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)
“You should just get a van. With a van, it’s like you’ve got an MBA. But you’ve also got a f***ing van, yeah?”
Camaro for me… it’ll use less fuel and probably be nicer to drive than that old van.
And look at all the space in that engine bay! Servicing it will be way easier than the engine bay in that van.
I owned a G3 Camaro, and really loved it. But mine had the bulletproof 305. I can also say from experience that fornicating in one is uncomfortable at best. And I’m a short guy.
I had a 1978 with the 305 – my first car. Bulletproof? Perhaps, but also performance-proof. If I turned on the air conditioner, I could actually feel the load it put on the engine. It was like nitrous in reverse.
Years later, I also had a 1977 Dodge Tradesman that I regret getting rid of, and the orange shorty in the article is way cooler than that one ever was, so give me the van.
Someone else’s shaggin’ wagon? Pass. That interior will need a compete overhaul.
The mount points on the Camaro’s engine and transmission are largely unchanged for many generations, owing to the same wonders of mass production that leaves that massive radiator gap. Find a manual GM drivetrain with a distributor and it’ll probably fit in nicely.
RS in this configuration stands for Really Shitty. The only thing that could make it worse would be the T-top. Sorry Mark, the Camaro looks better than it will ever be.