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Get outta Dodge! 1971 Dodge Tradesman 300 High Top Camper

There’s an odd irony in Dodge’s model name used for this camper van conversion — Tradesman — given that so many young people are opting to embrace an unfettered, untethered ‘nomadic’ lifestyle. They don’t really ply a trade though, do they? Instead, the laptop class (as they’re colloquially known by cynics, scoffers and mockers) are the antithesis to hard working plumbers, electricians and welders. The former mostly spend their days filming and editing videos that promote a hyper-perfect reality that is anything but. Ultimately, that’s why this remarkable 1971 Dodge 300 Tradesmen High Top camper van creates a beautiful backdrop for a wannabe TikTok or Instagram star. First, it looks amazing. Second, it harkens back to the days of cheap gas, open roads and vast expanses of pristine American wilderness. So, if you’re feeling both nostalgic and entrepreneurial when looking at this beauty, thank our uber-tipster, T.J., for the lead. This Dodge is located just outside Reno, according to the craigslist advert, and the seller is looking to get $17,500.

At the outset, let me say I’m smitten. As with many special vehicles featured on Barn Finds, this is an internal combustion-powered time machine. A look around the camper portion of the interior and you’ll note that it’s been recently updated. But it’s tasteful. And, it’s not out of sorts with the spirit of the era, or the camper itself. It’s still got some shag. It’s still got some wood. Everything is there to make life on the road pleasurable and comfortable, albeit updated.

The cockpit of this time machine is just as it should be. The engine cover is nicely padded and not ratty in the least. The expansive dash is crack-free. Seat covers suggest maybe what’s underneath is not as pristine, but that’s definitely speculation. The black microfiber seat covers could simply be there to protect high-traffic, high wear components. Worthy of closer inspection though, for sure.

The red flags go off when looking at the engine pic. It’s included here for Mopar experts who might want to double-confirm my speculation, which is: this is not the engine of this particular van. According to the seller, the 360 V8 has only 41,000 miles and was “refreshed 3 years ago by a professional shop and only uesd [sic] 2 time since.” My suspicion, looking at the color of the engine compartment, is that this is some other vehicle. Also, that engine should be tucked way further into the passenger cabin. Lastly — and again, I’m happy to be corrected — the 360 wasn’t available until the following year, I believe.

So our ICE ‘time machine’ may not be all that meets the eye. Still, the years keep rolling on and each click of the annual odometer brings with it attrition of the past. This really is our calling here at Barn Finds: encourage adoption of the strays, give shelter to metal in need, and ultimately help preserve the things that so many today take for granted. This Dodge Tradesman is worthy of a good home — whether its fate is on the road as part of a YouTube dream, or in the hands of a Mopar guy (or gal) who can not only enjoy it, but correct deficiencies and put things right for the sake of the past, but also for the sake of the future.

Comments

  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    Don’t forget us carpenters!

    Like 6
  2. Oldog4tz Oldog4tz Member

    Hmm – engine pic removed from craigslist ad.

    Like 10
    • Terrry

      and they didn’t replace it.

      Like 3
  3. Howard A Member

    Before the old mans motorhomes, but after the pull campers,( mid -70s) he got a van like this and I took it to some place in Indiana, where they cut the top open and screwed this camper shell on. It instantly changed what was a nice van, into one of the scariest rides. Stiff winds and semis on 2 lanes were down right dangerous. Even the old man hated it. Far as the engine photo, you should only wish there was that much room. With the inside “dog house” removed, a chore in itself, repairs can be done, but hardly ever needed. With the outrageous prices for any camper, this is a great find, they were nice cruisers. Just keep a death grip on the wheel in any winds, cross, head or otherwise,,

    Like 7
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      Howard, as someone who bought a Dodge Tradesman B-200 brand new in ’73, and having owned a couple of similar campers, I suspect your dad bought a base B-100 [1/2 ton] or a B-200 [3/4 ton] if it was the longer wheelbase. The problem you mention of wind against the side is one of the top reasons why the companies manufacturing the completed campers ONLY make the high top versions on the B-300 [1 ton] chassis, it’s full frame and HD suspension was firm enough to eliminate a lot of that “lane wandering” in the wind.

      And Stephen, Dodge offered either a Tradesman or a Sportsman van, the tradesman came without any interior items behind the front seats, no carpeting, seats, headliner, no windows, it was just a big metal box back there. All the items available on the Sportsman were available at extra cost so a buyer could pick what specific options they wanted. The companies making the camper specials used the Tradesman version rather than spending money on windows, seats, etc. they didn’t need. One of my campers came with Sportsman emblems, but the VIN said it was a Tradesman!

      Like 1
  4. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Excellent write-up Stephen. I don’t really understand the “laptop class” (never heard that term before) or the “YouTube influencer”, but I guess they are indeed “things”. But can’t really see how one can make a career out of being an influencer….??

    Anyhow, interesting old Dodge. I captained a vanpool for several years, our vans were an E150 then an E350. The vanpool company had one of these Dodges as a backup, so I drove it a few times while the Econolines were being repaired. One thing which struck me was the turning radius was poor.

