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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.
Building B-Vans (pics)
The B-vans, starting as 1971 models, had lower wind resistance to cut noise, and larger, upgraded interiors; the unit-body vans added an independent front suspension with coil springs. Much larger than the A-vans, they kept the engine mainly in the passenger compartment.
B-vans were popular 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), 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, as sales were slammed by Chrysler’s well known financial troubles, and gas prices shut down Dodge’s industry-leading RV and camper operations.
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 refreshes from then, including a CNG version; in 1998, power rose, body and chassis were upgraded, and the engine was moved forward, increasing interior space.
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 brought to the United States as a “knockdown kit.” The van was taller and narrower than traditional American vans, with far better fuel economy.
A 2007 redesign brought greater width, length, height, and towing capacity. All Sprinters 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. Cargo volume is up to 530 cubic feet, with a low step-in height of 21 inches. 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 imported from Turkey and has an American powertrain. Essentially a repowered and modified Doblò, the van is front drive and has a bi-link rear suspension, with sliding side doors.
From the very start of the minivan, there were Dodge cargo vans, named “Caravan C/V.” Selling without seats and sometimes with a heavily modified cargo area, they added a few thousand vans to the bottom line each year.
The Ram C/V’s 1,800-lb. cargo payload was 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) was 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. They were discontinued after the ProMaster City was launched and had some time to percolate to all dealers.
Usually 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), in a body designed by Steel Fisher. The engine came from Hillman, the gearbox from a Commer van, the front suspension cross member from Sunbeam, and many other parts came from Humber! Sixteen body styles were offered direct from the dealer, including a metal sided pick up and a milk float.
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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