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The Dodge B-Series was a full-size van marketed under the Dodge brand by the Chrysler Corporation (1971–
Classic Cars 031

2nd Generation Dodge Ram Van

1998) and later DaimlerChrysler (1998–2003). Starting in 1981, the B-Series was sold as the Dodge Ram Van; the passenger variant was known as the Dodge Ram Wagon.

DaimlerChrysler discontinued production of the Ram Van and Ram Wagon after more than 30 years of production following the 2003 model year, replacing them with the Dodge Sprinter.


History

Built on the B platform (later AB), the full-size vans entered production for the 1970 model year. At the time, the cargo vans were marketed as the Dodge Tradesman and the passenger vans were called the Dodge Sportsman. The Ram nameplate replaced both previous names in 1981, changing to Ram Van and Ram Wagon respectively. Due to a one-welded-piece "Uniframe" design, the Dodge platform was lighter and stronger than the competition, at the expense of NVH, the resulting lower center of gravity improved handling versus the competing products. The B-series van was popular for cab-over motorhome conversion until Chrysler Corporation's egress from that market during their bankruptcy proceedings in the 1970s.

All generations of the B-series van feature similar construction, with only small variation from era to era. The most pronounced changes were to the front fenders, hood, grille, and bumpers, which tended to follow their full-size truck counterparts in each era, much of this was a result of the need to meet Federal "crashworthiness" standards. Additionally, the first generation's side door was mounted back several inches, using a fixed panel between the passenger's side front door and the side door, allowing for more access to the side door without interfering with the front passenger's seat. This panel was eliminated in 1978 which was a transitional year for the B-series van. Similar construction for the entire 32 years of production made the Dodge Van very popular with upbuilders, service companies, and other fleets due to the compatibility of installable options from year to year without necessitating a redesign.

Dodge first pioneered the extended-rear 15-passenger van favored by school and church groups and dominated it until overtaken by Ford in the 1990s.It offered a sliding side door, and also a unique side-swinging tail door with a full-width window.

It was also popular in class-C RV and ambulance conversions. The minivan, perfected by Chrysler, eventually took over the passenger wagon market. With the Sprinter, Chrysler basically abandoned American-style full-sized vans in favor of smaller, more fuel efficient European-style models.

The B-series van was available with nearly every engine used in a rear-wheel-drive Chrysler product during its production. Six-cylinder engines included the 225 in3 Slant Six I6 (1971–1987), the 3.9 L LA V6 (1988–1991), and the 3.9 L Magnum V6 (1992–2003). Small-block V8 engines included the LA-series 318 (1971–1991), 360 in3 (1972–1992), the Magnum 5.2 L (1992–2003), and the Magnum 5.9 L (1993–2003). Big-block V8 engines were the 400 in3 and 440 in3 (1976–1978). Certain model years came with an optional 5.2-liter engine utilizing Compressed Natural Gas, with a range of up to 300 miles (480 km) on a full tank, and CNG-powered Ram Vans were classified as an Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle in 1999.

Dodge was the last of the four major full-size van makers to market a short-wheelbase van and passenger wagon. The rest of the Big Three took their shortest full-size vans off the market early in the 1990s.

DaimlerChrysler discontinued production of the Ram Van and Ram Wagon after the 2003 model year, replacing them with the M-B-based Dodge Sprinter.

Branding

For the first eight model years, the different configurations were given names. Sportsman passenger vans had side windows and passenger seating not present in the otherwise identical Tradesman models. These vans were also marketed as Plymouth Voyagers prior to the 1984 application of the Voyager name to Plymouth's new minivan, as well under the "Fargo" name in Canada in 1971–72. The same range of gasoline-powered slant-6 and V8 engines was offered in these vans as was offered in the Dodge D Series pickup truck.

The Sportsman, Tradesman, and Adventurer names were phased out after 1980, replaced with simple B-series identifiers. As with the D-series trucks, B100 and B150 models were 1/2-ton rated, B250 models were 3/4-ton, and B350s were one-ton. Over the 31-year production run of these vans, the front-end styling was given two major and four minor updates, with the engine being moved successively forward under longer hoods, while the rear-end styling was revised three times. However, the body shell and most fixtures would be one of the longest running of any US vehicle, remaining nearly identical from the vans' introduction in 1971 through their discontinuance in 2003, while Ford and GM would go through two or three generation platform redesigns. In the 1980s, the Dodge vans were the only ones to feature rear quarter glass that wrapped around to the rear of the van, which reduced the driver's blind spots compared to the Ford and GM vans.

Little changed on Dodge vans produced between 1971 and 1977, with only minor styling changes to the grille area. 1979 was the first year for what is referred to as the "late" Dodge van. It was the biggest single change in the van's 31 year run. While the power train remained largely unchanged, the front end styling and interior were changed significantly. 1978 was a transition year for B series vans and contained styling cues from 1977-earlier, most notably the nose. 1978 model year vans have interiors that are more similar to 1979 and later vans.

In the late 1970s, Chrysler marketed the Dodge Ram Van in their lineup of "Adult Toys", along with the D-Series-based Dodge Warlock, Dodge Lil' Red Express Truck, and Dodge Macho Power Wagon, plus the Dodge Macho Ramcharger.

Plymouth received a rebadged variant of the Sportsman, called the Voyager for the 1974 model year. While never as popular as the Dodge version, Plymouth marketed the Voyager in this format through 1983, after which the nameplate was transferred to the new minivan that was introduced for 1984 as a rebadged Dodge Caravan.

Street Van

Dodge vans, particularly Tradesman vans from the 1971–1977 model years, were very popular as the basis for many custom vans during the custom van craze that occurred during the mid to late 70s and early 80s. Dodge capitalized on this craze, creating a factory customization package called the "Street Van" package. This was advertised alongside the Lil' Red Express and Warlock trucks as "Adult Toys". The Street Van package consisted of a "Street Van" logo on the passenger and driver's side door in lieu of the Tradesman logos, chrome trim on the grille and windshield, simulated wood grain inlays in the steering wheel horn cover and passenger side glare shield, five slot chrome wheels or white spoked "off-road" type wheels, chrome front and rear bumpers, chrome trim on the gauges, smaller chrome side view mirrors, patterns and plans to create custom interiors, and membership in the "Dodge Van Clan". This package was available from the 1976 model year until it was discontinued in the early '80s. This was not an overly popular option from the factory, and Street Vans are somewhat rare. The chrome metal Street Van emblems found on later Street Vans (emblems through mid-1978 were stickers) in good shape are quite valuable to collectors or restorers.

Gallery

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