Booster Masthead

Restoration Blvd.
February 2005

Columnist — Allen Wright

A Tale of Vans, Station Wagons, Pickup Trucks and Farm Animals

Happy New Year! 2005 is here and, according to the Chinese, it is the year of the Rooster.

This may also be the year that I replace my 1997 Dodge van with another vehicle.

A little history of my daily drivers: prior to the Dodge was a Chevy van. It gave me 210,000 miles of pretty good service before it was sold and shipped to Mexico.

Before that I had a Ford Van, an Econoline. It is unclear how many miles were on the Ford as the speedometer stopped working in 1979 and was never repaired. The Ford van had a small V-8 with a two-barrel carburetor and absolutely no power.

Recently I ended up with an automatic PT Cruiser from a rental car company. It had about the same power as the old Ford for the road. You would step on the accelerator and nothing would happen.

The Ford van was not a custom conversion, unlike the Chevy and the Dodge. The old Ford had a used love seat and couch hooked to the plywood floor with hooks from the hardware store. Both the love seat and couch could be removed for hauling engines, transmissions, and other large items. It was great for camping at Lake Mead outside of Las Vegas.

In its last years, the Ford always got me to my destination and back. It just looked horrible and my neighbors were quite happy when I sold it for $300.

At the L.A. Auto Show this year only two full-size vans were shown: the Ford Econoline E-150 and the GMC 2500 series.

The E-series commercial vans come in three categories: E-150, E-250, and E-350. All three can be purchased with 5.4 liter Triton V-8 engines with 255 horsepower.

The E-series wagon series has an E-150 XL, E-150 XLT, and E-150 Chateau as well as an E-350 series with the same XL, XLT and Chateau that Ford calls Super Duty.

If I keep up my affection for vans, it will probably be a Ford again. Dodge, it appears, is out of the 1/2 ton and 3/4 ton van business and GMC really looks like they have a limited offering.

It looks like the full-size van business has dried up like the station wagons.

Do you remember the full-size station wagons? I had a 1975 Chevrolet full-size Caprice wagon with a 454 engine. I once took a trip in the Caprice from coast to coast. It was a wonderful car. I spent many a happy night in a sleeping bag in the back of that machine.

Well, it looks like station wagons are back just as vans are leaving.

Looking at station wagons at the L.A. Auto Show, I found several beauties on display. Jaguar has the 2005 X-type 3.0. Mazda is offering a 2005 Mazda 6 sport wagon. Chevy has a Malibu Maxx with 200 horsepower and 6 cylinders, and Dodge has the Dodge Magnum Hemi RT.

The Dodge has my vote with the looks, price, and the 300+ horsepower hemi.

In the late 50's, and all through the '60s and '70s, full-size family wagons were definitely the hot ticket. My Dad ended up with a used '58 Chevrolet Brookwood wagon. It was black in color and had a 283 small block Chevy turbo-fire V-8. Checking my car books, I found the '58 turbo-fire had a whopping 185 horsepower at 4700 rpm.

I remember the '58 Chevy Brookwood, but not for its neck-snapping horsepower. The '64 Impala Dad bought new had a 409 with 400 horsepower. That was neck-snapping.

The '58 station wagon, as I remember, had a light rear end and you had to be careful when rounding turns as the back end would get loose. Like the PT Cruiser and the Ford van, the '58 turbofire was weak on get-up-and-go.

Back to the L.A. Auto Show 2005. Dodge showed their 2005 Sling Shot with a fold away top and, it appears, no luggage space at all. Like the Corvette Sharks prior to 1977 — if you travel in a Sling Shot be prepared to get real creative with packing for a trip.

The luggage racks on the early Sharks came in really handy. Perhaps for an overnight trip a Ralph's or Albertson's grocery bag could be used.

The Sling Shot is cool to look at and, I am sure, fun to drive.

Because of my car trailer, I began to think at the Show about a 4x2 pickup truck instead of a van. The Ford F-150 would probably work for me with a 5.4 Triton V-8 that puts out 300 horsepower and 365 pounds of torque.

Ford's F-150 comes in models XL, STX, XLT, FX4, Lariat, and Lariat King Ranch.

I got a bit confused on the King Ranch. The interior of the Lariat King Ranch includes Castaño leather captain's chairs. All ranches and farms I have ever been to have had old beat-up pickups. I never saw one with Castaño leather seats. The best you got was a bench seat without the padding coming out.

I wasn't really impressed with the Chevy and GMS pick-um-up trucks but the Nissan Titan was surprising. If I would buy today, the Nissan Triton would, I think, be my second choice. Nissan offered almost everything I need at a price that looked attractive.

Buying today, I believe the Dodge 1500 would be my choice for what I need. Just a simple Dodge 1500 Big Horn 4x2 with the 345 horsepower hemi. Dodge has all kinds of 1500 pickups. There is the Rumble Bee, the Daytona with the wing and one called Laramie SLT Quad Cab.

Looking at the hemi motor, I found all the engine compartments had a split radiator and air conditioner set up with two separate electric cooling fans. There is also a huge transmission fluid cooler as well as a power steering fluid cooling system.

I believe when you're maneuvering a trailer your power steering fluid gets pretty hot. In fact, I have gone through two power steering pumps on the '97 Dodge van I now drive.

I believe the Dodge pickup has the following advantages over the competition: 1) a 7-year, 70,000 mile engine warranty; 2) the 345 horsepower hemi for pulling trailers; 3) a no-nonsense interior. In the spring, Lincoln will release their Lincoln Mark LT that has more gadgets including a Homelink Universal Transceiver. Somehow, I just can't picture a pickup truck at a ranch in Arizona with a Homelink Transceiver or Castaño leather interior.

I also don't think you will see the GMC Sierra hybrid pickup on the farm, either.

For me, buying a new vehicle takes months and sometimes years. Chrysler could get my business quickly if they offered their ME 412 prototype with the 365 cubic inch engine for about $20,000. With 850 horsepower and 850 pounds of torque, this is serious stuff: the quarter mile in 10.6 at 142 miles per hour and a top speed of 248 miles per hour.

Maybe I'd better stick with a van or a pickup.

Wishing you and your families the best for the future. Roosters seem to be pretty happy farm animals — unless they smell the Castaño leather around.

Originally published in the February/March 2005 Automotive Booster Magazine.
Copyright 2005 by KAL Publications Inc.

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