Vans like this, in condition like this, are a thing of the distant past.
These were all over the place when I was a kid. There were Polywindowed people-carrier versions such as those we rode on field trips from The Willows. Windowless versions for plumbers, electricians, and creeps. White ones for mobile definitely-not-stolen speaker sales associates.
My high school engineering physics teacher had one of these, speaking of creeps. He was an American with a French name and Brit-wannabe affectations, who fancied himself a perfect mix of 70 per cent Stirling Moss, 70 per cent Mario Andretti, 70 per cent Smokey Yunick, 70 per cent Chuck Yeager, and god’s gift to females of all ages—including the girls in his classes; He behaved very badly towards them that I saw (and likely worse that I didn’t). He knew I liked Chrysler products, so he made a point of bitching about “that awful noise their starters make”, just to be a—how you say in British—a tosser.
He frequently stank up the auto shop impound yard taking parts off the traindropped zero-miles ’86 318 B-van to use on his own ’77. By my senior year, I’d been pestering shop teacher Mr. Schultz for awhile for the heavy-duty starter off the impounded van; on the last day of school he said “that asshole Mr. [physics teacher] told me he wants the starter off that van. He really puts me up the wall; if you can make it disappear in the next 20 minutes, it’s yours”. I scrambled into the van, made with the end wrenches, and into my backpack went the starter and its heat shield. On my way out the shop I passed Sir Physics on his way in—”Oh, hi, Mr. LePhysics!”. I understand he was most cross that the starting motor he was after was nowhere to be found. »tsk« Oh dear…bit of a rum go, old bean! I do hope he wrote The Times at once.
Quite amazing what even just a little sheetmetallic curvature will do, eh! I favour this 1971-’78 front end over the less artful, relentlessly rectilinear GM, Ford, and ’79-up Dodge designs. This van has the ’74-’78 plastic grille, but I don’t know what year the turn signal lenses were changed from clear to amber. And those can be swapped at will, so because I didn’t think to read the VIN, I don’t know the actual year of this van—or what kind of engine it might have.
At first I wasn’t sure whether it’s a little-used original or the best restoration I’ve seen.
I think that’s not a factory paint colour, though maybe I just never saw one this nice I think this might be Citron Green Poly; either way it looks sharp.
These are regrettable current-production sealed beams; sloppy, careless manufacture makes them worse than even the non-halogen originals.
The wheels are white, as intended. This is a tiny tire by today’s standards. The side marker lights, too, tease at whether this van is original or restored: either these have spent very little time out of doors, or they have been replaced; the originals of this design are always faded by now.
Chrome gas cap: original or lovingly replaced, undented. No spilled-fuel paint damage. Tail lights bright and shiny. Badges and licence plate light undinged, and with perfect chrome.
Ah, there’s my old friend, that shift lever knob Chrysler put on everything from Valiants to Imperials from around ’68 through the early ’80s. Side mirrors look like period standard equipment: present, but none too large, and the flat-glass right side mirror will be just about useless.
At last, a sturdy clue: I am reasonably sure the dashboards weren’t pinstriped ex-works; this hints at a restorer’s pride of craftsmanship. Chrysler got their money’s worth out of that defogger duct; it was originally used on the ’63-’66 Valiants and Darts, then on these B-vans through ’93, and on Vipers from ’92-’96.
Mad respect for KLF and even more for Tammy Wynette, but (at 1:32) I’m going to carry on singing it my way: They’re justified, and they’re ancient, and they drive a nice green van :
I always thought these were the best-looking vans, compared to GM and Ford. They’ll probably also always remind me of Uncle Rico’s orange conversion van in Napoleon Dynamite.
I like this green, too. Years ago, I came across pictures on Flickr of a mint-condition ’77 Dodge Aspen SE in this color, and it looked as rich a hue in those pictures as it does here. Reminds me a bit of spearmint.
Great tie in with the KLF song. This collaboration with Tammy Wynette was bonkers and brilliant – I still remember hearing it for the first, few times on the radio when I was a teenager. KLF’s The White Room album is excellent from start to finish. I may need to revisit it soon.
I would greatly appreciate clarification as to the regretful sealed beams deterioration of the manufacturing process.
That is worrisome.
I passed up one of these about 15 years ago, and it was free, much to my surprise. It was orange which caught my eye. Then I looked more closely at the body, rotted away.
Truly an excellent find, nice to see such a clean original in a sharp color.
Same curiosity here about current-production sealed beams. I have not had a car with 7″ dual sealed beams since 1998, and it still had its originals from the 1970s. Can Daniel Stern explain, and suggest what he would recommend?
That looks like an original Chrysler color from the mid-1970s. It looked particularly good on Valiants, Volarés, Aspens and Darts dressed up with vinyl roofs!
