At $19,995, Is This 1988 Dodge Ram Surveillance Van a Mysteriously Good Deal?

While painted as the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine, the only real mystery is how this surveillance van came to be in its present form.

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Nice Price or No Dice 1988 Dodge D250 Ram Van
Photo: Craigslist

The whole idea of a radio surveillance vehicle is that it’s supposed to be nondescript, which is something today’s Nice Price or No Dice Dodge is not. Let’s see if we can crack the case on this oddball Ram van and its selling price.

Mercedes-Benz recently announced that, in certain markets, it plans to move its cars and consumer trucks to electric power by the end of the decade. That edict was tempered a bit more recently when a representative revealed that the company has no plan to retire its V8 engines this decade, and if there is demand, AMG will even continue to build them after 2030.

That’s a relief to us petrolheads, but if cars like yesterday’s 2006 Mercedes E55 AMG are still around and in as nice of shape, will it really matter? Our Benz was presented as being in as-new condition, although it had far from as-new miles. That, and a $26,000 asking price didn’t sit too well with many of you, with the result being a 61 percent No Dice loss.

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Going into yesterday’s vote, the results looked like a toss-up. Of course, if the ability to tap your phone lines or intercept your Internet feed were available, we perhaps could have determined what the eventual outcome would be well before the fact. If only there were something like an ex-FBI surveillance van around to assist in such hypothetical endeavors.

Image for article titled At $19,995, Is This 1988 Dodge Ram Surveillance Van a Mysteriously Good Deal?
Photo: Craigslist
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This 1988 Dodge Ram B250 is advertised as an ex-FBI surveillance van.

For whatever reason, it’s also dressed up to look like the Mystery Machine from the beloved Saturday morning cartoon show, Scooby Doo, Where Are You! That show was a formative icon for many a tween male, as debates raged across middle school lunch courts and PE classes over whether Velma or Daphne was the more attractive toon. I, for one, was always on Team Velma. Tween girls didn’t need to have such debates since there’s really no question of whether Fred or Shaggy is the better boyfriend material. I think Fred’s ascot says it all.

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Image for article titled At $19,995, Is This 1988 Dodge Ram Surveillance Van a Mysteriously Good Deal?
Photo: Craigslist

Alas, I digress. The real question afoot is why does this Dodge van exist in its present form at all? If it really was an FBI surveillance van as purported by the seller and evidenced by the slew of listening equipment and recorders in the back, shouldn’t it be far more nondescript? Or, at least disguised as something that passersby aren’t going to want to snap a selfie with as they “do it for the Gram?”

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Image for article titled At $19,995, Is This 1988 Dodge Ram Surveillance Van a Mysteriously Good Deal?
Photo: Craigslist

The weird mix of TV show tropes really is a mind bender and the seller is of no help explaining as they offer a mere single sentence of description in the ad:

1988 Dodge Ram Van w 8k mi. FBI Surveillance Mystery Machine.

It is being sold by what looks to be a small dealer and the ad does at least give us the mileage — 8K — and the fact that it comes with a clean title. Just exactly why it is, however, goes unanswered. There’s also no explanation as to why there is a pair of BMW basketweaves in the back of the van.

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Image for article titled At $19,995, Is This 1988 Dodge Ram Surveillance Van a Mysteriously Good Deal?
Photo: Craigslist

We can glean some helpful info from the pictures. Included in those is a photocopy of an older title showing the owner at the time to have been the Hudson, Massachusetts Police Department. We also get to see the van from all angles and those pics show it to be in pretty nice shape with decent chrome and trim, and a fairly accurate take on the whole Mystery Machine aesthetic.

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The cabin is just as decent looking with reasonable vinyl upholstery under the Scooby Doo seat covers and a rubber floor covering up in front. The back is closed off and carpeted throughout. A director’s chair faces a console with lots of electronics and there’s an additional bench above the right wheel arch and—holy crap—a port-a-potty tucked in behind the left.

Image for article titled At $19,995, Is This 1988 Dodge Ram Surveillance Van a Mysteriously Good Deal?
Photo: Craigslist
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Power comes from a 5.2 liter V8 with 170 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Major engine access is under the doghouse in the cabin. A three-speed automatic accompanies the engine and drives the rear wheels. No word is given on the condition of the mechanicals, but come on, they’ve only done 8,000 miles.

So, this van is a bit of an enigma, wrapped in a question and painted to look like the Mystery Machine. What should that rightfully be worth? The dealer seems to think it’s worth $19,995 and now it’s up to you to solve the mystery as to whether or not that’s an accurate take.

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Image for article titled At $19,995, Is This 1988 Dodge Ram Surveillance Van a Mysteriously Good Deal?
Photo: Craigslist

What do you think, could this surveillance van be worth that $19,995 asking? Or, do you simply not see, hear, or intercept over a tapped phone line that happening?

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You decide!

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New London, Connecticut, Craigslist, or go here if the ad disappears.

H/T to Maximusorama for the hookup!

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