By on September 10, 2018

1986 Dodge Van in Colorado wrecking yard, LH rear view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

I see two types of distinctively Coloradan sticker-covered vehicles in Denver-area self-service wrecking yards. One type is the stony-ass wastoidmobile Subaru plastered with decals from cannabis dispensaries, vape-juice shops, and microbreweries. The other is the battered outdoorsy Detroit truck, plastered with decals from mountain-bike shops, ski resorts, rafting outfitters, and environmental causes. These types tend to overlap to some extent, so it often happens that I’ll find stickers advertising shatter-hash on an Outdoorsy Truck and stickers proclaiming allegiance to rock climbing on a Stoner Subaru, but there are cultural differences between them.

Here’s an ornately leopardified 1986 Dodge B250 Ram Wagon that appears to have hauled many a sinewy adventurer to a trailhead or ski slope.

1986 Dodge Van in Colorado wrecking yard, leopard tail - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIf you’re going to turn a vehicle shaped like a box into a convincing sleek jungle cat, you’ll need to add a tail. This tail was made by someone with great highway-safe tail-making chops; note the sturdy mounting and anti-unraveling ribbons.

1986 Dodge Van in Colorado wrecking yard, interior - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThanks to several yards of leopard-print velour cloth and the extensive leopard-print accessory selection offered by Manny, Moe, and Jack, the interior of this van resembles Tarzan’s tree house.

1986 Dodge Van in Colorado wrecking yard, bumper stickers - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI see a lot of Obama and Trump stickers on junkyard cars these days, with the occasional Bush II sticker here and there, but this is the first Kerry/Edwards decal I’ve spotted in many years. The “Frankly, my dear, I don’t want a dam” sticker refers to the efforts to spare the Cache la Poudre River from a fishing/rafting-destroying dam.

1986 Dodge Van in Colorado wrecking yard, interior - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis sign may have been “borrowed” from an outdoor music festival, or it may be that this van was operated by a business that hauled hikers, rafters, bicyclists, campers, fishermen, mountain-climbers, and/or skiers to their destinations.

1986 Dodge Van in Colorado wrecking yard, Buick hubcap - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsBuick hubcaps look good on a Dodge.


A couple of great American regional accents can be heard in this ad for the first year of the second-generation (1979-1993) Ram Van.

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18 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1986 Dodge B250 Leopard Van...”


  • avatar
    CaddyDaddy

    Did not pop the dog house :(. Nothing like a leaning tower of power in a Sportsman to make my morning!

  • avatar
    Boff

    Someone please rescue this endangered species.

  • avatar
    statikboy

    Those may be leopard spots but the tail says “giraffe”.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Beginning to think it started life at a safari park somewhere. Either that, or the owner was proud to admit they were a Furry.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Before the overseas vans started, who got the most mileage out of their vans with minimal effort? I’d argue it was Dodge because nothing ever really changed in these vans until the end of the line in the late 90’s. But Ford also got a lot out of the E-series that I remember was redone in 1992. Now the GM vans are last of the old way and they’re pushing 15 years(?) since their last major redo.

    I worked for Enterprise in the late 90’s and we had Ford, GM and Dodge vans. Driving the Ford or GM vans, they were way ahead of the Dodges in every way. Dodge just never put anything into their vans.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Well, the van that the Express/Savanna replaced was around for decades as well. The Express/Savana has been around since 1996 (that’s 22 years with a minor facelift) according to Wikipedia, but the van they replaced ran from 1971-1995 without a redesign, 24 years.

      The basic body shell of the E-Series does date back to 1992, but the under bits have been changed quite a bit. I know they got a new frame at some point, based on the then-current Super Duty pickup frame. Like the Express/Savanna, it also got updated powertrains through the years. It only exists now as a cab/chassis, you can’t actually buy an enclosed van version anymore (cargo or passenger).

  • avatar
    pwrwrench

    Could be a molester van. Sort of a “hide in plain sight”.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I had one of these new, when they first appeared for the 1979 MY. However mine was done ‘disco’ style. The blue vinyl arm rests on the driver’s seat match the ones on the Captain’s chairs that came with my new van. Tilt and swivel, blue surround with a ‘plaid’ insert and blue instrument panel.

    Mechanically it was good for the era. However it was not ‘screwed together’ all that well. Including bad weatherstripping on the ‘vent’ windows and a windshield that was not originally installed correctly.

    On problem with owning a van when you are ‘young’ is that nearly every weekend you are asked to help move someone.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    I knew Dodge vans had a spotty reputation…

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Methinks this is a former short school bus.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    I was a mechanic for a number of fleet operators. We ran LOTS of these Dodges (the 300 series long 15 pax Maxivans” and LOTS of E350 extended body 15 pax vans.

    What did we learn? The Dodge Maxivans were favored by passengers—the back row had full windows, while the rear row in the Econolines had no windows.

    Econoline roof drip rails were not symetrical—roof racks had to be custom built.

    The Dodges were longer inside—a set of track-and-field pole vaults would lay down on the floor, while they would not in the Fords.

    The Econolines with the 351W engines tended to foul the catcons, while the units with the 460 engines NEVER did that.

    The Dodge’s rear A/C was not as effective as the Econolines in hot summer weather.

    Very few problems with the Dodge 360 engines or transmissions. We had 1986-1989 models, the 88’s were the first with TB fuel injection and overdrive transmissions—they ran MUCH better than the 1987s. We lost a 1987 model to fire–the rubber fuel hose from chassis to fuel pump leaked, and the I believe the nearby alternator ignited it.

    We had several Dodge’s with charging issues—most were related to the 10 gauge wire going to the block on the firewall near the brake booster—corrosion often got into the connectors.

    Ford’s were preferred by drivers because the driver’s footwell was wider–the engines were mounted off-center to provide more room for the driver. Too bad if you were a front seat passenger!

    Generally, the Ford front suspension was more robust than the Dodge. We found brakes and rear axles to be largely trouble free. Vinyl upolstery held up well in both.

  • avatar

    murilee: your junkyard home site is fabulous!

  • avatar
    jesse53

    I had a 1974 Tradesman 3/4 ton that I ran the wheels off of. When I sold it I had nearly 150k miles. I took it to the Truck-Ins back when the custom van craze hit. I never had any major work done to it as far as the 318 engine & 727 torqueflight was bullet proof.

  • avatar
    Brett Woods

    Good times.

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