Survivor cars are the new gold standard for car collectors. The ultimate dream for collectors is finding and purchasing a documented low mileage 427 Vette. You can do a ground up restoration, but a 1967 427 435-horse Sting Ray is original only once.
After that, what you have is a different car by varying degrees because it’s like an organ transplant in humans.You might get a kidney or a full-blown heart, lung and liver transplant, but after enough operations you’re less you and more the that unfortunate “other guy” who was hit by a bus.
But what happens when the survivor car is actually a humble, but completely original 1974 Dodge working-man’s van?
Thanks to the untimely retirement of its original owner, this 1974 Dodge van has 28,000 documented miles. The man was a plumber who was clearly optimistic about his health issues when he bought this van back in 1974.
Robbin Dawe is the current owner of this disco era Dodge van. The original owner is a long-term neighbor. When the car came up for sale, Robbin was the first guy who was called. You can imagine how excited Robbin would have been had his neighbor bought a Challenger TA and only added 20,000 miles to the clock, but this van represents survivor vehicle reality, not wish lists for muscle car guys.
Robbin, being a very practical owner, ran up a few thousand miles on the van using it as a commuter vehicle over a 180 mile round trip. That justified the purchase to a degree, but in reality, the van is a barebones non-insulated vehicle with the cheapest seats imaginable.
As a result, these vans are not exactly Cadillac comfortable. Robbin parked the 74 Dodge, and uses it occasionally for the old “hauling stuff” cliché. This big van runs a serious cool factor deficiency, so his kids aren’t clamoring for the keys to the vintage Dodge Tradesman. That really keeps the miles down on this workhorse.
You could call that scenario early retirement, but this van was actually retired during the Gerald Ford administration. In working truck years, this beast is ancient. It should have been turned into a fridge door around the time U2 was still relevant as a band.
Now this 1974 Dodge van is somewhat of a freak because it’s a vehicle that should have been worked to death but it’s a survivor. A mint low-mileage 1970 Boss 302 Mustang makes sense because some guys simply have the foresight to see the future in low production muscle cars.
Nobody has the foresight to see the future value in a plumber’s 1974 Dodge van. Its survival is all about a serendipitous series of events – that’s what makes this van so unique. It’s a million to one shot at best.
Robbin is realistic about the van and drives it enough to keep the mechanicals in good shape. He knows that the true value in the Dodge lies in its odometer at less than 30,000 miles. For the rest of the world it’s a time capsule to a time when tradesman used vans, not giant diesel quad cab trucks for work.
The only question now is what class Robbin enters this van in at a Mopar meet. Is it worthy of the overall Mopar survivor class, or is it destined to dominate the sparsely populated Dodge truck class?
Either way, this old plumber’s van is a contender.
For more of J Sutherland’s work go to mystarcollectorcar.com