Junkyard Find: 1972 Dodge Tradesman Custom Van
Once the Detroit Big Three went to front-engined/snout-equipped cargo vans in the late 1960s and early 1970s, replacing the dangerous yet highly-maneuverable-in-alleyways forward-control/flat-nose vans that came before, those vans became much more practical for freeway driving (and family transportation). I still see plenty of 40-year-old Econolines, Beauvilles, and Tradesmen in junkyards these days, since these vans are so useful that most of them get flogged until they drop dead, but it (usually) takes one with some mid-70s-style customizing touches to make me break out the camera.
The Tradesman was the windowless “molester van” cargo hauler, much better suited than the passenger-van Sportsman for airbrush murals depicting jousting knights battling Aztec kings in a zebra herd at the Mars Base.
The most basic customization job on these vans, back when The Sweet was big and groovy chicks in tube tops alternated bongloads of Panama Red with swigs of Boone’s Farm, involved the application of circular bubble windows and some upholstery in the cargo area. If you wanted to increase the odds of enticing those groovy chicks into your van, you needed the airbrush mural, a quadrophonic 8-track sound system, and maybe a wood-burning stove.
I was in grade school back when the custom-van craze reached its zenith, and even then most people thought they were pretty goofy. I wanted a Porsche 914, not a custom van, when I was 8. And yet… I’m slaving away on my own custom van project now.
Writer d'Elegance Brougham Landau.
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