Good morning, Autopians! It’s Tuesday, even though it feels like a Monday. I hope everyone’s three-day weekend was a good one. How was the race? I was too busy doing landscaping work around the house to watch. But then, I think Emerson Fittipaldi won the last time I watched it all the way through, so it’s been a while.
Today, since everyone is going back to work I thought we’d look at some work vans. But let’s wrap up last week first:
Exactly as I expected. I hope the new owner of that Mercedes appreciates the incredible deal they got.
Now: They’re big. They’re white. They’re usually laden down with ladders or pipes strapped to roof racks, emblazoned with company logos and phone numbers, and far too often driven with reckless abandon. They’re the unsung heroes of the construction trades, putting in the hours day in and day out, with no respect and very little maintenance. They’re work vans, and today we’re going to take a good close look at a couple of them.
Engine/drivetrain: 5.4 liter V8, 4 speed automatic, RWD
Location: Roselle, IL
Odometer reading: 274,000 miles
Runs/drives? Yes, but has a misfire
The Ford E-series van has been the answer to so many questions for so many people for so many years, it’s hard to imagine the American vehicular landscape without it. Need a contractor’s van? Ford Econoline. Have twelve kids to shuttle to church camp? Ford Econoline. Have a band and need to haul your gear? Ford Econoline.
This particular Econoline is the 250 model, rated for a 3/4 ton payload. This is important when you start loading it down with ladder racks and built-in tool chests and portable welding rigs and whatever else you need to do what needs to be done. Gotta leave some weight capacity for building materials.
This van has all the right stuff: a ladder rack, a safety bulkhead (so that your job doesn’t smack you in the back of the skull in the event of a crash or a hard stop), a built-in cabinet, and what looks like a big power inverter attached to the bulkhead. The driver’s seat is worn out, but apart from that the front compartment looks all right. It’s all dull gray plastic anyway, which almost looks better scuffed up.
Mechanically, it does need a little help. The 5.4 liter “Triton” V8 runs, but has a misfire, or maybe two. Expect to pull the doghouse and check out some ignition components. But it isn’t too rusty (by Midwest standards), so it’s probably worth fixing up, even at 274,000 miles.
Engine/drivetrain: V8 of unspecified displacement (5.2 or 5.9 liter), 3 speed automatic, RWD
Location: Bothell, WA
Odometer reading: 152,000 miles
Runs/drives? Just fine
Work vans have looked pretty much the same for a long time. This Dodge is more than two decades older than the Econoline, but from a distance, in the dark, you could easily confuse the two. If it ain’t broke, as they say…
[Editor’s Note: Can we agree that those little circular headlights in the square housing give this van an eager, maybe even surprised look that is somehow just charming? -DT]
This 1985 model Dodge van sits right about in the middle of a 32 year production run, with a couple of restyles that stayed more or less the same underneath. The ad doesn’t specify which V8 engine it has, but during this time it would have been Chrysler’s LA small-block, in either the 318 or 360 cubic inch size, backed by a good old Torqueflite 3 speed automatic. It’s a good reliable combination, and the seller says this one runs well.
This van is a bit more barren in back than the Ford, though it does have the safety bulkhead. It has windows, which are sometimes a detriment in a work van. It’s harder to hide tools and equipment, and it’s nearly impossible to install anything along the walls. It also has a sliding door and side interior trim panels, leading me to believe that this might have started life as a passenger van.
Also note the presence of a control that has long since vanished from cars: a floor-mounted headlight dimmer switch (the little silver thingy next to the brake pedal). I’m not sure when these disappeared, but this would have been a late one.
I’m not really supposed to play favorites, I suppose, but I really like this van. It’s scruffy and beat-up in exactly the right ways, and I always liked the styling of this era Dodge van anyway.
But as always, the decision is not mine, but rather yours. Which will it be: modern-ish fully-decked-out van in need of a little TLC, or battered DIY workhorse?