of rot. Did run and drive. I could not get $5 for it. Put it on Craigslist for free, and a tweaker came and got it for his next rolling meth lab within the hour. None of the paperwork was in my name, and he didn’t care. Just glad to be rid of it. A friend of mine had a Dodge van based ’78 Monaco motorhome, it did indeed have a 440 in it.
I know that during the 1970s, the Dodge vans were known as the Tradesman (cargo) or Sportsman (passenger). From 1981-2003, they were known as the Ram van/wagon.
I love these old vans ~ we bought a 197? Plymouth long body one (“Voyager”) from Cal Trans , it had the usual 360 CID V8 and big carby to haul loads of commuters .
We ran the living hell out of it for years until a cokehead came roaring out of Burbank Studios and impaled his Datsun on the rear left corner of it shattering that window but no structural damage so we sold it to The Bike Pimp (Hi Jason !) who welded a security screen into the open window and used it to tow a two axle trailer and roof rack stuffed full of vintage motos across American many times until the California AQMD offered to give him $1,000 + for it (passenger vehicle) so we spent a while making it fail the smog test , it always flew though before , they took it away and whatever they do with ‘ retired vehicles ‘ I was sad to see it go .
A crude box but also a real workhorse than never ever broke down .
One detail that always bugged me about these: on the older ones, the sill on the side windows lined up with the bottom of the front door glass. During one of the updates, they changed the side glass to have a lower sill than the door glass…so nothing quite lined up. I can’t imagine why they went to all that effort to change something that likely was of no consequence from a functional perspective. I can’t imagine it’s more than an inch difference…why bother?!?
You’re right on the over all length of the Maxivan still being shorter than some contemporary full sized cars. My 71 Buick Electra was 14″ longer and also had a 127″ W.B.!
Many of the longer B series class C motor home chassis were not stretched, they were ‘factory’. In the late 70’s one of Chrysler’s largest customers was Winnebago Industries. The motorhome chassis business was very important to Chrysler those years, and they were very accommodating to the RV manufacturers.
Mom has a high fiberglass roof luxury camper version of an ’87 with the 318 2bbl and 727 Torqueflite. One of the last non-EFI engines with California emissions, smog checks are a bitch. Retard the spark so it barely idles, barely pass smog, readjust timing. She liked the visibility in traffic, but climbing in and out is now too difficult.
I leased a ’94 maxi with luxury seating for 12, vanpool duty. The 360 and four speed automatic did very well, even in the mountains. Brakes wore out frequently, however.
My plumber put over 300,000 miles on his Dodge B-series before the subframe cracked near the steering gear. Engine and trans were original. His Econoline replacement has not been nearly as reliable.
These vans had dual steering ‘ idler ‘ arms and stupidly turning the steering whilst sitting still (a favorite of lazy American drivers when parking) often causes them to crack and eventually rip right out of the frame .
A simple repair involving adding a gusset (“Fish Plating”) makes this a never again problem saving a good truck from the scrapyard .
Our 1977 Plymouth Voyager eventually needed both sides done .
About the year of that beat to hell white maxi-van, I believe it’s either a 1979-80.
The way to tell is the nameplates, from 1981 onwards they had the RAM Logo and before that they have the more subdued nameplates.
IIRC, Chrysler changed the front end in 1986 (dual headlight only) along with another in 1994 and 1998, the last generation being the worst, hopelessly outdated. My family owned a fleet company and we had tons of these old school vans, and for some reason I loved these old crates.
A friend of mine owned a used 81 Dodge B2500 extended body cargo van….Essentially the same length as the 15 passenger vans but his was a panel van…no windows….and only 2 seats up front. and the long body overhang behind the rear wheels.
He used it for his business and also used it for longer road trips.
It had either the 318 or 360 V8.. with 3 speed auto….no overdrive.. He owned it from the late 1980’s until around 2010 when he bought a used mid 90’s Ford Econoline stretch cargo van with the six and overdrive auto to replace it……The Econoline got better mileage with the 6 and auto overdrive.
The Dodge had no overdrive and must have had 3.90 or 4.10 rear axle gears because the engine was screaming at 60-65 mph in high gear….It really could have used that extra gear.
The van always needed to be warmed up in cold weather before driving off….otherwise it would stumble and you would have to feather the gas to keep it moving….My friend said the van was always cold natured….The sound of that old Chrysler starter stuck in my mind.
He finally sold it when it started becoming unreliable due to electrical issues….It probably had 200,000 miles on it or more when he sold it
I’m glad you mentioned the stability issue of the extended-length passenger vans – they were used by a lot of church youth groups and such for road trips. Fully-loaded, if you did any sudden maneuvers on the freeway, there was so much weight behind the rear axle that you would get that unexpected sideways kick in the back afterwards (as though the state patrol had just executed the PIT maneuver on the vehicle) which could cause loss of vehicle control.
There were a number of crashes due to this, typically on perfectly-straight interstate freeways under what would be considered ideal driving conditions.
My only time ever in an extended wheelbase van was at Pocono Raceway, when before letting you take a Nascar car on to the track they first pile the whole class of 15 into one of these vans (it was a Ford) and take you around the track, pointing out turn in points at apexes, so on. The ride was the single most hair raising I can recall every having – in the far back row of this van, hurtling around the bends of the race track at over 100 mph. I couldn’t believe it. I talked to the driver afterwards and asked if the van had its suspension modified for this duty, and he said, “no, it’s stock, it’s why you’re here. You can increase safety exponentially by learning how to truly handle a vehicle by understanding it and being taught – while only incremental changes can be made through actual vehicle design year over year”.
