Cheap Mini Custom: 1988 Dodge Ram Van

We all know about the Caravan and Voyager but Dodge also produced a mini van destined to be a work van called the Ram Van.  Yes, it had the same name as the full size Dodge van but it was based on the mini van platform.  In fact, it was just a Caravan with a filler instead of the rear windows and sealed beam headlights instead of composite headlight assemblies. They didn’t have much of an interior either. They also made an interesting option for conversion van manufacturers who could start with the barebones mini Ram Van platform, and that’s exactly what this is.  If you’re interested in a k-platfrom conversion van (with cooler!) you can find this near Cincinnati here on craigslist for just $800!

The seller only gave us three pictures of the van and managed to not be able to fit the entire van into any of them.  Let’s see what we can determine about this conversion van. First of all, we can see that the third window has been cut back into the fill panel by the conversion company. The original third window in these vans were very conveniently opened by either mechanical linkage connected to a knob in the ceiling or a power switch.  Based on the size of the rubber gasket, this window is permanently closed.  We see that the chrome color handle above the license plate has fallen off due to rust (they all did eventually). The running boards look good, tire looks like it has decent tread, there is a custom roof rack, and the name of the conversion company is Van Patton Vans. I couldn’t find this company on the internet but maybe someone knows what this is.  I also spy some rust at the bottom of the rear glass.

Here’s a fun fact for you: the 1987 Caravan/Voyager received a huge improvement over the prior design in the dashboard layout. The cupholders actually hold cups! The 1984-1986 vans looked like they would hold cups, but they wouldn’t. Insane, right?  No company could get away with that today. The dashboard looks good except the radio that is falling out. We don’t get to see the seats but we also see that the plastic surrounding the door handle is broken away, but that’s a very common problem and easy to fix. (The screw at the handle comes loose and then the plastic surround breaks. Tighten the screw, replace the plastic and you’re good.)

We have to rely on the seller for the rest of the information about this van and he says the interior is mint (yeah, Freiberger), it has 4 captain chairs and the rear bench folds into bed. It has custom wood trim and lights everywhere.  It has a built in cooler and if that isn’t enough it also has cold AC!  It has 170,000 miles and “runs excellent”.  He says it has a 6 cylinder engine which would mean the 3.0 liter Mitsubishi V6 which has plenty of power but was known to burn oil. I would have assumed the 2.6 liter 4 cylinder or 2.5 liter 4 cylinder but the 125 mph speedometer means a V6. Regardless, if it really does run well and has cold AC you are getting a lot of van for $800!  And here’s an 80’s Mopar joke: When is your van not a van? When the door is open, it’s ajar!

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Comments

  1. Mark

    Uuuhhh-no.

  2. AF

    call a fork lift. Then take to the Crusher. Feeding time!

  3. sofst1

    Always thought these would become collectible in the sense that they led the way to the mini van and SUV craze and thinking if I ever found a good one well , you know. Bought one from a bakery and drove the crap out of it until the tranny exploded . Now this ones only 4 miles from me and I’m thinking a lot clearer, no, definitely not for me .

  4. Roger

    Interestingly enough, the tach shows 1100 or so rpm and the oil gauge is mid sweep, but the ignition has no key and is in the off position.

    • Mike

      these gauges stayed where they were when shut off. you would have to turn the switch again to make them go go zero… just the way they were..

  5. Kev

    We bought a brand new one in 1990 when we had our first boy. It was the upgraded LE model and loaded and wasn’t cheap (price). We had an ugly green 1979 Chevy Impala that I used so my wife always had the newest (most reliable) vehicle. We both fought over who will take the Impala as the van was constantly in for warranty work. After they fixed all the leaks, repainted the front when I tried to was the bugs off the front we sold it after 8 months of ownership and 14000 kms. The people who bought it from us called 3 weeks later stating the transmission blew up on the way to the airport and they were upset they had to pay the $100.00 deductible. We kept the old Impala for several years after and it always started, ran and drove great, but the rust was taking over. We bought a new Chevy Suburban for the family car and never had an issue in the 22 years (and many miles) of towing travel trailers, boats, and hauling the family around. No way on this one!

  6. Royal Ricci

    I have a 1991 Plymouth Voyager with a 3.0 V6 that only has 89K original miles on it. I would like someone to come and take the whole thing. Used to be my Dad’s and was hit in the front by a woman who spilled her coffee while making a left. It was still able to start and drive after this.

  7. flatlander

    The old Chrysler vans are ugly and not reliable. But this little turbo van is a blast and does what few can do.
    I’m ready for it to get out of the trans shop again. Please dont laugh she is sensitive.

    • EJ

      They didn’t put Turbo 2.5’s in LWB models

      • flatlander

        Correct kind Sir if you are quoting Chrysler. The MSRP on this one says different in splitting hairs thinking. it was ordered as a fleet purchase and sold new as a $17.5k truck and a $406 engine upcharge.What I can not find are any fleet production figures. they didn’t make them wheelchair accessable either but that is another story..

  8. Lucy

    Does anybody know how to take off the door panel on thus Caravan? Im having trouble but i know it cant be THAT hard! Lol

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