Welcome to your Thursday edition of Shitbox Showdown! Today, we’re headed just over the border to look at a couple of Canadian stuff-haulers, just to show the lengths I will go to for a silly headline. (About 300 miles north, apparently.) But first, let’s go back to Cali and finish up with yesterday’s coupes:
Most of you looked at that Pulsar and said, “Man, I don’t think so.” Fair enough. That Benz is hard to resist. I think you’d better plan on spending a month of weekends whipping it into shape, though.
So today, it’s van time. We’ve got one van that’s ubiquitous on American roads, and one that was never offered here in this form. And weirdly, it looks like one used to be white and is now painted red, and the other used to be orange and is now painted white. Which one is the better box on wheels? Let’s check them out, and then you can decide.
Engine/drivetrain: 2.4 liter diesel overhead cam inline 5, five-speed manual, FWD
Location: Surrey, BC
Odometer reading: 377,000 kilometers
Volkswagen vans here in the US are nearly always playthings – pop-top camper vans with bike racks hanging off the back, trundling along in the slow lane through national parks, or filling the parking lots at Phish concerts. But elsewhere, VW sells panel vans, known as Transporters, that are as common as our Econolines, and work just as hard.
This is a long-wheelbase Transporter, equipped with a naturally aspirated five-cylinder diesel engine and a five-speed manual. In typical work van fashion, it only has an interior in front; the rest is empty space. This one has a bulkhead installed behind the seats, separating the cargo area from the passenger area. It looks like it’s just plywood, and probably easy enough to remove, if you don’t want it. A work van is a blank canvas, after all (literally, sometimes).
The seller says it runs and drives well, and “will go anywhere.” Slowly, though, I imagine, with only 77 horsepower under the hood. But slowness is sort of a VW van tradition, and these older basic VW diesels run forever, it seems. It’s halfway to forever already, with the equivalent of about 235,000 miles on the clock, and we don’t get any details on its maintenance history. The orange paint makes me wonder if it started out as part of a fleet, so hopefully it was well-maintained in the beginning, at least.
It does have a bit of a rust problem around the wheel wells and along the rockers. It’s always a little hard to say how bad rust really is without some poking and prodding, but the future does look a little grim (or at least unsightly) for this Transporter.
Engine/drivetrain: 4.3 liter overhead valve V6, four-speed automatic, RWD
Loction: Langley, BC
Odometer reading: 170,000 kilometers
Runs/drives? Sure does
I find it funny that this is a twenty-five year old van, but you can walk into a GMC dealership today and buy one that looks pretty much just like it. It has undergone some serious changes, of course, but the bones are the same, and it still gets the job done, whatever that job may be. When you find a formula that works, why not stick with it?
You can get a Savana or Chevy Express with a ludicrous amount of horsepower for a van, but this one makes do with the humble but bulletproof 4.3 liter V6. The seller says it runs and drives well, but has a little transmission issue – it shifts hard and late into overdrive. A fluid and filter change is supposed to help, they were told, but they haven’t done it yet. But it has new brakes and good tires.
It has another trick up its sleeve too: a wheelchair lift in the back. But that’s all there is in the back, apart from some foam insulation. There’s nothing else back there. It seems strange to me to install a wheelchair lift in a cargo van; it’s not the sort of ride anyone would like to take. Why not use a passenger van, with windows, and carpeting, instead? But you could use the lift for other things, I suppose – beer kegs, maybe? Or amplifiers and drums?
Or take the lift out, and do whatever you want with it. This is big enough to make a decent camper van, if you want. And cheap enough to leave some room in the budget to build it out how you want, especially if you sell the lift.
So there you have it, two vans from the Great White North. They’re still solid enough to work with, but beat-up enough to not worry about messing up. Do what you will with them. In fact, in the comments, I’d love to hear what your plans are for one of these.
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)