Welcome back to another Shitbox Showdown! Today, we’re looking at a couple of vehicles that are as American as rock n’ roll and free trips to the salad bar. But before we do that, let’s see which German junior executive express you chose:
Well, there ya go, S.W. Hopefully someone who saw this will want to make that Benz their very own. Or if not, maybe they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on…
Now, as you know, Valentine’s Day is coming up, which brings to mind candy hearts, flowers, and – well – “amorous activities.” When I was younger, it always seemed that certain vehicles lent themselves better to such activities than others. Personally, my only such experience in a car back then happened in a Chevy Cavalier Z24, when I was a lot more limber, but vans and Camaros always seemed like popular choices among my friends. (Hey, sometimes I have a theme for these in mind, and sometimes the theme finds me. Just roll with it.) So just in case any of you felt like revisiting some episode of your misspent youth this Valentine’s Day, I have found two possible vehicles for you. Let’s check them out.
1979 Dodge B200 Van – $4,800
Engine/drivetrain: 318 cubic inch overhead valve V8, three-speed automatic, RWD
Location: San Mateo, CA
Odometer reading: 100,000 miles
Runs/drives? Yes, but needs some work
All three of the Big Three made vans in the ’70s, but somehow the Dodge vans were the cool ones. I mean, Ford and Chevy vans had songs written about them, but they couldn’t out-cool the Mopar vans. And among the Dodges, there is a hierarchy of cool: short-wheelbase vans are cooler than long-wheelbase. Take a “shorty” Dodge van with a V8, stick some mags on it, cut some porthole windows in the back, and you’ve got a party on wheels.
This bright orange van has seen some things, but it’s still pretty solid. The front seats need repuholstering, but I bet upholstery kits are available. The seller says it does run and drive, but loses power at high speeds; this has been diagnosed as a clogged catalytic converter, and that certainly sounds plausible, though it could also be carb trouble. Either way, it’s fixable, though more easily if you take it out of California.
In back, it looks like a partial or failed conversion; cheap ’70s paneling lines the walls and dirty shag carpet covers the steel floor. It’s all grubby, and it could all use redoing. It has a couple of largish windows in back, so it’s not a dark cave like a lot of vans, but you’d better hang some curtains if you want any privacy.
I love the color of this van, but it’s begging for some stripes or a mural or something to break up that sea of orange. And finding a matching pair of mags to go with either the front or the rear would go a long way. The price sounds a little steep, based on what I remember vans like this going for over the years, but there are fewer and fewer of them every year, so it’s not likely to get any cheaper.
1988 Chevrolet Camaro RS – $5,200
Engine/drivetrain: 2.8 liter overhead valve V6, four-speed automatic, RWD
Location: Redwood City, CA
Odometer reading: 52,000 miles
I’m just going to come right out and admit it: I love third-generation Camaros. I have since they first debuted. I know they have all sorts of reputations and connotations, some earned and some not, but whatever is cool to you when you’re 10 is always going to be cool to you, to some degree. I make no apologies for it.
This particular Camaro is actually really nice. It’s clean, freshly-repainted, not trashed inside, has low miles, and the seller says it runs beautifully. The cigarette lighter on the floor tells me it may not smell as pristine inside as it looks, but that’s why we have Febreeze. There always has to be a catch, though; you know that. With this Camaro, it’s this:
Yep. It’s a V6, the dreaded 2.8, and an automatic. I mean, it could be worse; a few years earlier Chevy offered the Camaro with an “Iron Duke” four-cylinder, but it’s still not the most desirable power source, especially for something that looks like this. And I’ve always been amused by the amout of space between the engine and the radiator in these V6 Camaros. Look at that photo above. You could practically stand inside the engine compartment to work on it.
As cool as these cars are (to me; if you disagree, just humor me a little while longer), they never let you forget how cheaply they were built. I have yet to see a second- or third-generation Camaro with the three-piece rear spoiler where all three pieces are perfectly aligned; that streak continues unbroken here. And I swear I can hear the windows rattling just looking at these photos. Oh well.
So there they are, two of the most quintessentially American vehicles I could find that weren’t pickup trucks. Which one makes you feel young again?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)
The van all the way. I’m a Clemson grad, and the orange is perfect. I can’t help but see a large white tiger paw going on the side. Take my money!
That 2.8 sucks. Gimme Uncle Rico’s party on wheels!
Van. A Rush mural on both sides will make it perfect.
I had that van with the 318 and 3 on the tree. It went 275,000 miles until the body literally rusted off the frame, but the drivetrain never missed a beat.
Give me two or three months with it and it’ll be ready for action.
A California van with a rust free body – take my money, please.
Camaro, no contest. You pointed out how far back the engine sits. It’s a front, mid engined car. I owned an ’89 with the same engine and the 5 speed. It was fast enough and a very good handler. No T-Tops is a plus for rigidity. A friend had an ’88 IROC-Z that he set up for auto crossing. He bought bigger anti roll bars and gave me his originals which bolted straight on. Oh my gosh, I could throw that thing into corners. I bought it in 1991 for $10,000. So, I’m prejudiced. Also, best looking generation. Thanks for the memory.
