By on June 9, 2012

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.

The van is fully rigged out for the job, but it turns out the man wasn’t. The van was sent into early retirement long before its stale date as a working vehicle.

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

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

16 Comments on “Car Collector’s Corner: The World’s Nicest Survivor 1974 Dodge Van...”


  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    Akin to a mint condition, low mileage bulldozer or forklift or taxi or something? Something that’s normally worked to death?

  • avatar
    John Fritz

    Perfect for a local band that needs something to haul their equipment to and from shows.

  • avatar
    dave-the-rave

    Too bad the paint color wasn’t Plum(b) Crazy.

  • avatar
    Gannet

    Very cool.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Someday there’s going to be a movie or television show that just cries out for a mint-condition 1974 dodge van. He won’t even have to sell it to make good money. He can rent it out. Isn’t there a registry for such things? A talent agency for old cars?

  • avatar

    There actually is a film car registry in the region of this van, but there are reports that they are a little hard on the four wheeled stars at times during filming in some shoots.

    • 0 avatar
      outback_ute

      I was just about to say the same thing. I’ve had a few friends loan cars for film shoots and they have not always been respected. Eg they removed an original 45 year old dealer sticker from a back window, or even some body damage.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    That is an awesome, one-of-a-kind treat.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    The van cries out for a mural.

  • avatar
    BobinPgh

    Maybe for the next Scooby Doo movie? Needs the Mystery Machine paint mural.

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    Where was this van when I was a servicemen. (blots face with towel to control drool).

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    I almost freaked when I saw this van. I know a guy with a 75 that he has owned since new, it’s exactly like this one. Same color, even still has the factory rims with dog dish hubcaps and he always had white letter tires on it like on this one. The only difference is that his has white painted bumpers and his seats are black.
    I remember the day he brought it home brand new. He drives it during nice weather but puts it away for winter. He’s kind of an odd fellow, he’s a custodain for the public school system, in his mid 50′s and still lives with his parents.
    I went to school with his younger siblings, they are all nice people, including the guy that owns the van. He’s just a bit strange. I can’t get over how much this van look like his.

  • avatar
    nikita

    A plumber friend of mine got 300,000 miles out of one of these. They are a workhorse indeed. Slant Six or LA V-8 with 727 Torqueflite is hard to beat. Dodge really had a winner going from the ugliest of the first generation vans to what I think is the best looking of the second gen’s.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Very rugged workhorses, but I prefer the styling of the 1st gen. The B vans look cool also.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • J & J Sutherland, Canada
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India