Keep On Vannin’! 1983 Dodge Ram Van

Many of our readers remember the days when vans were the hot ticket – Chrome rims and thick-pile shag carpet were king! This van, while not as wild as some we’ve seen over the years, fits the bill nonetheless. It’s for sale right now here on eBay out of Ocean View, New Jersey and asking $3,500

Vans started out as utilitarian vehicles, eventually being converted for all sorts of other extracurricular uses, not least of which was (and still is) a blank canvas for some of the most impressive RVs, dragstrip burners, and far-out customs that the world has ever known. As for the beginning of the van craze itself, I don’t know if anyone can pinpoint one date or one van that set it all off. The early-to-mid 1970s is the generally-accepted timeframe, though, and it peaked sometime in 1977 with the low-budget film “The Van“, including such names as Danny DeVito, Stuart Goetz, and Deborah White. In many cases, enthusiasts on a lower budget just did appearance mods and simple interior touches, like Captain’s chairs, Cragar S/S or Keystone mags, chain-link steering wheels, and a CB radio. Those with more means would be seen with all of the above and custom airbrushed murals, wild metal flake paint, full shag carpet or full-custom interiors, high-power Stereo or Quadraphonic audio systems, crazy engine upgrades and risqué nicknames that we wouldn’t want to repeat in polite company.

This particular one is very tame, having only wheels and full interior shag-and-paneling treatment, with table and seating in the back. Being a 1983, it would have come at the tail end of the fad but would have been appreciated nonetheless. The seller tells us that it runs and drives, being the standard “shorty” body with a slant-6 engine and 4-speed manual gearbox. We aren’t given any pictures of the engine, however, we are told that the carburetor, brakes, battery, and starter have been replaced. It apparently has rust, which is to be expected in this region of the country.

Vanning is not completely dead, there are a handful of original Vanner groups still around. In fact, some still meet up, and some have slowly joined the Digital Age on websites like Vanning.com or Rolling Heavy and multiple Facebook groups. You can see a sampling of some of the originals here on Team Jimmy Joe. More interestingly, there are also a handful of younger people bringing them back, albeit in a small way, to the scene. Groups like The Vandoleros in Southern California, for instance, were featured in the New York Times back in 2015. Ben Vasquez of the Vandoleros said in the Times article: ” I want people to compare my van to that GTO,” he said. “I’ll totally keep up with it. These vans probably go just as fast, but you can’t paint a desert mural on a GTO.”

All that said, what do you think of this van, or of Vanning? Do you think you’d like to get into something like this? Do you have a story from back in those days that you’d like to share with us? We’d like to hear it!

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Comments

  1. Howard A

    What do mean, “were”? Still the hot ticket. I’m looking for one right now for a friend. I think as most motorhomes and travel trailers( and the 4 door pickup to pull them) prices skyrocket out of control, a simple van like this is just the thing. Dodge was the best. Slanty with a 4 speed , while a bit hard to work on, is a great combination. 1st thing to go is that carpeting, I’m sure it smells of 35 years of “history”, not sure if the table drops down for a bed, easy fix, and unless the stick is a problem, very few had the 4 speed, you simply can’t go wrong here.
    BTW, Russel, out on thin ice asking for “van” stories,, :)

    18
  2. BillM

    Always thought they were cool. With that carpet though, looking all original, I can’t imagine the smell of the inside at this point.

    6
  3. Jay

    DNA not sold separately…. Keep the blue light far away from this van. I still LOVE IT though.

    7
  4. daCabbie

    Do you have a story from back in those days that you’d like to share with us?

    No… because the statute of limitations hasn’t run out yet.

    These vans were built for three of the most desirable things in life… sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.

    I’d buy it but it’s missing the original mirrored disco ball… that’s a deal breaker.

    10
  5. Miguel Member

    I have driven one of these with the floor shift, and it is a very awkward shifting position.

    I am not sure I would want another one.

  6. bigdoc Member

    Don’t like the 4 speed as much as I really liked my Dodge Van Auto with a 318. The stories will remain fond memories very fond memories.

    3
    • r s

      My brother bought a new 75 Tradesman 200 van for his small business, had a 318 and Torqueflite and drove very nice and was reasonably peppy. I’d take it over the 4 speed any time.

      At the same time I had a new Ford E300 with the 300-6 and a three speed on the column, also a 4.10 rear end. My brother’s Dodge would easily leave it behind.

