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Potential Custom Van: 1977 Dodge Tradesman B200

If you grew up during the seventies or eighties like I did, there’s a good chance you went through the wanting a custom van stage.  For me, the interest began when my high school principal bought a Chevy van a few years old and added his personal touches a little at a time until it finally looked completely different than the base model it started out as.  This 1977 Dodge Tradesman B200 here on eBay isn’t showing very much uniqueness yet, so if you’ve got some fun ideas this one might make a decent blank slate to start with.  The van is in Calhan, Colorado, with the seller hoping for $5,500 but he’s also giving potential buyers the option to submit an offer.

As with most vehicles, this one’s got some pluses and minuses, with one negative right off the bat being there’s no engine or transmission.  Some potentially good news is the owner has a 318 block and some other parts to go inside, so if you’re feeling a powerplant of this size that’s one route to consider.  But as with any custom project, the next owner may want something else and might choose a different drivetrain.

Even though the seller doesn’t provide a whole lot of background information here, he does say the Dodge was purchased new in Reno, Nevada, and the outside has one of those desert-type patinas, so if you like the baked-on finish appearance one option is to just leave it and consider this your custom paint job.  The rear doors have been replaced with no explanation as to why, but some other doors will be included though no photos are provided.

The only stated corroded area is the battery box, with just surface rust present on the body and platform from what I can tell.  It’s also probably good that the factory shag carpeting has been removed, assuring us no hidden surprises can be found underneath those coverings as things inside are looking solid, ready for whatever the next owner can dream up to put in there.  The dash has also been removed with the key still in the ignition, but other than being taken off it’s said to have not been tampered with, so hopefully it’s still usable.

It’s a given there’s a lot of work to be done before a personalized dream will be realized here, including finding a suitable engine and transmission.  But just the fact that this one’s not been exposed to many harsh elements over the decades gives it an advantage in that not very many metal repairs will be needed and the builder will be more able to focus on ideas rather than addressing a lot of rust issues.  Do you think this 1977 Dodge Tradesman B200 is a good starting point to make a cool custom van out of?


  1. Avatar photo JustPassinThru

    I hate to say it…but, while it’s a good starting point for a custom van-life build…there’s not $5k in value here.

    In 1996, living in Denver, I bought one, nearly-identical but running, for $200. Yeah, I know, prices have gone up; but at some point, you have to say, it’s just not adding up.

    Like 33
    • Avatar photo AnnasBigBananas

      and there’s still places left in America where a loaf a bread is still only a quarter! Yep!

      Like 1
      • Avatar photo MTBorst

        Maybe I can get you to buy my 96 Chevy 4×4 with 448,000 miles. At least it runs , brakes are great, new front axles, water pump & alternator

        Like 0
  2. Avatar photo Yblocker

    Kinda strange, the data plate says Fargo DeSoto, I’m not sure about Fargo, but DeSoto was long gone by 77. And what’s with the alleged factory shag interior, non window vans were typically bare bones on the inside. I’m not sure about the price, not really into vans, but it looks to be straight and solid, not sure why the dash is laying on the floor. But this was the best looking generation of Dodge vans, the later ones got homely

    Like 8
    • Avatar photo JustPassinThru

      Fargo and DeSoto lived on outside the US (Fargo in Canada; not sure where DeSoto was used). I suspect this van was built in Canada, and that serial tag (which had all the names Chrysler trucks were sold under) probably used in Canadian manufacture.

      The title shows it as a Dodge. I didn’t check the VIN against the tag, but that should be easy for a potential buyer to do. I wouldn’t be concerned.

      Like 1
      • Avatar photo Terry

        I bought a 72′ Dodge B-300, Sportsman Royal, Maxi, New in 72′ and the VIN says it’s a station Wagen. Many of the Dodge Vans back in the day, had secondary names added. Sportsman, “Streat Van”, and I think I seen a “Groovy”, Camper Special and just called a Sportsman, to name a few. The Tradesman, could of been called a “Fargo”, being a hauler or work van.

        Like 3
  3. Avatar photo John Spottswood

    I too love vans! Especially the cab over style that Dodge, Ford and Chevy built. Those were just cool for words! I might add that VW bus was a fun ( under powered but fun) . I have seen many vans in quite a bit better shape than this one. The body is the style we all liked in the 70’s and 80’s no windows, just customizable space! However, the no motor and no trans is a huge subtraction in my book. My opinion is maybe a $800.00 vehicle if it has a clear title!

    Like 9
  4. Avatar photo Matthew Dyer

    Sometimes the fish bite and sometimes they don’t. Best of luck to the angler.

    Like 7
    • Avatar photo Yblocker

      Except for suckers, they always bite lol

      Like 2
  5. Avatar photo pwtiger

    Seems to me that this short wheelbase would be a B100, the longer wheelbase would be a B200, the Maxi, longer body, a B300

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo Yblocker

      That number referred to gvw, not wheel base

      Like 11
  6. Avatar photo Troy

    Put a Hell cat power plant in it fix the inside and have fun

    Like 6
  7. Avatar photo Russ Ashley

    I like it, wish I had the energy to take on another project. In my opinion his price is about right considering the lack of serious rust and no accident damage, and a clear title. I think this van was customized at some point as I’ve never seen one like this with factory carpet on the walls. I think I would put a later model 360 with fuel injection in it if I were doing it. I’ve had two short Dodge vans like this and enjoyed both of them, so good luck to both buyer and seller.

