When I am refurbishing a house, my favorite day in the process (besides closing day of course) is dump day. That’s the day I usually rent a large box truck and throw all of the accumulated debris, construction waste, and other junk I no longer want into it and drive it to the landfill after selling off anything of value and recycling anything that can be.
On Wednesday another such day presented itself as I finished up a project I’ve been working on since January. After I made the short drive to a U-Haul franchise I noticed that in addition to several GMC vans and the usual larger box vans they also had some of the new to the United States market Ford Transit Vans.
After eyeballing it, I decided that I could most likely fit at least most of my trash into it and figured even if I needed to make two runs it would still be worth it since the per mileage charge was less than the box vans but really it was an opportunity to drive something different than the norm.
So, for a per day fee of $19.95 and a mileage charge of 59 cents per, I became the temporary owner of an almost brand new van with less than 1800 miles on it, making it the lowest mileage vehicle I have ever received from U-Haul by at least 100,000 miles and a significant improvement on the usual clapped out rolling deathtraps that they usually foist on me.
If all they had was the GMC vans or the older Ford Econolines I never would have attempted this, since those vans have way too much tumblehome, making the cargo area more pinched. The Transit has almost vertical walls, especially evident in the rear view, which would help as I had numerous old countertops, mirrors and other large, flat pieces to deal with.
Driving it to my jobsite it immediately felt much different than any other utility vehicle I had driven. The seat was very comfortable with adjustable lumbar, the steering wheel felt good and all of the controls operated with the same fluidity and ease as any other modern passenger car product from Ford. It was a lot like driving a large Focus, actually.
Powered by a 3.7liter V-6 and mated to a 6-speed automatic (with optional manual control!) it was quite sprightly off the line, even at our altitude. Well, at least when it was empty. Once I loaded it up it took more time to get up to speed but was not painfully slow by any means.
The slip I received from the dump later showed that when full with all of my stuff it weighed 7980lbs and after emptying it, when I exited it weighed 5340lbs, which obviously included myself as well as pretty much full tank of gasoline, so probably about 5000lbs empty.
I drove it for a total of 52 miles on various roads including residential, county roads, as well as the I-25 freeway at speeds up to 80mph and when I returned it the Average MPG readout read the same 15.4mpg as when I received it. Not at all bad for something this useful.
As I was driving it I reflected that this would be quite a useful vehicle for me, probably more than a pickup truck if I had more regular need for something like this. A passenger version (modern Club Wagon) I think might do quite well, as the driving dynamics and comfort were first rate for a vehicle of this size.
It really did not drive that much different than a FWD minivan such as a Toyota Sienna or Honda Odyssey even though it was rear wheel drive in this case. Visibility was fairly good except directly to the back, as evidenced by the broken taillight and small scrape that someone had already inflicted on the rear right corner. A backup camera would be a huge boon to this vehicle.
The dashboard was laid out very well with an extremely handy place for my cellphone just to the right of the steering wheel, cupholders out by the corners of the dash, a good radio with an Aux-In plug and lots of storage cubbies.
As I drove it, it began to rain, I was delighted to note that the wiper controls had a “nudge to wipe” feature that is missing in too many american cars. The ability to keep both hands on the wheel in rainy or misty conditions is smart and safe engineering and probably one of my few gripes about my current Chrysler is that it requires me to take a hand off the wheel to twist the wiper controller to get a single wipe.
As far as loading the cargo is concerned, the rear doors open to a detent and which the push of a switch can open almost all the way flush against the body sides. The side doors open the same way but not quite as far .
The one thing that would really help would be a tether as both the back and the side doors tried to close on me several times due in a couple of instances to wind and in others to the fact that I was on a sloped driveway.
The one I had was a standard roof version but the high roof versions allow the operator to stand fully erect in the back, making those versions ideal mobile workshops for all kinds of tradesmen.
Overall I really enjoyed driving this van, it is lightyears ahead of the traditional full-size american vans, I am looking forward to seeing more of these on the roads and also for the inevitable custom and cutaway versions that will make campers, minibuses, etc.
A flatbed version would be a very useful idea as well as the load bed could be extremely low compared to today’s pickup trucks.
In the end I did have to make two trips. The first trip was pure trash, the second trip allowed me to take some usable stuff like light fixtures and other stuff to Uncle Benny’s in Loveland, an architectural salvage place that paid me $50 for what will undoubtedly be treasure to someone else, which covered most of my cost to rent the van for the day and then drop a bunch of cardboard and metal at the recycling center with a small amount of additional trash for the dump.
Oh, if you have any interest in seeing the end result that is the house I refurbished mostly by myself with the help of some skilled trades I use, click HERE. To me, the house is also a Curbside Classic, although it sits on the other side of the curb compared to the space that we are used to looking at.