  7. the one

    Shagadellic baby, yeah..

    Austin Powers

    3
  8. Terry Bowman

    I have my stories with my 72′ Dodge Sportsman Van, bought new in high school. Had a difficult time dating when the parents found out I had a Van.

    1
    • Dave

      Funny thing, that. If you had a pickup truck they loved you because you could haul stuff but you could haul just as much with a van.

  9. Richard j Martin Member

    I had a 75 shorty, with a 225 slanty & auto. I had headers and side pipes put on, and everybody told me that it sounded like a VW van.

    1
  10. Brian Scott

    Get in, turn the key, and listen carefully as the subliminal message says- ROAD TRIP. Back in the day I took a couple of trips in the uncle’s really nice Dodge van, and man, did that make the trip enjoyable!

  11. the one

    So, my Dad in the early 70s had bought a ’65 dodge 200 with the camping option from our next door neighbor. The canvas was gone so my Dad, jack of all trades, made a fiberglass top. It was tall enuf to stand up inside, It also came with 2 canvas hammocks, ice box, sink fold down back seat etc..So, we used it in our appliance repair business. I was a musician at that time and would occasionally use it to haul equipment, but not too often. Fond memories of Lisa, super cute blond.. I mean SUPER CUTE Dang!
    OK carburetor head time.This van was equipped with a 273 2bbl 727
    Turky Flight and 3:55 8/3/4 posi rear end. We were building a 1965 Valiant 2dr post 6 cyl We stuffed a ’70 340 and a ’63 727 with 83/4 3:23 posi. We exchanged the 3rd members only.our Dad was cool with it , better mileage y’know. 13:40s 105 mph street trim

    3
  12. Dave

    The van craze predated the 4×4 craze by a few years. The “Chevy Van” song from 1975 did for vanning what “Convoy” did for CB radio…made it mainstream.

    “Conversion vans” were sold by the boatload. There were even 4×4 dealer conversions. As their owners settled down vans became more family friendly.

    Then, in 1984, Lee Iacocca shocked the car world with the introduction of the new Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, called “minivans”. They rode better and got better mileage than the truck-based vans and could fit in most garages.

    We bought a new 1988 Caravan, and suddenly the vacation drive to Myrtle Beach stopped being the Iron Butt event it had been in our 1982 Rabbit. They became the butt of the “soccer mom” jokes but the joke was on them.

    Today, our kids have their own families. My oldest owns two minivans. My youngest just became a dad and is drifting towards a new minivan. My wife and I own two Jeep Patriots and getting four adults, a child seat, and everything else that you need for a newborn baby in is a challenge.

    She doesn’t want to admit it, but we need a minivan.

    1
  13. John C.

    My friend had one of these dodge vans back in the day, although his was kinda plain and used for hauling things he did have a 4×8 sheet of plywood hidden away with thick carpet attached to it that he could slide right into the van for “Certain” occasions! If you know what I mean.

  14. beerzie

    I bought this van yesterday afternoon. I’ve been a vanner for years….the “lifestyle” is still alive and well. The fellow I bought this from said his first couple of interests came from local “kids”! I had one just like it way back….here’s a picture of me and my original ’81 with the 4 speed trans. Happy as a clam to have another go round with the slant six manual trans. I had my last girl for 35 years and recently let it go. See the pix of the 66 Chevy 4×4. I promise to take care of this survivor.

    5
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      You have chosen wisely beerzie! Enjoy!

      1
    • beerzie

      Here’s my earlier van (my second). This is a unique opportunity for a re-do for me. It’s a lucky find…Shawn kept it safe…I’ll take it from here. Here’s my first from the early 80’s (me and my dog).

      1
  15. Terry Bowman

    Yes, enjoy, as I did for 35 years. Only drawback I had was the AC was not enough to keep the van cool during the day. When I was just a kid the heat didn’t bother me, but as I aged, it did. My regret was I bought a new Dodge Ram truck because of the AC, parked the Van and it rotted. :( Lots of GOOD Life time memories.

    1
  16. Keith Hall

    I started building custom vans back in 1974, last one had dual sunroofs,gullwing doors,bar,sink, stove, icebox, furnace,bed, curved loveseat,hot 350cu. 400 turbo,headers, 12bolt posi, vinyl top, etc. All in a 1968 GMC, plenty of women. Pretty good for a black kid from the south side of Chicago!

    1
  17. Duaney Member

    No one mentioned the New Jersey rust?

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