See my reply to Timothy Harris. There are plenty of good-to-excellent options for headlamps in most of the sealed beam sizes, but there’s also a mountain of junk on the market, and of course it’s all hyped as an “upgrade”, so you have to be picky and skeptical. Get your advice on the subject from knowledgeable sources—there’s more than just one—not from unqualified advice-givers artificially amplified on YouTube and enthusiast forums, however noble (or not) their intentions might be. The Slick-50 effect is real (“I spent $_____ on this; of course it’s awesome!”) and headlamps that feel like they’re good aren’t the same as headlamps that actually are good.
Recommendations beyond that: not here; this isn’t an appropriate forum for it. I’m pretty easy to find. 🤓
There are no longer any sealed beams on the market that are even marginally worthy. For quite a few years almost all of them were made on increasingly decrepit tooling, but the makers figured—probably correctly—that they’d never make back what it cost to replace the tooling. The applicable regulations are sloppy, too; they don’t require that headlamps conform to the requirements, but only that they be “designed to conform”. Some years ago the regulators proposed replacing that language with shall conform, and the result was the same as the last time they proposed it in the 1970s: industry howled that such a move would “substantially increase the burden of compliance”, which translates as crap, if they do this a bunch of our products will suddenly be illegal.
For awhile the only passable sealed beams were the American-made GE Night Hawks, but then GE shut down their sealed beam production line and sourced that product line out of China. Quality and performance aren’t just poor, they’re nonexistent: uselessly dim, unfocused light that might just barely meet the minimum legal requirements, but I wouldn’t bet on even that. Once Corning quit making sealed beam lenses and reflectors, the rest of the brands (Sylvania, Philips, Wagner) outsourced to China as well, often via Eiko—and they are utter junk.
Sealed beams don’t necessarily have to be lousy. In my collection is a 7″ round halogen sealed beam that makes even lighting engineers go “Wow, lamps like that can perform like this?”—but it, too, is out of production and was very costly and difficult to get before it was discontinued. The sealed beam, per se, is pretty much a thing of the past. For those who wish to stick with them, the best thing to do is to trawl the likes of eBay, Kijiji, and Craigslist for new old stock from long enough ago (’80s, ’90s, early ’00s).
Didn’t one of the big auto lighting brands – Osram/Sylvania iirc – sell a true LED retrofit for some old sealed-beam sizes for several years? I don’t mean those bogus LED bulbs that fit where the halogen bulb should go and are not properly optimized for the lens optics, but rather entire units (reflector, glass, LED, LED driver) that replace a sealed beam, and met regulations. Nobody makes anything like this anymore? (that works well, not that’s designed to look nice).
What about ECE lights in sealed beam retrofit sizes that use H1 or H4 halogen bulbs from Hella or Cibie? In most US states from what I understand, it’s legal to buy and use them for private use, but you can’t sell a car with them legally. Elsewhere, they’re “for off-road use only” lol. (or motorcycles)
There are a lot of LED sealed beams on the market. A few of them are excellent, some of them are good, some of them are passably decent, and many of them are junk. Sylvania’s large round LED sealed beam was a rebox of the Peterson item, a fairly decent effort. GE and Philips sold Truck-Lite’s large round and large rectangular LED sealed beams for awhile, now both the GE and Philips items are sourced from China/Taiwan—passably decent in most cases. the American-made JW Speaker LED sealed beams are premium goods, and there are some excellent but difficult-to-find Korean items (including in the almost-completely-uncatered-for small round size).
Cibie H4/H1 lamps are no longer manufactured, though there are remaining stocks of their small rectangular H4 (an unusually good lamp in that size). Hella’s H4/H1 lamps are still around, still as mediocre as always. Koito makes some uncommonly good and well-made H4/H1 lamps. The regulations are quite a bit more complicated than you describe, but we’re already well off topic here 🙂
Actually all my old cars still have their sealed beams especially the Fords since the name is on the glass. Nonetheless, I sourced several boxes of OEM GE 4001 and 4002 sealed beams in the early oughts. Original GE packaging from the later 70s to early 80s. Since I rarely drive the cars at night and have yet to need any of them.
Problem there is that old-stock non-halogen sealed beams tend to lose the seal where the lead wires pass through the heel of the reflector. The sealant dries up and shrinks/cracks, then lifespan of the unit is measured in minutes. If you want to try your luck with vintage sealed beams, at least give yourself a fighting chance to almost kinda see; use the № 4000 low beam (60w) rather than the earlier № 4002 (50w).
Had to look and they are 4000 and 4001. Also took a look on eBay and for what many want for one I got a box of them in 2000.
There’s a ton NOS/NORS sealed beams on eBay. I’m still running sealed beams in my daily driver truck, and hit eBay to pick those up, as well as other consumables that are no longer available in decent quality.
I may bug you at a later time for some more objective advice on what flavors of headlight might serve best in my application.
