Classic van style

I’m looking at the old school style van and was wondering anyone’s opinion on which ones have been the best in statistics. I am doing a serious vehicle search this fall/winter.

I’ve read some are better pre-catalytic converter, some have transmission issues, etc. I’m wanting the high top version if possible. I like the ones w the storage cubbies along the top but can always make my own. I also wonder if the wheelchair version has a beefier suspension for dealing with the added weight of the chair lift and chairs it may carry. Would these be a good option as I see that they are hightops but are not built out in the warm, homey manner some others are. There are the family versions and there’s the school versions. I’m assuming the school version must have better mechanical components as these are used heavier than the family ones…thoughts??

Thanks for the words of wisdom :wink:


Over the years I’ve had many rigs ranging from new, and newish, to old. I keep returning to the 70’s-80’s Dodges, either vans or motorhomes. They have been the best to me, plain and simple. They drive the best, and are the most reliable, and require the least amount of maintenance.

My current 1973 Dodge Travco high top camper van is approaching 500k trouble free miles on the original engine, transmission, and rear end. It did have points originally so I added a points eliminator kit, and I also added a fuel pressure regulator. Over the last 11 years I’ve been living in it, I’ve done typical maintenance like new shocks, new brakes, new tires, new ball joints & tie rod ends, new belts and hoses etc. Just the typical things every vehicle needs eventually. In return, I have a reliable camper van that never breaks down, and drives like a dream.

In the 70’s, a lot of the motorhomes, especially the Class C’s had the Dodge drivetrains, and there’s still a ton of them available today, because you just can’t kill them. The prices on these old Dodge’s is going up due to the high demand for them, but good deals can still be found. Parts are easy to find and cheap, and any mechanic worth a darn knows how to work on them. They’re simple and reliable.

My van had been gutted when I bought it for $700, but it was mechanically sound. I spent about ~$300 on it to turn it back into a full featured, comfortable camper van, that I’ve been living happily in for the last 11 years. It has allowed me to explore the country and enjoy my life very cheaply. I have all the amenities of a much larger and much more expensive motorhome, just in a smaller package that can be parked in any normal parking space.

Starting in the 80’s during the Reagon administration, corporate greed became more important than quality or safety, and the quality of cars started going downhill. It didn’t hit the vans until the 90’s though, and that’s when engine and transmission problems really began to rear their ugly head. That trend continues through today, and the big dependable American vans are becoming a thing of the past, and demand for them keeps growing. The American auto industry has been heading in the wrong direction for many years now, and just like everything else, corporate greed is running rampant, while quality, customer service, and customer satisfaction are quickly becoming distant memories.

Many mechanics love the newer vehicles because they break down more often, and need more frequent & more expensive repairs. Today, Toyota & Subaru are the only manufacturers where quality, reliability, and durability are still important. Unfortunately, in the USA they don’t sell either their Kei lines, or their bigger vehicles like vans and buses that are available elsewhere.

What we need is a new industrial revolution that focuses on quality, durabilty, escaping fossil fuels, and actually fulfilling our needs instead of perpetuating corporate greed, where we have to just settle for what they choose to make available to us. There are far better technologies available than they choose to let us take advantage of. Technologies which could put the major utilities out of business, and save everybody a ton of money in the process. Imagine if we could use hydrogen as our main fuel source, extracted from water, and extremely cheap. The exhaust from our vehicles would be water vapor instead of harmful pollutants, and we could fuel our cars with water instead of gas or diesel. The technologies are there, but the powers that be keep them buried and beyond our reach. Simply not enough money in it for big business. Instead they would rather sell us solar panels for a purpose they were never designed for.


"Always avoid expensive solutions to cheap problems." ~ OffGrid


I agree with most of your statements above, including the corporate greed and getting away from fossil fuels. But I really think electric is the way to go rather than hydrogen. Hydrogen introduces a middle-man, the hydrogen suppliers, while electric eliminates the middle-men. There are only a couple ways to produce hydrogen, the most common resulting in pollution - might as well run piston vehicles on natural gas since that’s what they make hydrogen from. Same end result. And with hydrogen fuel cells, the technology they’re pushing now, it does the same exact thing that a battery does - pushes electrons to turn an electric motor! Why not simply use a battery? There are many ways to generate electricity, most of them clean and carbon-free, but only a few ways to produce hydrogen, all requiring energy, and all of them requiring consumers to buy it from a supplier who makes a profit.

