Every so often, I come across a van that looks on the outside how I feel on the inside. This 1974 Dodge Van Tradesman is such a van, and it can be yours if you act quickly on its eBay listing.
Friend of the site and RideApart editorial director Jason Marker brought this perfect motorized expression of feel-good vibes to my attention as we were kvetching about the woes of our vanless modern lives. If only we could go back to a simpler time of bad weed and great neon artwork. Marker did a bit of digging into the groovy customizer and semi-pro motocross racer who once called this van his own:
Most shaggin’ wagons were custom-made passion projects, however, not mass-produced cash-ins designed by a bunch of crew-cut, tie-wearing squares in a Dearborn boardroom. They were the fruit of some wild-eyed, feathered-haired customizer with a thing for half-naked barbarian ladies and a knack for wrenching. Customizers like the Late John Simpatico of Rochester, NY.
Once upon a time, it seems that Mr. Simpatico was a local semi-pro motocross racer—with a handful of sponsors and Husqvarna dealership support—who campaigned one of Husqvarna’s legendary CR360s. He was also, apparently, a vannin’ man if his extremely rad bike hauler is anything to go by. Friends, meet Factory.
This gorgeous piece of Detroit iron started out life as a 1974 B100 Tradesman half-ton cargo van. It’s powered by a trusty Dodge 318 V8 mated to a Chrysler A-727 Torqueflite three-speed automatic transmission, and when it came off the line at Windsor it developed a pretty respectable 230 horsepower and 340 lb.-ft. of torque. It was a perfect base upon which to build a vehicle to haul Simpatico’s bikes, his tools, and very likely as many ladies as he could carry in shag-carpeted comfort.
Simpatico even gave his van a name: Factory. I believe because it was the kind of machine that could mass-produce good times and solid tunes. Simpatico’s van and his racing 1975 Husqvarna CR 360 sat in storage after he retired in 1981. Simpatico’s friend Butch, who took ownership of the two vehicles following his death last year of cancer, is selling the old girl on eBay. He told RideApart that he found quite a collection of ’70s memorabilia inside.
“All the original paperwork for both the van and bike were passed on along with photos and trophies,” Butch told me via eBay messenger. “While cleaning the van I found some riding gear, a few cards from a past love, 1975 stag party tickets, roaches in the ashtray, a pipe, a 35mm film container (weed), and a salt shaker for tequila. The 1970’s where wild and carefree.”
They sure sound like it. If you feel like adding this time machine to your fleet, the van apparently runs very well and is currently at $3,550, with four days remaining on the listing. That’s a small price to pay for van perfection.