Either one of these plus another 5k in parts and six months of weekends wrenching will get you an easy 7k. I don’t want to drive, show or store any future version of either. As to the V day activities possibilities… No. I can still get a pretty good vacation trip for that money, one that comes with the shower that would not be enough after getting frisky in either of these cars. That all said; I voted Camaro because coin toss.
Spend about a grand on exterior design goodies and about the same on sprucing up the interior, and you could nearly double your money by driving it to Colorado and selling it
*on the van lol. Definitely not the Camaro with that powertrain
“And I swear I can hear the windows rattling just looking at these photos. Oh well.”
GM cars from the mid-70s forward have a very distinct way of letting you know exactly what kind of poorly built trash they are. We rented a 2016 Camaro on vacation a few years back, and the feel and sound of the doors closing was identical to that of my friend’s ’84 Cutlass back in high school.
Camaro for sure, with something like a 13b, vr6, whiteblock… Needs to make the wrong noises.
Hell, keep it in the family with a 4.2 Vortec inline 6 with an Ebay turbo.
“You could practically stand inside the engine compartment to work on it.”
I did. A lot easier than leaning over the front. Never had it running while standing in the engine bay.
BTW, you could swap in a 3.4L from the next generation of Camaro with very little issue. Made a noticeable difference in power. It was still no hot rod, but was much better.
I voted before even reading the article because nothing you can say could get me to not vote for that van. It’s a mural and some interior work away from perfection.
For $10k you could have that Camaro with a 5.3 LS, a 4l60e, headers, and a Dakota Digital dash.
I’ll take the Dodge Van because it will accommodate the installation of a trapeze. (｡♥‿♥｡)
Love me a 3rd gen
Maro is my vote
3rd generation Camaros are dangerous. If you hook up with a gal in the back seat, she WILL get pregnant. Fully 10 % of kids born in 1989 were conceived in the back of an ’88 Camaro.
There’s… not a lot of room back there. At least one of you had better be of short stature or a gymnast to make that happen.
Orange wins most of the time. V6 Camaro’s are…. slow.
I believe the Camaro would have the better trade-in value on a Corolla
Buy a sweet jean jacket with the arm fringe, change your name to Keith, find yourself a Tammy, slap some louvers on the back, and get busy fornicating to some Whitesnake.
Hey babe, I’m going to take the Camaro to 7/11 to pick up a case of Bud Light, you need any smokes?
I’m taking the Camaro. It’s in my color, well priced and hasn’t been cocked about with.
Oh, there may have been one or two cocks about in the back seat of that Camaro.
Having owned one, you’d have to be pulling some Sting and Trudie style positions to do anything in the back seat of one of those.
While I’m with you on the coolness of the Camaro, the van offers so much more opportunity for creative expression.
I have to admit, when you showed the picture of the Camaro engine and asked, “what’s the catch?” I looked at how prominently the alternator was featured and wanted to make a turbo joke.
Like you, I have a definite level of appreciation for the looks of those third-gen Camaros but even at the time I knew they were malaise-era junk. My tolerance and even appreciation for the malaise era is much greater than most, but it was always impossible to forget just how far the mighty Corvette (C3, they were at least trying to turn things around with the C4) and Camaro had fallen in terms of performance by that time. My wife had an ’86 or so Berlinetta with the pathetic Iron Duke before I met her which she adored, so I guess she’d be nostalgic.
The van, well, that’s potential for a million laughs for the right owner so I voted for it.
My buddy in high school had a Berlinetta. My absolute POS 4 banger Mustang could outrun it. My god were they both terrible.
I wanted to go Camaro I really did. I agree that the body style is awesome, even if a mullet would immediately spring from my head the second I sat in it. But I just can’t do it for this Camaro. The engine is wrong, the transmission is wrong, and it doesn’t have the T-Tops. I would need at least 2 of the right things to justify going for an old Camaro. No interest in the van, but there’s more room, so given today’s theme, it’s the better option.
Answer the Prompt or vote with my actual preference?
You can lay down in the van, but not the Camaro.
I’d buy the Camaro and do a drive train swap. Probably something blasphemous like an S54 or an F20C, or even a Vortec 3700 5 cyl.
“…or even a Vortec 3700 5 cyl.”
The hell did you just say?
Ah fuck it, why not. I have a 3.7 in my Colorado, and it’s fairly punchy while being properly weird.
“Probably something blasphemous” is what I just said 😛
Put a turbo the size of a watermelon on it and pretend you’re in a quattro
Give me the Camaro, an ls swap isnt as dauting a task from start to finish now that theres a manufacturers making everything you need, a good cam in a 5.3 and you’ll have a fun toy