Battery technology is getting better every year, and if manufacturers standardized battery packs to be useable in any car, they could be swapped for charged batteries in a matter of minutes. Instead of charge stations. Battery swapping has already been tested with commercial fleets and is proven to work. Average swap time less than two minutes. It takes longer to fill a gas tank. One study concluded that building a battery swap station costs about half of what a new gas station would cost, and there’s no environmental downside that gas stations have.

I’m a hydrogeologist and spent four months in Maryland and New York City drilling gas stations for environmental assessments (required for selling the properties; a large corporation was letting go of their retail gas stations). Out of the 50 that I investigated, only one was clean - the rest had leaks in the past or were currently leaking. The one that was clean was a brand new gas station that opened only two weeks prior. I’m sure it’s leaking by now.

Electric cars can be sold without a battery, and the battery leased. This would solve several problems:

  1. Without a battery the cost of the car would be far less than a comparable ICE vehicle.
  2. With battery tech improving over time, you might buy a 200 mile car today, but you might end up with a 400 mile car 5 or 10 years from now; same car, but better battery.
  3. No anxiety about batteries wearing out prematurely (making the car almost worthless). Electric cars have very few moving parts, which means they should last many decades and many more miles than ICE vehicles as long as fresh batteries can be swapped in.
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If you buy older, then buy older. Don’t buy something towards the end of carburetors / beginning of fuel injection. (Early 80’s). Those years in my experience have vacuum systems that are overly complex to deal with emissions standards at the time. Parts for these systems are harder to find than others and they may not be documented at all. Sometimes it’s just a sticker under the hood, which could be gone after 40 years. IMO buy before 79 or after 85, not in the middle.


  • Re: Hydrogen vs. Battery

Hydrogen can be used in internal combustion engines to produce hydrogen, so no pollution.

We make the hydrogen on the fly, filling our tanks with water. No middlemen.

With batteries, there is still a middleman, and making batteries creates a ton of pollution.

  • Re: Carburetors

The Dodges I’ve had up until the 90’s still had a normal carburetor. So far I’ve had better luck with carburetors than with throttle body or fuel injection. The 2003 Chevy Express I had needed new fuel injectors & bunch of other stuff, totaling nearly $10k at only 83k miles. Fleet maintained with impeccable service records my foot. Lies, all lies. The mechanic said he didn’t think even the oil had ever been changed since it was new, and that was pretty common on fleet vehicles. Just band-aid them to keep them on the road.


"Always avoid expensive solutions to cheap problems." ~ OffGrid

Takes a lot of electricity to make enough hydrogen from water to fuel a vehicle. A lot more than you can produce on the road. Production+compression, etc. makes it far more expensive per mile than simply charging a battery.

I know you want to keep driving that old Dodge, but…



I thought I’ve seen hydrogen generators that were no bigger than a desktop computer tower, and read that splitting the hydrogen from water produced a much higher volume of hydrogen than the water itself.

I once saw a show on TV about how they were creating and using hydrogen way back in the days of Archimedes, or before. Can’t remember exactly, but ancient times. That would have been before electricity as we know it, or ICE’s. There must have been some simple method… I think they called it “Fire Water” and their hieroglyphs or petroglyphs, or whatever you call them were depicting it and possibly describing it. Anyway, they used it as a fuel.

I don’t remember what the series was called, but it was all about ancient technologies and inventions…


"Always avoid expensive solutions to cheap problems." ~ OffGrid

The bottom line about hydrogen is that it’s far more expensive per mile than an EV using batteries. Hydrogen is also more expensive per mile than using gasoline. Battery-electric is a fraction of the cost per mile when compared to using gasoline. A small car such as a Chevy Bolt EV gets the equivalent of about 125 miles per gallon. Hydrogen gets the equivalent of about 15 miles per gallon in the same car (replace the battery with a hydrogen fuel cell).

Don’t believe the hydrogen promoters!


I’m going to start a new thread on this subject, because I’m very interested.

Don’t worry about me listening to promoters, I hate them all…


"Always avoid expensive solutions to cheap problems." ~ OffGrid