“Truck” Mode in Vancouver: 1996 VW Transporter vs 1998 GMC Savana

Welcome to Thursday’s edition of Shitbox Showdown! Today, we’re heading over the border to take a look at two Canadian haulers, just to show how far I’ll go for a ridiculous headline. (About 300 miles north, apparently.) But first, let’s get back to Cali and finish with yesterday’s coups:

Most of you looked at that pulsar and said, “Man, I don’t think so.” fair enough. It’s hard to resist this Benz. I think it’s best to plan to spend a month of weekends getting into shape.

Vidframe my top

Vidframe minimum down

So, today, it’s truck time. We have one truck that’s ubiquitous on American roads, and one that’s never been offered here in this form before. Strangely enough, it appears that one of them was white and is now painted red, and the other was orange and is now painted white. Which is the best box on wheels? Let’s check them out, and then you can decide.

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Engine/drive system: Diesel 2.4L overhead cam inline-5, five-speed manual, front-wheel drive

location: Surrey, BC

Odometer reading: 377,000 km

Works/drives? Yes

Here in the States, Volkswagens are always toys — pop-up campervans with bike racks hanging out of the back, driving the slow lane through national parks, or filling up parking lots at Phish concerts. But elsewhere, VW sells pickup trucks, known as Transporters, that are as popular as our Econolines, and work just as hard.

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It is a long-wheelbase hauler, equipped with a naturally aspirated five-cylinder diesel engine and a five-speed manual transmission. In typical work truck fashion, it only has an interior in the front; The rest is empty space. This device has a partition installed behind the seats, separating the cargo area from the passenger area. It appears to be just plywood, and would probably be easy to remove, if you don’t want it. A work truck is a blank canvas, after all (literally, sometimes).

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The seller says it runs and drives well, and “will go anywhere.” Slowly, though, I imagine, with only 77 horsepower under the hood. But slowness is kind of a VW tradition, and old basic VW diesels seem to run forever. It’s already halfway through forever, with the equivalent of about 235,000 miles on the clock, and we don’t get any details about its maintenance history. The orange paint makes me wonder if it started out as part of a fleet, so I hope it was well maintained at first, at least.

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It does have a bit of a rust problem around the wheel wells and along the rockers. It’s always difficult to determine how bad rust is without some poking and prodding, but the future looks a bit bleak (or at least ugly) for this carrier.

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Engine/drive system: 4.3L overhead valve V6, 4-speed automatic, rear wheel drive

the site: Langley, BC

Odometer reading: 170,000 km

Works/drives? of course no

I find it funny that this truck is twenty-five years old, but you can go to a GMC dealership today and buy one that looks exactly like it. He’s gone through some serious changes, of course, but the bones haven’t changed, and he still gets the job done, whatever that job may be. When you find a formula that works, why not stick with it?

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You can get a Savana or Chevy Express with a ton of horsepower for a pickup truck, but this one makes do with a modest but bulletproof 4.3-liter V6. The seller says it runs and drives well, but has a small problem with the transmission – it shifts hard and late into overdrive. They were told that changing the fluid and filter was supposed to help, but they haven’t done it yet. But it has new brakes and good tires.

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She has another trick up her sleeve, too: lifting the wheelchair in the back. But that’s all there is in the back, except for some foam insulation. There is nothing else there. It seems strange to me to install a wheelchair lift in a cargo truck; It’s not the kind of trip anyone wants to take. Why not use a passenger van with windows and carpets instead? But you can use the elevator for other things, I think – maybe beer kegs? Or speakers and drums?

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Or get out in the elevator and do whatever you want with it. That’s big enough to make a good campervan, if you want. And cheap enough to leave some room in the budget to build the elevator the way you want it, especially if you’re selling the elevator.

So there you have it, two trucks from the Great White North. They’re still powerful enough to work with, but advanced enough to not have to worry about messing around. Do whatever you want with them. In fact, I’d love to hear in the comments what your plans are for one of these.

(Image credits: Craigslist Sellers)

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