There was a time, prior to the rise of the minivan, when Detroit pitched its full-sized passenger vans as very large and thirsty station wagons. At the identical time, most of those vans got here with manual transmissions and straight-six engines as base equipment (nearly all buyers after about 1970 paid extra for automatics and V8s, after all). Today’s Junkyard Gem, found in a San Francisco Bay Area automotive graveyard, is certainly one of the rare Eighties American passenger vans built with six cylinders, three pedals and 4 forward gears… with floor-mounted shifter.
Chrysler’s Dodge Division stopped constructing forward-control A100 vans in 1970, replacing the A100 with the much larger B-Series line of vans (Plymouth sold the B-Van, too, as the 1974-1983 Voyager). Production with minor cosmetic changes continued through 1997, after which a serious redesign kept the identical basic chassis with a distinct appearance going until DaimlerChrysler axed the B-Series in favor of the Sprinter.
From the 1971 through 1980 model years, cargo versions of the Dodge B-Series vans got Tradesman branding, while the passenger version was called the Sportsman or Sportsman Wagon. For 1981, the Tradesman became the Ram Van while the Sportsman was the Ram Wagon.
This one is a burly ¾-ton model with a curb weight pushing two tons (which is substantially lighter than Chrysler’s minivans of a decade later), so that you’d have expected the unique purchaser to insist on the optional 318- or 360-cubic-inch V8. Not so! It is a Slant-Six engine with 225 cubic inches (3.7 liters) of displacement, rated at 95 horsepower if it’s the unique plant.
Simply to confuse California emissions-testing personnel with its incorrect smog-specs sticker, the hood from a 318-equipped 1991 van has been swapped in. I’ll bet there have been some heated arguments about this van at smog-check time, which makes me wonder why the hood-swapper didn’t just scrape off the decal.
After all, the owner could have pointed on the construct tag on the door jamb for proper identification. Here we will see that this van was born north of the border, at the Pilette Road Assembly plant in Windsor, Ontario.
With most vans of this sort that had the engine mounted over the front axle and under a doghouse within the passenger compartment, manual transmission shifters were mounted on the steering column to supply ergonomically sensible access for the driving force’s shifting hand. Typically, this might have been a three-on-the-tree rig, although four-on-the-tree column-shift manuals were installed in some Ford and GM vans starting within the late Nineteen Sixties (sadly, none were built with five-on-the-tree setups). When Chrysler decided so as to add one other gear to the B-Series vans for the 1980 model 12 months, nevertheless, the overdrive-equipped four-speed’s shift lever was placed next to the driving force’s right hip.
This location implies that you might be forced to succeed in back to shift gears, with ergonomic hilarity increasing once you’re already in second or fourth and fumbling for the knob. You’d get used to it after some time, nevertheless it may very well be frustrating in stop-and-go traffic.
With a five-digit odometer, we will not understand how many miles this Ram Wagon traveled during its 42 years. This odometer may very well be showing 164,287 miles, however the unkillable Slant-Six/manual powertrain combination means it may very well be displaying 664,287 miles.
The tool pockets and usually battered interior indicate that it spent quite some time as a piece truck.
Still, among the paneling and fabric from its original calling as a passenger “wagon” remain. Those plaid fabric inserts look very much like those in the ¾-ton 1973 Chevy Sportvan Beauville through which I spent my Malaise Era childhood.
This might consult with Van #408, or it could consult with San Jose’s telephone area code.
Was this van a parts runner for the Del Grande Dealer Group at the top, or did the DGDG just get it as a trade-in and hustle it straight to the closest boneyard?
Once you ask about vans, you hear about Dodge!
This Article First Appeared At www.autoblog.com