Buy/Drive/Burn: Full-size Van Time in 1990

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis

The year is 1990, and you live in Utah or someplace similar and find yourself with plentiful offspring. The only solution here is a full-size van that seats 15. Which extra-long BOF box goes home with the Buy?

Dodge Ram Wagon

The Ram Van remained in its second-generation format between 1979 and 1993. Upper-trim family Wagons wore quad headlamps, while poverty-spec cargo Vans had single round ones. Though new for ’79, the Van was a reskin of the first-generation version that debuted in 1971. The dash from 1978 carried all the way through to 1993. At that point, a third generation soldiered on until 2003 with the same body shell and most of the same equipment. In 1990, our selection is the largest displacement 5.9-liter (360) V8. A total of 155 horsepower travels to the rear via a four-speed automatic. Overall length: 222.9 inches.

Ford Club Wagon

More commonly known as Econoline, Ford’s American people hauler entered its third generation in 1975 and continued with small changes through 1991. For the first time, Econoline was body-on-frame instead of unibody. This lead to popularity as a cutaway chassis, and the Econoline was transformed into various buses, trucks, and ambulances across the country. In 1992 the fourth generation Econoline bowed, and is still being produced as a cutaway chassis today. In luxurious Club Wagon XLT trim, the 226.8-inch Super Van has the largest Ford gasoline V8: It’s the 5.8-liter (351) Windsor. Some 250 horsepower was sent through the van’s four-speed automatic, and no manuals were available.

Chevrolet G

The Chevrolet Van (now G) entered a third generation in 1971, and remained largely unchanged through model year 1995. GM chased Ford’s Econoline and moved away from the cab forward design of the second generation Van. 1996 saw the introduction of new Express vans that remain in production to this day. General Motors was late to the 15-passenger game, as 1990 was the introductory year for the extended wheelbase 223.2-inch G van. In top-trim, extended-length Beauville guise, the 5.7-liter (350) V8 made 195 horsepower and carried a standard four-speed automatic.

You need many rows of seats for many children, so which van goes home to the compound?

Images: Dodge, seller, Wikipedia]

Corey Lewis
Corey Lewis

Interested in lots of cars and their various historical contexts. Started writing articles for TTAC in late 2016, when my first posts were QOTDs. From there I started a few new series like Rare Rides, Buy/Drive/Burn, Abandoned History, and most recently Rare Rides Icons. Operating from a home base in Cincinnati, Ohio, a relative auto journalist dead zone. Many of my articles are prompted by something I'll see on social media that sparks my interest and causes me to research. Finding articles and information from the early days of the internet and beyond that covers the little details lost to time: trim packages, color and wheel choices, interior fabrics. Beyond those, I'm fascinated by automotive industry experiments, both failures and successes. Lately I've taken an interest in AI, and generating "what if" type images for car models long dead. Reincarnating a modern Toyota Paseo, Lincoln Mark IX, or Isuzu Trooper through a text prompt is fun. Fun to post them on Twitter too, and watch people overreact. To that end, the social media I use most is Twitter, @CoreyLewis86. I also contribute pieces for Forbes Wheels and Forbes Home.

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  • HotPotato HotPotato on Aug 28, 2019

    Drive the Dodge. It would ride and handle the best of the three. Styling wise, I'm a sucker for the curved rear windows on the extendo version, I like the large easily visible taillights, and it's the only one with a snoot that could be called handsome. Also: swap in a junkyard 440. That thing was a BEAST. Buy the Chevy, pimp it out, and sell it to whoever's looking for a van conversion. They'll appreciate the okay MPG and okay ride. Burn the Ford. I have nothing against a body-on-frame van that wanders like a drunken hobo, with an engine that delivers neither power nor fuel economy, but something's gotta give. I do have a bias. My mom bought a van for her business when I was a kid, but it wasn't a white strangers-with-candy panel van, it was a used Dodge conversion van that apparently had been built for a Nevada lady of the evening. The rear sofa folded down into a remarkably comfortable bed. The front captains were suitably 70s-tastic. And the 440 was equipped with a 4-barrel and an exhaust the size of a water main. I'd load that thing to its vinyl padded ceiling with boxes, slide the dolly under the sofabed, and off we'd go. Good memories.

