Mercedes-Benz’s Sprinter commercial van has worn several badges, but come the end of next year, there’ll be only one. As the automaker works to slim down its sprawling global lineup, the lesser-known Freightliner variant will cease production.
Manufactured via knock-down kits in South Carolina, the Freightliner van, like Dodges of yore, will fade to black, but Sprinters will remain in the M-B stable.
Nobody knows why the custom van lifestyle ended. Despite the keep on truckin’ imperative, the 1970s ended and took those kaleidoscopic fun-wagons with it. Maybe the Baby Boomers grew up and decided to stop smoking weed in the back of large vehicles with words like “Vandy Apple” painted on the side so they could get a real job and start smoking weed at home.
Perhaps the trend simply passed and foreign-built economy cars were the next must-have item. All we know for sure is that it was a mistake.
Fortunately, vans have only gotten better since the ’70s ended. The objectively perfect minivan had its heyday when leisure travel vans still held a corner of the market. While not so popular anymore, the van’s unparalleled versatility has kept it a viable option for work fleets and individual private owners who want a jack-of-all-trades vehicle in the driveway.
Mercedes-Benz is hip to this, revealing its third-generation Sprinter with all the customizable variables one would expect. However, it’s also adding load of new technologies and hardware as part of the brand’s “adVANce” philosophy. That includes new internet integration, driveline configurations, and a forthcoming electric model. Does this amount to the most exciting model in Mercedes’ lineup?
The European-style vans sold by Mercedes-Benz, Freightliner, and Dodge have been with us here in North America since 2001, and have held their value very well since that time. Depreciation of even the most useful vehicle is relentless, however, and it was inevitable that used-up Sprinters would begin showing up in big self-service wrecking yards at some point.
That day has arrived; I spotted the first of the discarded Sprinters in my junkyarding experience, this one in a Phoenix yard over the summer.
Canada and the European Union’s newly inked free trade agreement will eliminate the 6.1 percent tariff on imported vehicles, but one big obstacle remains: the lack of harmonization between Canadian and European vehicle standards. According to a report by The Globe and Mail, Mercedes-Benz Canada’s President is calling for an end to the differing standards, which feature unique requirements and add costs to Canadian vehicles.
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- Wjtinfwb Memory lane... In '76, I got my full Florida D/L and started hogging my parents cars. That only lasted a year when it was decided I needed to take an additional class in school that started at 7am, before the bus ran and my friends went to school. Mom was not excited about driving me every day so I proposed a solution; I was a big dirt biker and floated out buying a street bike to ride to school, namely a new Honda XL350. Mom & Dad objected vehemently, they didn't want me dead on the road to school. And they know I'd be on that bike 24/7 and they'd never know where I was. Dad offered a car, stating if I'd put in the money I'd saved for the Honda, he'd match it and if needed throw in a bit more. Perfect! I started looking for a car, first candidate was a used Pontiac Formula 455. It was a '74, Automatic, an awful pea green but clean and on the front line at JM Pontiac. No way was Dad's instant answer. Too thirsty, too powerful, too expensive to insure. A Celica GT Liftback? Better but too expensive. Corolla SR-5? Warmer, but dad was uncertain of the safety of a Japanese car. Fiat 128? Why not just throw the money out the window. Dad's friend ran a leasing company and had a hook at the VW dealer, Rabbit? A Scirocco would be better, but lets look. Dealer offered a new, '77 Rabbit 2dr in Custom trim, 4-speed, factory A/C, AM/FM in Panama Brown (burnt Orange) with Brown "leatherette" for $3200 plus tax. One drive and I was in. Not fast, but peppy, '77 combined the '76 1.6L engine with Bosch Fuel Injection. Faster than the Corolla for sure and undoubtedly more reliable than the Fiat, right? Not so fast, my friend. The Rabbit was a nightmare, and VW dealers were stymied by the Fuel Injection, the A/C that while factory was clearly an afterthought and the leak from somewhere that filled the left rear footwell after ever rainstorm. A daily occurrence in S. Florida. It left me on the side of the road one evening due to a broken timing belt and ultimately succumbed to the bad valve guides that led to burning a quart of GTX every 200 miles. Sold at a fire sale price and replaced with a used Cutlass. A super fun car that was sold approximately 2/3 of the way through development. Two years later production moved to Westmoreland PA and those Rabbits were even more horrendous than my German built example. Great memory of a not very great car.