Chrysler revolutionized the American family-hauler world in the 1984 model year when the Plymouth Voyager and Dodge Caravan minivans first appeared. That same year, Toyota began selling Americanized versions of its LiteAce/ TownAce/ MasterAce Surf vans over here, attracting less attention but moving enough of them that I still see them during my junkyard travels. Here's an '87 that received the camper-conversion treatment, now residing in a Northern California car graveyard.
Plymouth sold trucks through 1942, gave up on the idea, then returned to the truck business with the Trail Duster (rebadged Dodge Ramcharger) and Voyager (rebadged Dodge Sportsman) for 1974. Sales of the big Voyager van continued through the 1983 model year, after which the name went onto the new K-platform-derived Plymouth minivan. Here's one of those all-but-forgotten first-generation Voyagers, found in a Denver self-service yard recently.
After what seems like three eons and two epochs of concept vehicles, Volkswagen has finally taken the covers off a production-ready version of the ID. Buzz van. European models, of the type shown here, go on sale this calendar year with a long-wheelbase passenger model to debut for the North American market in 2023 and go on sale in 2024
And, yes, the word ‘bus’ does make it into the official press materials.
Ever since the 1998 model year, Toyota has sold a big, American-style minivan with the engine in the front and cupholders throughout the interior. Prior to that, though, American Toyota shoppers looking for a new van had to take an innovative mid-engined machine designed entirely with the Japanese home market in mind: First the TownAce (known as the Van here) and then the Estima (known as the Previa here). The Previa was too small and too underpowered to compete head-to-head with Detroit minivans, but those who bought them found that they lasted for decade after decade. Here’s one in a Denver-area yard that got pretty close to the magical 400,000-mile mark.
Back in the days before smartphones and cheap tablet computers, parents planning to take some screaming ankle-biters on a long road trip needed some means of hypnotizing the little darlings into submission, something that didn’t involve extreme measures such as tranquilizer dart guns or child literacy. Minivan makers began installing airliner-style flip-down video displays in the 1990s, enabling The Slime to ooze out of tiny flat screens on the road. The General took this idea one step further, partnering with Warner Brothers to issue a special-edition Chevy Venture packed with Looney Tunes goodies and branding. I spent years trying to find one of these rare vans in the U-Wrench-It yards I frequent, and I hit pay dirt last month in Denver.
Badge engineering! Always near the top of my search list when poking through car graveyards, obscure examples of marketing-inspired rebadgitude will jump right out from the ho-hum ranks of Elantras and LaCrosses in any yard. I haven’t managed to find a discarded Suzuki Equator yet, sad to say, but I have documented such rarities as a Mitsubishi-badged Hyundai Excel, an Isuzu-badged Chevy Colorado, and a Dodge-badged Renault 25. Today we’ll visit one of the most puzzling examples of badge-engineering history in the North American automotive marketplace: the Volkswagen Routan.
On Tuesday, Mercedes announced it would be pouring roughly $59 million (€50 million) to build the all-electric Sprinter van at three facilities. One of them will is the American MBV factory in Ladson, South Carolina, with the remaining two sites naturally situated in Düsseldorf and Ludwigsfelde, Germany.
Over 200,000 Sprinter and Metris model vans have been assembled in the United States since 2006, though the automaker had actually been using the state to avoid the chicken tax for much longer. Considering the region is the second-largest market for Sprinter vans, Mercedes is not interested in dissolving its American commitments either. The investment will be spread across the three facilities for the necessary tooling to build the EV variant the automaker already started selling in Europe.
Ford’s $11.5 billion investment (through 2022) into electrification has birthed its first in a series of planned work vehicles. The E-Transit takes everything that was good about the gasoline-powered Transit van and makes a few sacrifices in the name of progress while also offering a handful of useful features made possible by its 67 kWh battery.
One of the biggest items being surrendered is range. Ford estimates the E-Transit to have an operating area of roughly 126 miles between charges, which isn’t great. However, the company claimed this would be sufficient for the kind of applications it envisioned customers would be using it for and noted that reduced range helped the vehicle come in just under $45,000. Longer-range versions are planned, as well as an all-wheel-drive variant, and Ford has added a few features to the E-Transit not available on the gasoline-driven unit.
No, despite appearances, we haven’t taken complete leave of our senses. At least not until our road tester starts telling us in excruciating detail about how he wants to see the Genesis reunion later this year.
On the pickup truck side of Ford’s showroom, the cheapest way into a rig powered by the burly 7.3-liter V8 is via an Ace of Base F-250. That vehicle bears a price of $33,705 plus $2,045 for the hairy-chested eight-pot. The E-Series starts at just $33,265 … and carries the 7.3L as standard equipment.
When the updated Ford Transit Connect debuted, Ford showed off a fancy new 1.5-liter turbodiesel to power it. While the company said it would be late availability, it turns out that the company decided that it wouldn’t put it into production at all.
Car and Driver initially reported the decision, with a Ford spokesperson citing a lack of demand for the reason for putting it into production. Considering the premium price that the diesel engine would command, plus rising fuel prices, it’s not hard to see why buyers wouldn’t ultimately be interested in the engine.
When Chrysler had such a smash hit with the K-derived minivans of the 1980s, Toyota USA needed some kind of family hauler bigger than the Cressida, Camry, and Tercel wagons. The solution, from the perspective of the suits in Aichi, was obvious: Americanize the TownAce mid-engined van and ship it west ASAP!
Here’s an ’84 Toyota Van I found in a Charlotte, North Carolina, wrecking yard last month.
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.
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