Curbside Classic: 1971(ish) Fargo B200 Tradesman MaxiVan Camper • Firsts and Lasts

This big blue box is an interesting mix of firsts and lasts. It’s one of the first B-vans (B is for Bigger than the previous A-vans), and one of the last Fargo-branded vehicles to be sold new in North America.

F-A-R-G-O, Fargo. Same letter count as D-O-D-G-E, which was convenient for callouts like this. I mean no shade towards Dodge, but name me a better brand than far-go for a vehicle intended to work for its keep, eh!

White grilles and bumpers like this used to be a thing on vehicles specced and priced for utility rather than chrome-and-anodised flash. From what I’ve read, the engine options in ’71 were the 198 (surely not on the MaxiVan) or 225 Slant-Six, or the 318 V8. No 360 until ’72. I thought I’d clear up the mysteries with a glance at the VIN plate visible through the lower left corner of the windshield, but there is no such plate. No evidence there ever was, either, –which is weird because that requirement took effect for all new vehicles from 1 January 1969—at least in the States. Perhaps Canada didn’t adopt a similar requirement until awhile later– because this new-for-1969 requirement applied only to passener cars until some later year.

I’ll confess I didn’t notice the two-tone paint until this picture. Dodge or Fargo, it’s all the same to this Tradesman.

Chrysler did kind of a slapdash job extending the body to make the extra-long Maxivan. On the 18-inch-shorter regular body, the rear side marker light was—as the regulation required—on each side as close to the rear as practicable. They didn’t bother moving it on the Maxivan…

…but at least it’s in the same place on the other side. We also see a tiny little tailpipe snaking out past and abaft of the main one. I guess it’s for a cookstove or heat stove or something like that.

Back over to the right side, where there’s a lot of camper conversion to see. The spliced-in side windows say this was originally a cargo van, not a passenger one. We’ve got a single weathercovered electrical socket (117v house current, or…?); a black plastic elbow that looks like a drain; an assortment of white fittings I don’t recognise, and a modern LED work light.

The dealer placard suggests this is a lifelong Van van.

Bit of a paint-and-bodywork issue there in the wheel arch. And hey, remember that fastidiously-restored green one, whereon I exclaimed over the side marker lights not being faded like they always are? That was the exception proving the rule we see here.

…See? And while you’re seeing, see the Pentastar there on the passenger-side fender. Chrysler did that from 1963 until 1971, possibly into the ’72 model year on some vehicles. That’s why I’m calling this van a probable ’71. It’s not just tacked on, either; there’s a pentagonal recess for the emblem stamped into the fender. What do we guess the emblem cost Chrysler? I doubt it exceeded a penny apiece. In order to save money, Chrysler deleted the Pentastar emblem, which in this case meant making another fender tool; then stocking, distributing, and keeping track of another fender. New math, I guess.

Fargo borrowed the Fratzog from its Dodge brother, as we see on the hubcap here. Rumour has it Chrysler are resurrecting the Fratzog for electric vehicles. This is a reputable-brand tire, looking reasonably new and with good tread. I didn’t look closely at the other three…

…but the spare also appears to be recent enough to rely on, though less majorly branded. That door handle there doesn’t look like the ones on my ’71 or ’73 Dart, but it looks a whole lot like the ones on my ’62 Lancer.

You’ll notice (wouldn’t you?) this van has one “Power Beam” sealed beam headlamp, made by GM’s Guide division and sold in the aftermarket under the AC brand in the 1970s and early ’80s.

Evidently this Fargo is still in the process of going far; it was gone the next day. I’d like to have heard it start up and drive off.