Dodge / Ram
The first postwar Dodge vans, called “A-vans” (the names were A100, A200, etc) were wider and taller than Chevrolet and Ford vans, but around the same weight; they had seating for nine people or 213 cubic feet of cargo space, and were powered by the slant six or a succession of small V8s. The engine was inside the cab, under an insulated cover, and a large variety of custom interiors for different trades were fitted, along with camper versions. The vans used Chrysler’s normal unit-body construction.
The unique styling helped to boost their popularity, but A-Vans also had some unique publicity: Bill “Maverick” Golden put a 426 Hemi into a heavily modified A100 pickup and did wheelstands throughout the country. The A100-based Deoria concept was one of the original 1968 Hot Wheels cars; and an A-van later showed up in the movie Cars. Still, only 107,779 were made in the United States, over six years. See our main A-vans page.
B-Vans being built at Pillette Road
The B-vans, starting as 1971 models, had lower wind resistance (less noise, better economy) and larger, upgraded interiors; they too used unit-body construction, adding an independent front suspension with coil springs. The B-vans started with larger interiors and much longer wheelbases than the A-vans (though they were, in 1971, just five inches longer overall), but kept the engine mainly in the passenger compartment and the slant six/small V8 lineup except for three years in the late 1970s, when the 400 and 440 engines were optional.
B-vans were popular as chassis for ambulance conversions and campers (with one option allowing a camper 12 to 14 feet long). 1974 saw the first sliding door (on Maxivans); a new plant in Windsor, Ontario helped fill demand. Plymouth got a version, the Voyager (1974-1983), expected to be used for passengers rather than cargo. In the 1970s, the Street Van and other “custom” versions for “cool” buyers were launched. The B-vans hit 226,066 sales in 1977, making it Dodge’s best selling truck group (and easily beating Ford and GM). Trouble came in 1979, with a massive sales drop due partly to Chrysler’s well known financial troubles, and gas prices caused Dodge to shut down its industry-leading RV and camper operations. The B-vans were no longer sales leaders, nor would they recover.
For 1981, the Sportsman name was replaced by Ram Wagon, and model numbers were upped by 50 (B100 went to B150, etc); the Mini-Ram van was added on a 109.6 inch wheelbase (dropped in 1984). There were various changes and refreshes through the years, including a Chrysler Canada-engineered CNG version, but the most visible change was in 1998; engine power rose, suspension and brakes were upgraded, the interior and body were improved, and, for safety, the engine was moved forward, increasing interior space at the cost of turning radius.
Five years after Daimler-Benz took over Chrysler, the van plant on Pillette Road shut down in 2003, so Mercedes could sell their Sprinter as a Dodge. The vans had stayed competitive 32 years after their creation, and many remain on the road today (2014). Full B-van coverage at Allpar
The Mercedes Sprinter, sold with a Dodge logo by Dodge dealers in the United States, was popular European van brought to the United States as a “knockdown kit” built by Mercedes and assembled by Freightliner. The van was taller and narrower than traditional American vans, with a Mercedes diesel and, starting in 2007, gasoline engine, both providing far better fuel economy than competing Ford and GM vans.
A 2007 redesign brought greater width, length, height, and towing capacity. 2007 models had 600 cubic feet of storage in the largest model, and a 5,770 lb. maximum payload. A new active stability control system was added as well. All Sprinters are had a five-speed automatic transmission, double wishbone front suspension, and transverse rear leaf springs (made from plastic).
The Ram ProMaster, launched as a 2014 model and based on the front-wheel-drive Fiat Ducato, has both a Fiat diesel (3.0 I-4) and a Chrysler gasoline engine (3.6 V6) option. Ducato became Promaster with a major interior redesign, returning for rougher roads and higher payloads, more corrosion protection, and other changes. The maximum 5,145 pound payload is far higher than Fiat Ducato’s 3,472 pounds.
ProMaster has 13 different configurations, and was designed to beat other vans in cargo capacity and fuel efficiency, with a low total cost of ownership. Frame rails are boxed and welded, the floor panel welded in with the rails and cross members. Ram ProMaster’s rear suspension has a tubular beam axle configuration with a Hotchkiss leaf-spring system; the front suspension uses double A-arms and McPherson struts.
Cargo volume is up to 530 cubic feet, with a low step-in height of 21 inches, lightweight front doors, and rear clamshell doors. A sliding right-side door is standard; pallets can be loaded from the side or rear. At any given size and capacity, the ProMaster easily undercuts Sprinter’s pricing.
See our full ProMaster page or ProMaster passenger vans.
ProMaster City is likely to be imported from Turkey (but might be made in Toluca, Mexico instead), and is being modified to look more like a Ram; it may have an American powerplant. It is based on the Doblò, a small van made in Turkey and Brazil.
The rear suspension is bi-link.
Doblo Cargo has sliding side doors and an inner length up to 2.2 meters, width between wheel arches of 1.23 meters, and volume from 3.4 to 4.2 cubic meters (120-148 cubic feet). For Britain, a larger model is also sold; this is likely to be sold in the US, either as the standard model or as an option.
The base Doblo van has a wheelbase of 101.8 inches and an overall length of 168 inches. This van has a front transversely mounted engine with front wheel drive, like Chrysler minivans. Fifteen inch wheels and tires are standard in many markets. The Doblo’s suspension uses McPherson struts in the front, while the rear features a solid axle with leaf springs, the same setup found on early generation Chrysler minivans.
From the very start of the minivan, there were Dodge cargo vans, named “Caravan C/V.” These were never especially popular, but selling without seats and in some years with more concessions to business than others, they added a few thousand vans to the bottom line each year. When the company moved the C/V over to the new Ram division in 2012, it made many changes, including a solid, window-free sliding door (which was also used in the original C/V), and a structural aluminum rear load floor. With 144.4 cubic feet of interior storage, Ram C/V leads the segment, and has space for four 4x8 sheets of building materials.
The Ram C/V’s 1,800-lb. cargo payload is the best in its class (Class 1 cargo vans), with a category-exclusive towing capability of up to 3,600 lbs; its maximum Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) is 8,750 lbs. A commercial-tuned ride and heavy-duty load-leveling suspension maximize hauling capability; it has heavy duty commercial tires and special stability control programming.
Often forgotten in the discussion of Dodge vans is the Commer-Dodge Spacevan. Andy Thompson wrote that “Anyone who grew up in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s will be familiar with the lumbering yellow British Telecom Dodge vans that seemed to be everywhere. British Telecom’s order prolonged the life of this long serving commercial van beyond the day its manufacturers would have liked to put it to rest.”
The Dodge “Telecom” van started in 1960 as the Commer 1500 FC (Forward Control), using as many existing components as possible, in a body designed by Steel Fisher. The 53 hp engine came from the Hillman Minx, the gearbox from the Commer Express light van, the front suspension cross member from the Sunbeam Alpine, and the front suspension wishbones, back axles, and prop shaft from the Humber Hawk! The under frame was a flat platform and 16 different body styles were offered direct from the dealer, including a metal sided pick up and a milk float. The van could be ordered with a side loading door and hinged or sliding passenger doors, and could carry 15 cwt (about one ton).
For some years, Dodge sold the Mercedes Sprinter under its own brand.This was a full sized, rear wheel drive van with a choice of gasoline V6 or diesel V6, both made by Mercedes — a 3.5 and 3.0 liter engine, respectively. The van was sold as a knockdown unit to South Carolina and was assembled by Mercedes. It was also sold in the US as a Mercedes and as a Freightliner.
A-Vans | Campers | Dodge-Commer SpaceVan | Ambulances | Sprinter | Van Forums | Steering column repairs
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