158 Actual Miles? Custom 1981 Dodge Ram Van

This 1981 Dodge Ram Van has a seriously cool story, and may even have obscenely low mileage based on how many years it’s been locked in a static display arrangement. The Dodge apparently sat on a show floor for van enthusiasts as a marketing tool for Dodge before being snatched up by a private owner who had the interior fully kitted out to his liking. The Dodge then went into a dealer showroom where it didn’t move very much, and although the odometer reading on the title is exempt due to age, it shows just 158 miles on the clock – and it looks clean enough for that number to be real. Find it here on eBay where bidding is over $11,000 with the reserve unmet.

Now, we all know by now that the van era in the car community was pretty remarkable. I can’t think of another time and class of vehicle where American enthusiasts felt as emboldened as they did to create their most memorable canvas as they did when presented with the side of a van. The murals were just incredible, and I hope someday a museum or gallery space dedicates a room to some of the better-preserved modified vans from the 70s and 80s – and this Dodge better be a feature exhibit. The interior is in simply incredible condition, and since it’s never been restored, the odometer reading is certainly believable. That dark wood trim is gorgeous and in outstanding shape, and take note of the custom curtains.

The listing claims airbrush artist Gary Stiehl was commissioned by Dodge to create the gorgeous mutual on the sides so the company could show off its connections to the vast aftermarket capable of equipping a van like this in accordance with your wildest van desires. The stance is perfect and is augmented by the short wheelbase and running boards. The van was purchased off of the exhibit hall floor by the owner of a Dodge dealer who had Leasurecraft Industries in Elkhart, IN build out the interior with the latest and greatest in van-life equipment. A sunroof was installed along with a sofa, dry bar, captain’s chairs, and so much more.

The listing claims that after the build was completed, the owner left it in the showroom of his dealership, likely as a marketing tactic to get car shoppers in the door. At the time this van was built, it likely had the same effect as seeing a new Hellcat in a modern-day Dodge showroom. The condition of the mural and the custom interior are simply too clean for this van to have seen regular, daily use, and there are not many vans from this era left – customized or not – with basically delivery miles on the clock. The current bid price does seem too low for a vehicle as unrepeatable as this one, and I hope it ends up in the hands of a van enthusiast who will continue to preserve it.


  1. Cadmanls Member

    Nice paint and it’s not the normal wizard or dragon mural. Now here is what nobody mentioned, it’s a floor shifted manual transmission in this ole girl! Was a basic van that was treated to the upgrades. Kind of cool would I want it no, do I like it yes.

    Like 18
  2. Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

    I like this and the murals are great; def not a blue- (or black-) light shag-rugged special unless it carried a hunting trophy or three. While I understand that the van won’t be used as a DD, the lack of a driver’s side window would keep it of of parkways near me, where commercial vehicles are barred.

    Like 2
    • angliagt angliagt Member

      I believe that ban refers to larger trucks,not small vans.
      This van is located in Lakeland,Florida.

      Like 3
      • Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

        The ban was real in Westchester County. Got a Citation driving there.

        Like 2
    • angliagt angliagt Member

      I had no idea that’s where you were located.I assumed you
      were referring to the Blue Ridge Parkway,which is near me.

      Like 2

    It is a beautiful van, and every museum needs its star and start. Driving it more than a few miles would be akin to hanging the Mona Lisa in a train station. As an airbrush artist myself I want the new owner that I would be willing to match the fuel lid to the mural.

    Like 3
    • 370zpp 370zpp Member

      The original fuel lid probably did match, until someone walked off with it.

      Like 3
  4. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    I thought the van craze was done by 1981?

    Like 4
  5. KC John Member

    I appreciate the art work but this is a dealership advertisement. Not a representation of van life. IMHO. Not trying to start an argument.

    Like 4
  6. Keith

    Not sure why the low mileage but it was never driven during hunting season for obvious reasons.

    Like 2
  7. james e bradley

    That van doesnt have air conditioning which is why nobody wanted it probably

  8. Kenneth Carney

    It just went underground Mike. The big firms like StarCraft and Leisure Time and many others made it easy
    for folks to customize a van to their
    liking. Sadly though, by doing that, it
    all but killed off the DIY guys who got
    everything started in ’72 or ’73. Those
    folks were looked down upon in the
    ’80s because the factory conversions
    we’re glitzier than what you could build yourself.

    Like 1
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Good point Ken. Happy Holidays to you and the family!

  9. Jeffro

    I haven’t seen that much shag carpeting since my grandmothers in 1976.

    Like 2
  10. Richard Isenberg

    If I owned a dodge dealership I would purchase it and put it back on display inside to preserve such a nice van

    Like 3
  11. Jeff Rightmer

    Looks great. Downside, 6 cylinder engine and manual transmission That my be holding the price down.

    Like 1
  12. Russ Ashley

    Beautiful paint job. It’s a slant six with four speed OD so it’s not going to win any drag races. Plus it doesn’t have a/c which I would have to have here in Georgia. It’s beautiful but I don’t want it as I wouldn’t want to expose it to the elements by driving it. It’s over $20K now with reserve not met. I wonder what it’s future will be.

    Like 3
    • Jeremy

      The power train is a rare combo, I have an 83 my dad bought new and this is only the 3rd 4 speed one I have seen!

  13. Howie

    Wow i am going to be first, if this van is rocking …………………..

    Like 4
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member


      . . . . . . . . . . it’s probably stuck in a snow drift!

      Final bid was $27,109.00, did not meet reserve.

      • Howie

        Bill, and rocking?

      • Howie

        And relisted.

      • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member


        The best way to get a vehicle unstuck in snow is to rock it back & forth. If a manual trans, just put it in 2nd gear and try to move forward, then push clutch pedal in and the vehicle will move back to the point it was at. Doing this over & over again was known as rocking the car.

        Yeah, I know, not a very good pun, but it was a slow day!

        Like 1

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