And to at least bring one sentence of my ramblings back on topic… I wasn’t aware if or when you could get the overdrive 4 speed in these. I agree that one of those behind a 225 would be an awesome powertrain setup for this van.
The A833OD 4-speed overdrive* transmission was available from about ’75 through to the 1987 end of Slant-6 availability in the US/Canadian market.
* I think it’s dumb to call it a “3-speed plus overdrive”, so I refuse to do so
I don’t think they looked this good when originally delivered. Some real craftsmanship here.
That, I think, is what finally pushed me firmly into deciding this one’s been restored: the body panels and trim didn’t line up nearly this well and the paintwork wasn’t nearly this nice from the factory.
I will agree that these earlier versions of the vans looked best. When they turned the taillights 90 degrees to up and down instead of sideways they never looked right in back. I used to like the pre-74 grilles better, but have come around on these as time has passed.
It is a hard job IDing these by year. Looking at brochures it looks like the white front turn signal lenses were in 76-77 while the orange were 74-75. Also Chrysler used the same dark green paint from 74-76 but changed it a bit in 77. It is hard to tell in pictures, but if I had to guess this would be the 74-76 color that is a touch brighter. So if the front amber lenses and everything else are original (which they may not be) I would peg this one as a 74-75.
Reminds me of frosty green poly in the mid-70s. Not too dark and not too light.
These certainly were handsome vans; all the curves worked TOGETHER unlike current vehicle deeeezignzz where everything seems to fight everything else!
A design that has “aged” very nicely: easy on the eyes!! DFO
I think the last really good looking van was the 1992+ Econoline. It too had curves to soften the corners of the rectangular box, and had a cohesiveness that was absent in most others.
I can see your point, but I don’t share that view. Me, I’ve never liked any instantiation of Ford’s melted-bar-of-soap look.
Feel free to disagree, but to me the current Ford Transit in its smallest configuration continues the “cohesive” theme the early B-vans & the ’92-up Econoline had. From certain angles it even looks sporty–with optional EcoBoost power to back it up! 🙂
I was going to say well preserved original but the pinstriping…. Maybe both, well done restoration of a well preserved original.
I’ll echo others that these were very nice looking vans, particularly in light of what was to come.
As soon as I read the headline I knew what was going to be playing in my head the rest of the day. WELL PLAYED, Mr. Stern…
These early B-Series vans are my favorite of the genre, but each successive refresh made them less appealing. 1978 wasn’t too bad, as it just changed tail lamps, side markers, and deleted the cool filler panel behind the right front door and sliding door on passenger versions. I just don’t care much for 1979-up models.
Beautiful green color on this one and amazing workmanship. Glad I’m not the only person who cringes when he sees a grille full of modern sealed beams on a restored or well kept original. Sadly, most people think this is a true visibility and safety upgrade… because the box they came in sez so.
Just about everything they did inside in ’78 was an improvement though. Much nicer dash and other trimmings (with many mid-’60s parts still in evidence, but otherwise in line with late-’70s Mopar interiors).
Gorgeous early Tradesman! Nice find! They knocked out out of the park on the design of these.
If I could find a nice SWB conversion van of the 70s, 80s, or 90s (I wouldn’t care what make), I’d ditch my Yaris and 40 mpg for 15 mpg and greater happiness. I’ve loved vans since I was a kid in the 70s. I have driven several minivans and I own one now but they’re just not the same. Until recently my employer had Chevy Express 3500 that I got to drive occasionally and let me tell you, I enjoyed the hell out of it.
Nothing beats a clean vintage full size van in the right color. This one is amazingly clean. A couple of years back my wife and I bought a ’77 Econoline Chateau in electric two tone blue with a vibrant blue interior as an adventure rig. It was about as clean as this, and the experience of cruising up the coast listening to such gems as Olivia Newton John on 8 track was an instant time machine uplifting experience.
Nice van. You can’t stripe that dash without removing the windshield so I must conclude that this one has been pretty well restored. As far as YOM goes on older stuff I check the tail light lenses for the date code. I think they were still molding that into them in the 70s.
The tire profile is too short. Definitely needs a taller tire to look right.
Many years ago I got to check out and almost bought a 1974ish short wheelbase, Tradesman in a very similar green color with a slant 6 and a 4 speed OD. It had that short forward curved stick shift on the floor down low next to the drivers seat. Looked wrong and you reached down to shift instead of out and forward like a truck. It was actually easy to manage. It had been turned into the junkyard I worked at in good original but well used shape. As was typical at the time people regularly gave us old vans because they were no longer using them and old vans were plentiful and cheap. While I was thinking of buying it for myself someone offered us $400 for it. Sold. No question that “Cash For Clunkers” claimed thousands and thousands of these old vans. And now they are in demand and finally getting some new respect.