  • Travis Travis on Sep 24, 2019

    I might a month late and a hundred short, but I like and respect em all! Kinda hurts a little to see examples of these generations disappearing from the roads. Personally, I'm non-denominational when it comes to American makes. These vans, every single one had their strong points as well as their quirks. There is no perfect beast! Properly taken care of ANY one is good. Mopar: I have a soft spot for the earlier "Tradesmen" or Plymouth version with shark tooth grille. I'll take mine with a 318 or 360 4v. GM : I have a soft spot for the '83-'84 they had a nice looking front end that was unique to only those 2 years. (Quad headlight version) I'll take mine with the LE9 5.0 V8. Ford : Like a friendly old neighbor that moved or passed away... I kinda miss seeing these econolines roaming the streets. They used to be EVERYWHERE! I've never heard of a bad one. The front ends reminded you that..Yes!! You are in fact driving a utility van. Every one I've ever encountered and drove did so faithfully even if it was on its last leg. Coolest one in my experiences was a big, yellow 1 ton 4x4 "Quadravan" of my aunt and uncles. We called it the "Yellowbird". We all went on many a road trip in it. It was a '79 I believe. First year for square headlights. Had a 460. Good Times. Burn: None of em!!

  • Mia Hey there!I recently stumbled upon the Crack Eraser DIY Windshield Repair Kit (check it out here: and decided to give it a shot on a small chip in my windshield. I have to say, it worked like a charm! Super easy to use, and it saved me a trip to the professionals. If you're dealing with a similar issue, this kit is definitely worth considering. 😊
  • Rust-MyEnemy Whoa, what the hell is wrong with Jalop1991 and his condescension? It's as if he's employed by Big Plug-In or something."I've seen plenty of your types on the forums....."Dunno what that means, but I'm not dead keen on being regarded as "A type" by a complete stranger"" I'm guessing you've never actually calculated by hand the miles you've driven against the quantity of gas used--which is your actual miles per gallon."Guess again. Why the hell would you even say that? Yes, I worked it out. Fill-to-fill, based on gas station receipts. And it showed me that a Vauxhall Astra PHEV, starting out with a fully charged PHEV battery, in Hybrid mode, on my long (234-mile) daily motorway daily commute, never, over several months, ever matched or beat the economy of the regular hybrid Honda Civic that I ran for a similar amount of time (circa 5000 miles)."You don't use gasoline at all for 30-40 miles as you use exclusively battery power, then your vehicle is a pure hybrid. Over 234 miles, you will have used whatever gas the engine used for 200 of those miles."At least you're right on that. In hybrid mode, though, the Astra was using battery power when it wasn't at all appropriate. The petrol engine very rarely chimed in when battery power was on tap, and as a result, the EV-mode range quickly disappeared. The regular hybrid Civic, though, deployed its very small electric reserves (which are used up quickly but restore themselves promptly), much more wisely. Such as when on a trailing throttle or on a downward grade, or when in stop-start traffic. As a result, at the end of my 234 miles, the Civic had used less gas than the Astra. Moreover, I hadn't had to pay for the electricity in its battery.I look forward to you arguing that what actually happened isn't what actually happened, but I was there and you were not."Regardless, that you don't understand it appears not to have stopped you from pontificating on it. Please, do us all a favor--don't vote."You really are quite unpleasant, aren't you. But thanks for the advice.
  • Tassos Jong-iL Electric vehicles are mandated by 2020 in One Korea. We are ahead of the time.
  • 1995_SC Can you still get some of the tax credits under the new program?
  • Analoggrotto HyundaiGenesisKia saw this coming a long time ago and are poised for hybrid and plug-in hybrid segment leadership:[list=1][*] The most extensive range of hybrids[/*][*]Highest hybrid sales proportion over any other model [/*][*]Best YouTube reviews [/*][*]Highest number of consumer reports best picks [/*][*]Class leading ATPs among all hybrid vehicles and PHEVs enjoy segment bearing eATPs[/*][/list=1]While some brands like Toyota have invested and wasted untold fortunes into full range electric lineups HyundaiKiaGenesis has taken the right approach here.