    Like 3
    • CATHOUSE

      I understand that some of those influencers are making 6 figure yearly incomes. I hear that a few even make 7 figures. It is not anything that I am involved in so I am not adding to their income. But I guess that there are more than enough others who are.

      Like 1
    • Shawn

      Many influencers earn six and seven figure incomes via YouTube revenue, brand deals, and more. It’s a big group and growing fast. There’s huge demand for video content now and the compensation has followed (speaking as a parent of somebody successful in this space).

      Some of the influencers in the automotive space (from repairs to supercar test drives) are really doing well for themselves.

      Like 1
      • Rex Kahrs Member

        It’s interesting that you should mention this, Shawn. My daughter, 26, has been doing the social media influencer thing full time since covid shut down her other job. She made over 100K last year, and got free trips to Coachella and Ibiza off the coast of Spain. She is able to afford a nice apartment on the Upper East Side. It’s a different world.

        Like 1
  5. William Spiegel

    This is Uncle Rico’s van from Napoleon Dynamite!

    Like 14
    • TBAU Member

      “…if only Coach had’ve put me in in the fourth quarter…”

  6. Rw

    That’s a picture of a small block chevy

    Like 13
    • Stephen Mostad Staff

      Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner, folks. I think that’s right, @RW. And @HowardA is absolutely correct: that much room under the hood would surely be a luxury. (P.S. Thank you for “doghouse” I was racking my brain for the term. You and RW both win the internet today!!)

      Like 4
      • Howard A Member

        Hi Stephen, the term “doghouse” comes from the many semi trucks I drove. Many times, like here, half the motor would be in the truck, and the covering resembled a dog house.

        Like 2
      • chrlsful

        and that would be the one “between” the seats. We call this one an ‘engine cover’…
        anyway colloquialism or not dodge had one of the longest running no change body styles ever (sure, ‘face changes’ in there) 1970 – ’03. Was
        premier asa fleet vehicle for commercial, municipal and other uses due to this. Something I wish we had today (stock shelves, have wrecks to glean prts from ‘out the back yard’, etc). Crown Vic was there for awhile too.

        Like 1
  7. Connecticut mark

    Engine has air conditioner, interior does not.

    Like 3
    • Troy

      Small AC unit next to the fridge works and vents with the fridge the heater is below the sink

    • Ffred

      The engine picture is a truck. The give-away? a firewall.

      Like 1
    • Bill McCoskey Bill McCoskey Member

      While this van was fitted with an aftermarket A/C unit, probably added during the camper conversion, it’s gone now. I can see the added condenser in front of the radiator, but factory A/C has 4 round vents across the dash just above the engine cover. The vents stick out just far enough to make it a tight squeeze to remove the engine cover. I know because I’ve had 2 of them with factory A/C.

      The typical aftermarket A/C unit requires the center portion of the metal dash panel to be cut away and a new molded plastic panel installed to handle the air vents and the HVAC controls. They also have a provision for the radio installation.

      Note the black vinyl fabric cover over the center part of the dash. I’m predicting if that cover is lifted up there will be a big square hole in the dash where the original aftermarket A/C unit was fitted. Everyone of those aftermarket A/C units I’ve seen over the years looked like hack jobs, and quite tacky. They literally cut a big piece out of the padded dashboard top too, and screwed the new cover right over the padded part. That’s why it looks strange today. The fans were also quite noisy, and on high fan it made conversations difficult!

      Like 1
  8. Terrry

    Too much clear lacquer and not enough info for my taste, such as the engine and how did the driver door get damaged.. This van could have had a 318, a 340 or even (though probably not) a 440.

    Like 1
    • DON

      Only if someone put a 340 in it ; the 340 was a performance engine only and was not available in most cars and not in any truck

  9. RMac

    My older brother had a 71 dodge with a Turtle Top conversion when he first got it it was under powered and the 318 burned a valve we put in better heads and cam Eddie rock intake Holley 4 barrel and headers and it the ram great he took it on a 6 month trip of all lower 48 states then sold it and bought a 73 Monte carlo

    Like 1
  10. George Birth

    Only problem I can see with this one, is there seems to be no place to sleep.

    • xrotaryguy

      The table (couch) folds out and there’s a (claustrophobic) bed in the top too.

  11. xrotaryguy

    I had a dodge camper similar to this one and the stability was marginal. Yes, semis threatened to blow you off the road. Be ready for it! Having the right tires makes a huge difference!

    I had an old Ford like this as well. It’s stability was lethal! I sold it pretty quick. No more twin I-beam front suspension for me! Not on a tall van anyway!

    Like 1
  12. George

    Love it! All it is missing is a “tuff” (steering) wheel.

    • George

      360 Cu. In was available (Canada) in ’71. We had two new Polaras where I worked.

  13. Bellingham Fred

    Maybe the headline should be “Get into Dodge”.

    Like 1
  14. bull

    Chevrolet engine.

    That’s a trick!!

    Like 1

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