    Like 6
  8. Avatar photo Mike

    Judging from the interior, this van will not be “a rockin'” any time soon, so feel free to knock.

    Like 9
  9. Avatar photo Zen

    I think the price is reasonable. Try finding one of these that isn’t hopelessly rotted. I think they rusted the first time it was damp out, let alone the first time it was out in the rain.

    Like 3
  10. Avatar photo Scrapyard john

    A few short years ago, you couldn’t have given this thing away. I bought an 80’s era Dodge van a few years ago at the scrap yard. Full size van, but it had some sort of V6 and a non heavy duty manual trans. It also had some sort of appearance package with factory decals. “Sport Van” or something like that, I don’t recall for certain. It seemed like an odd bird. The lady who drove it in and sold it was definitely an odd bird. Both smoked like a chimney. I couldn’t resist driving it around the back side of town a bit before we crushed it.

    Like 2
  11. Avatar photo stillrunners Member

    It’s on the high side – I have the same van with a 318/3 on the tree runs and yard drives with all factory panels with the orginal paint. Just think that’s allful high of a starting point with the color funnies going on.

    Like 4
  12. Avatar photo HoA Member

    Boy, I’d love to see the “dream cloud” of most of the posters here. I suppose the priceless comments will have to do. Lucky is the person that can take it from there. We lived it. I’m not sure it could even be explained, everything a custom van incorporated then is either illegal or immoral today, but by golly, we sure pushed it. Windowless vans ( I think the window back doors were changed to windowless at some point) were the staple of the service industry. Most took a beating, but sold at municipal auctions for peanuts. $500 tops, and only shows to go, the imagination some folks had, to turn this into the beautiful custom vans, each with their own style. A CB radio was mandatory. I don’t think anything like that ever existed, or ever will again. Great find, and go nuts, the sky is apparently the limit.

    Like 5
  13. Avatar photo Chris Cornetto

    Clairese, have the lambs quieted?….

    Like 4
  14. Avatar photo Yblocker

    The van is in Colorado, of course there’s some good dope. Although most people in Colorado don’t really need it, they’re already “out there” lol

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Mike F.

      Sort of typical uninformed opinion of Colorado. Calhan, out east of Colorado Springs, is a very conservative area. There’s more likely to be beer and spirits than anything else. People get stuck on the idea that Boulder represents all of Colorado. As for this van, yeah, it’s overpriced.

      Like 2
  15. Avatar photo johnmloghry

    I had one of these given to me minus engine back in the mid 80’s. It had a big square hole cut in the roof apparently to hold a overhead a/c unit. I put a junck yard 318 in it and drove it for a couple years. It was 2 tone Gold over white. I sold it to a body man who did extensive work on it and changed to color to brown. You can keep this one. It has little value as far as I’m concerned.

    God Bless America

    Like 2
  16. Avatar photo Steve

    In 1976 I ordered a new Maxi van with a 440 engine, and custom murals on both sides (added at the dealer, was the popular thing at the time). It would run 120 which was pretty darn good for that big ole barn.

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo Terry Bowman

      I put a 340 in mine. It would bury the 120 speedometer, but shook like hell doing it. Had lots of fun with that van. B300 with the Dana rear 355 gear, that I installed.

      Like 1
      • Avatar photo Ridiculous Nonsense

        I had one and regularly outraced mustangs, corvettes, porsches and state troopers.

        Like 1
  17. Avatar photo 59poncho

    Drove one as a kid on the job delivering typewriters, remember those?
    Mine I think was a 100 but shorty 225 with a tree speed.
    In first gear getting on and off the gas, you could make thing hop! If the front wheels didn’t leave the ground it was damn close. A lot of abusive miles on that thing and it never once let me down. Don H are you reading this lol?

    Like 1
  18. Avatar photo Rick

    I drive the same van everyday for work still…

    Like 0
  19. Avatar photo Robert Levins

    “Tradesman” was a working van and generally had only 2 – front seats. “Sportsman “ was for leisure/ fishing/ taking a whole bunch of kids around to various outings. 100-200-300 numbering references was the “gross vehicle weight “ or carrying capacity of the van. The “Shorty Vans” are MY favorite and probably a lot of other people’s favorites too. This van has a lot of potential – for sure. However, for me, I think this one is too far “disassembled “for the money. PUT IN A 318ci “high compression “ engine and a “Torque Flight “ transmission – RUNNING OF COURSE, and I’ll give you $5,000.00 – or so……. Nice article.

    Like 1
  20. Avatar photo AnnasBigBananas

    Hmmmm…close my eyes and imagine my toy hauler. Plum Crazy with a mild 383, sitting on ’70 rally wheels, wrapped in vintage fat T/As!!!

    Like 1
  21. Avatar photo AnnasBigBananas

    and where is a loaf of bread only a quarter in America today?

    Like 0
  22. Avatar photo Terry

    I just took a 2nd look at the van. The rear doors are from a newer van, no mirrors, antenna is broke, and the wheels are from a car a believe. The bumper is from a Sportsman Van, being chrome. If it was a added option, I believe the taillights, would also have the chrome surrounds and tag light chrome. I am surprise to see the ceiling insulation, that appears factory installed. That came with the inside panels on the Sportsmans.

    Like 0

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