By the 1980s, the nicely equipped factory passenger van like my Club Wagon had become a decided minority. The more popular cousin? The custom van.
Whether we call them Custom Vans, Luxury Vans, or whatever, for awhile they were a popular example of a uniquely American concept: Custom-built luxury for the masses. The funny thing about these, though, is that even though they were truly custom-trimmed both inside and out, they were all virtually anonymous – each looking like any other to the average guy.
There are still quite a few of these plying the roads in the midwest. Whether you were a Ford, Chevy/GMC or Dodge guy, there was a custom van in your flavor and in your price range.
This Dodge is a perfect example. It is a Dodge Ram Van somewhere between 1986 and 1993. Based on the color combo, I am betting ’80s. Custom windows, a custom paint treatment, custom wheels and certainly a custom interior job. There is probably not another van like this on the road anywhere. But does anyone care? If this should press anyone’s buttons, it should be mine. But the only reaction I can muster is a lukewarm “meh.”
This one is noteworthy for a lack of rust, given its age and its central Indiana location. But that is about it. These became cheap very fast on the used market, and are most commonly seen either with long-term blue-collar retiree owners who have visited grandchildren in at least forty states, or immigrant handymen (legal or otherwise) who tote both their families and their equipment from job to job, always paid in cash, half of which goes into the gas tank.
With this one, I am betting on retiree, given the combination of its good condition and being parked outside of a Dollar General and all. Had I cared enough to get out of my car on a rainy day to catch the inside, I am sure I could have shown you some deep red bordello-style lounge chairs, varnished wooden cupholders and blinds to pull down over the funky custom windows. But I didn’t, so you will have to use your imaginations. And maybe it is that I spent time in the 1970s, but I am still reluctant to walk up to one of these with a camera. It wasn’t a-rockin’, but no sense in taking any chances.