There was a time, before the advent of minivans, when Detroit rolled out full-size passenger vans as extra-large, thirsty station wagons. At the same time, most of those trucks came with manual transmissions and straight-six engines as standard equipment (almost all post-1970 buyers paid extra for automatic transmissions and V8 engines, of course). Today’s Junkyard Gem, found in an automobile cemetery in the San Francisco Bay Area, is one of the rare 1980s American passenger vans built with six cylinders, three pedals and four forward gears… with Shifter fixed to the floor.
Chrysler’s Dodge division stopped building the front-wheel drive A100 trucks in 1970, replacing the A100 with a much larger B-Series line of trucks (Plymouth also sold the B-Van as the Voyager 1974-1983). Production continued with minor cosmetic changes through 1997, after which a major redesign kept the same basic chassis with a different look until DaimlerChrysler canceled the B-Series in favor of the Sprinter.
From the 1971 through 1980 model years, cargo versions of Dodge’s B-Series trucks received the Tradesman branding, while the passenger version was called the Sportsman or Sportsman Wagon. In 1981, the Tradesman became the Ram Van while the Sportsman became the Ram Wagon.
This model is a burly 3/4 ton model with a gross weight of 2 tons (which is pretty much equivalent to lighter of Chrysler small cars a decade later), so you’d expect the original buyer to insist on the optional 318 or 360 cubic-inch V8. not like that! This is a Slant-Six engine with 225 cubic inches (3.7 L) of displacement and rated at 95 horsepower if factory original.
Just to confuse California emissions testing personnel with an incorrect smog spec sticker, the hood was replaced from a 1991 truck equipped with a 318. I bet there were some heated discussions about this truck at the time of the smog inspection, which makes me wonder why a swap didn’t Engine cover just remove the sticker.
Of course, the owner could have pointed to the construction mark on the doorjamb for correct identification. Here we can see that this truck was born north of the border, at the Pilette Road Assembly plant in Windsor, Ontario.
With most trucks of this type in which the engine is mounted above the front axle and under the doghouse in the passenger compartment, manual transmission paddle shifters are mounted on the steering column to provide ergonomically sensible access for the driver’s shifting hand. Typically, this would have been a triple-tree rig, although 4-post tree shift manuals were installed on some Ford and GM trucks starting in the late 1960s (unfortunately, none of them were built with five– Settings on the tree). When Chrysler decided to add another gear to the 1980 B-Series trucks, however, the top-equipped four-speed shift lever was placed next to the driver’s right hip.
This site means you are forced to access it behind To change gears, with increased comfortable fun when you’re already in second or fourth and fumbling for the handle. You’ll get used to it after a while, but it can be frustrating in stop-and-go traffic.
With a five-digit odometer, we can’t tell how many miles this Ram has driven in 42 years. This odometer can show 164,287 miles, but the invincible manual/Slant-Six powertrain means it can 664,287 miles.
The tool pockets and overall damaged interior indicate that it has spent a long time as a work truck.
However, some panels and upholstery from its original name as a passenger “carriage” still remain. These plaid cloth inserts look very similar to those found on the 1973 ¾-ton Chevy Sportsvan Bovell in which I spent my Malaise Era childhood.
This may refer to truck number 408, or it may refer to the San Jose telephone area code.
Was this truck a parts dealer for the Del Grande Dealer Group after all, or did DGDG just get it as a trade-in and take it straight to the nearest cemetery?
When you ask about trucks, you hear about Dodge!