Of course, you sign your life away when you register at these things, but it was an eye opening experience about car control for me.
During 1973 – 1975 I had a college classmate that had a Mopar van, it might have been a Plymouth Voyager, that had a large single rear door that swung to the side and the rear windows that wrapped around the back corner. Rear visibility must have bee great compared to other vans. This was a passenger van because it had windows all around and a two tone paint from the factory. It was a copper and cream combination. Nice van, wouldn’t mind having one.
Regarding SWB vans, I had a 1979 custom Chevy Sport Van with the 400ci SBC engine with a big 4bbl Quadrajet. Other than my late GMC Safari, that was the most nimble van I’ve ever owned and I’ve owned quite a few.
After my last post I decided to find a picture of a Dodge van with the wrap around windows and it took me so long to find one I thought maybe I had hallucinated the whole thing but I did find one picture.https://dxsdcl7y7vn9x.cloudfront.net/469774/89e59ec4-cf39-4a65-bb11-bea1a6303e34.jpg
You definitely were NOT hallucinating, I’ve seen a few back in they day used as church vans!
There’s one right in the article! Yes, all the Maxivans after 1978 had the rear wrap-around window.
Good article and photos on these groundbreaking vehicles. I rather have a GMC Vandura or Savanna 15 Passenger just to avoid the overhang that the Dodge, Ram and Ford 15 Passenger versions have to this day. The 2016 Chevy Expresses I deal with at work do not feel as solid anymore now that I have dealt with 2016 Ford Transits, but I rather ride on the bench seats in the Chevy than the 15 buckets that are in the Ford. Would also rather have a Ford Transit Conversion Van if they built one than an Expedition.
It is interesting how Fullsized Vans especially old ones are perceived by society and how whether or not it has windows can make a difference. Old pickups are perceived as cool while similar vintage Fullsized Vans usually have a creepy and/or tacky vibe. Here in Portland, OR old Fullsized Vans are almost always used by motorhomeless, snow or skiing bums, outdoorsy folks who are sometimes vagabonds, blue collar folks, or sometimes as a fashion statement particularly customized ones.
In my hometown the local family who adopted about a dozen kids bought a circa 2002 Purple and Silver Dodge Ram Van 15 Passenger brand new to replace their circa 1995 G-20. When enough kids graduated high school they donated the Dodge to their church. I miss du-colored Vans.
In 2009 I took a Super Shuttle 15 Passenger Dodge Ram Van from Boulder to the Denver Airport and it was one of the last built according to the owner. Holy cow, what an outdated vehicle and it had about 380K miles on it. The owner said he used to work in Denver, but there is a age limit on the Vans so instead of buying something new (which he hated) he just volunteered to relocate to covering Boulder.
In 2011 I stayed at a hotel outside of Baltimore and parked next to a 1980s High Roof 15 Passenger Dodge Ram Van full of construction tools and debris. Because the Van blocked the security camera and parking lot lights I parked on the lobby side of that beast. Sure enough the next morning the Land Rover (or some luxury SUV) on the dark side of the Van had been broken into. I met the owner of the Van who was leaving and he was surprised that had happened. I told him I avoided parking on the dark side of his Van to avoid getting broken into and he said he never thought about that before.
These were the vans of choice for the preschool I went to, and we went on lots of field trips: the local Pepsi bottling company and the Red Seal potato chip factory come to mind. Each van had a CB (eff yeah!) and most of them had loose and sloppy side window latches—they’d hold the top-hinged window open until a pothole bounced it closed again. They also didn’t have anywhere near enough seat belts for the number of kids riding in them, so “you’ll have to share with your neighbor”, which today would make anyone even remotely knowledgeable about crash safety throw up.
just latched onto a ’77 b200 shorty – not bad shape but I will want to make some changes. where can I find what other years body parts are compatible?
My grandfather had a Class C in all grey that got left in the dust. They cleaned it out and donated it to the blind. Wish I had a pic on hand
I own a copper and white ’73 B series with 360 and torqueflite. It lived it’s first 60,000 miles shuttling several Nuns from their Convent to Church functions and the like. I got the rust free truck as the second owner about 15 years ago. It runs great, rides beautifully, and is as dry as the humor it’s first owners had during morning prayers. I don’t think it had ever been driven faster than 50 mph and it was as neat and clean as the ‘habit’ those Nuns wore. I paid the $900.00 they were asking and never looked back to see if it was the devil or an Angel guiding my good fortune that day. Love the way the headlights have a sort of ‘fish-eye’ look to them peeking thru that aluminum grille
It seems seems like in the ’80s every rug shop had Dodge vans. FWIU they had the loadspace length to shut the doors on a standard wall-to-wall carpet roll, the extended Ford didn’t and there was no extended Chevy until ’90.
I think Dodge did indeed make shorty B-vans right up until 2003; the GM and Ford models were more-or-less replaced by the Astro and Aerostar but the much more carlike Chrysler minivans weren’t as successful as cargo vans, even as the supply of them was limited as the kid-haulers were selling as fast as they could be built. So the big shorty stayed around mainly as a cargo van.
Interesting re: the short versions with an overall length of only 176″. That’s even a bit shorter than my Honda CR-V, which is 178.3″ long.
My first company van in 1979 was a standard length version of one of these, I think a ’74 or so, but very similar in appearance. It was two-tone tan and white, with the 318 V8. It was easy to access with the double doors next to the passenger door. The gas gauge didn’t work, I recall my boss saying to make note of the mileage and fill it after about 200 miles to be safe.
While they definitely aren’t doing it with the extended length vans, this would be probably be a good a time as any to bring up the highly entertaining sport of Japanese van racing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7U2BC5sOltU