Date codes on lenses and other easily/commonly-replaced parts are a bit of a shaky basis for deciding the build date of the whole vehicle, though—and that’s even if there’s a real date code at all, like 76 surrounded by a circle divided into 12 segments, 5 of which have a dot in them to indicate 5/76. More commonly there’s a code like SAE AIRST 76 which translates as “This lamp was designed to conform to the SAE standards for reflex reflectors, turn signals, reversing lamps, stop lamps, and tail lamps current as of 1976″—a medium-reliable indication of the first year that lamp or lens was used, but that’s all.
I have to think a short-wheelbase Tradesman with 225/OD4 would be a real nice package, particularly if the engine had some strategic attention paid to it.
My youthful recollection is that the Dodge vans were the most popular with 70s customizers but were ultimately steam rollered by the Econoline juggernaut.
I did drive a 15 passenger Dodge van as a college shuttle in the late 80s and it’s ride and handling were unremarkable but foot and leg room were tight compared to the square nosed Fords.
That green was reasonably popular during the late ’60s and much of the ’70s. Paired with a black vinyl top, it made for an elegant and formal look.
There were two such cars on my block in 1970, a ’67 Bonneville coupe and a ’70 Olds Ninety-Eight LS pillared hardtop.
From the ’70 Olds brochure…..
I heartily agree this family of greens works well on vehicles of this era (and others!). I’m no longer so certain this particular green on the van is a well-picked but alien colour; I’ll update the post about that.
What ever it is I just love the 70 Olds 98 in either the 4dr. hardtop or this two door. My fathers was dark blue with a black vinyl roof and was stunning like this green one.
In the ‘70s, Dodge nailed it with the exterior styling of their pickups and vans. The differences between them and their peers are fairly subtle, but they are there. The Dodges just seem more of a piece, rather than an anonymous body with styling, trim, and panels simply stuck on them.
The metallic darker colors of the ‘70s also seemed to really “pop” on these vans. Greens, browns, burgundies.
Thanks for the KLF reminder- justified and ancient is likely my fave song of 1992 😁
My father-in-law has a blue ’82-85 Dodge van sitting in his driveway that he barely drives. I know he will have it until the end of his days, because he still has his daily, a blue ’82 Escort, parked next to it. It’s got two bench seats in back and windows all the way around; there isn’t much else to the interior.
I secretly want this van but I know it will be a touchy subject when the time comes, because it was actually my MIL’s van for carting around my wife and her four siblings back in the days of swim team and soccer practice. My wife and my mother did not have the best relationship, so having a big blue reminder sitting in our driveway may not go over well.
As far as I know it still runs, but it’ll take some work to freshen up.
These had a seperate (from the tank) fuel filler neck that entered the fuel tank below fuel level. Only a soft rubber lip-seal over the filler neck held back a tank full of fuel. None of the usual precautions such as above fuel-level connections, “neck,” clamps, etc.
Looked perfect on the drawing board with new filler, new soft seal, new tank.
Definitely a no-smoking area once father time and reformulated gasoline got a crack at it. Lol
Definitely, a Factory Color in the 1970’s. State of Michigan bought many for the DNR (dept. of Natural Resources) in this color, for the Plymouth Furies they favored for State Police as well.
THat van is mint and Im not talking about the colour, the windscreen seal is new either that or its never been out in daylight, the paint is perfect no stone chips panels underneath it are dead straight what a find.
Our family had a later (1983?) short-wheelbase version with the 4-speed/225 combo. Not fast, but a great powertrain. Could cruise at 85 on I5 if there wasn’t a headwind. Even towed a trailer with it carrying a mini dune buggy halfway across the country. Could sometimes get 20 mpg. Would have to be prepared to enter the slow lane anytime a significant hill approached, though. And it was geared pretty high even in 1st gear (this was 1983 so it had the “economy” rear-end ratio), so there would be a lot of clutch slipping if you were starting on a hill.
Oof, yeah, tryna push a big ol’ brick through the wind with a wheezy 85- to 90-horsepower (old, overinflated ratings) Slant-6 is hard enough without bringing hills into it!
I recently found a LWB Sportsman, i.e. the passenger version twin of this jolly green giant. Identical grille it seems, but nowhere near as well preserved/restored. Probably a 78. I’ll put it on ice for now, no sense in having a Dodge-a-thon…
This one also has the proper wheels and hubcaps, unlike my Tokyo find. Really ties the whole period piece together.
This is beautiful ! .
I too remember when these B series vans were _everywhere_, now they occasionally show up A LKQ Pick-A-part…
My brother bought a long wheelbase 1979 Plymouth Voyager crew van from CalTrans, it was a fantastic truck and years after a Datsun impaled itself on the L.R. corner it made trips across America .
IIRC it had a 360C.I. V8 and had to be mis adjusted to get it to fail the smog test and get $3,000 for it from the state .