We're all familiar with the muscle cars built by Mopar, but once the heyday of Chrysler's high-performance offerings was ended due to high insurance premiums, fuel concerns, and emissions regulations, enthusiasts were left wondering how to express themselves with their vehicles. Fortunately, Dodge recognized this marketing gap, offering several different models of a vehicle that was easy to customize, the van.
If you grew up in the '70s like this author, there's no doubt you saw some groovy customized vans driving the streets of your town. Even before the conversion van craze of the '80s, automotive enthusiasts of the time were taking standard utility vans and using them as an artist's canvas, installing full-blown custom interiors with plush seating, diamond pleats, wood paneling, disco balls, wet-bars, special lighting, and a host of other accommodations. Outside, van owners could add multiple sunroofs, chrome wheels, fender flairs, and a variety of other equipment to make their vehicles uniquely personalized, and some even went as far as custom airbrushing wizards, lightning bolts, Siberian tigers, and the like on the sides of their vans. Vannin', as it was called, really took off during the mid to late '70s, with several publications devoted to the hobby. Noticing the trend, Chrysler caught on, offering several versions of the Dodge "Street Van" which was designed to be customized by the owner. As you can tell, we've always had a soft spot for the van craze, so when we saw a cool example of a custom Dodge van while surfing eBay, we had to make a bid.
The particular van we were interested in was a '78 Dodge Tradesman 200, located about two hours away in southern Florida, and was advertised as a custom show van that had just made the trip to the east coast from California. In the pictures, this orange Dodge looked cool, sporting a custom fiberglass windshield visor and rear spoiler. And while it didn't have the water bed and heart-shaped bubble windows we hoped for, we felt it was a cool ride and the price was low enough to place a bid. We weren't sure our bid was high enough for a vehicle of this caliber, but in a few days eBay informed us that we'd won the Tradesman so we made plans to pick up our new purchase.
Rather than towing our new vehicle on a trailer, we decided to drive the van back since it had recently proven itself by making the trip from California. Our friend Garret Struck from Inline Performance drove us to Ft. Myers, Florida, to pick up our purchase, and we found the van to be just as advertised, with a very clean body and decent running 360 engine (though the Thermoquad carburetor was questionable). Even better, the first owner's custom shag carpet, wood paneling, fold-down rear couch, and wet-bar were still in place for a cool custom look.
After sealing the deal with cash, we drove to a nearby gas station to fill the van and check the fluids before beginning our trip. We had a couple of issues on the way home, mostly due to an inoperative fuel gauge and the Thermoquad, but eventually our van made the trip under its own power. Be sure to write in or email and let us know what we should do with our latest find, and don't forget to look at alternatives when it comes to finding a Mopar. Our cool van has a 360 four-barrel engine, new tires and brakes, is in rust-free condition, runs and drives, and cost us just a little over $1,000 to purchase. This is certainly a far-out deal on a way-cool Mopar driver.
After the muscle car craze died during the mid-'70s, some people chose to express themselv
Originally from California, this van was purpose built as a show van by the first owner, t
Our trip home wasn't without incident. The Thermoquad carb would just shut off after drivi
Custom accessories were the rage during the '70s, and people used their vans to take road
We aren't sure what all the stains are, but we won't let our kids ride in here until it's
Externally, our van is wearing its original orange paint with some added pinstriping, and