I was tipped off about a very exciting and rare car available on Craigslist, and the unnamed tipper wasn’t wrong—this thing is an absolute unicorn. It’s also exactly the kind of car that, if you find it interesting, will make you realize just how deep down the automotive rabbit hole you’ve fallen.
The car for sale is a van. A work van. A white work van that once did service for the Vancouver Shipyards. It’s a six-cylinder 1988 Ford Econoline cargo van, but with one very crucial difference: it has a factory five-speed manual transmission.
This is one of those rare cases where the Craigslist copy isn’t hyperbolic: “You’ll never see another one,” the seller says, and I’m pretty damn sure they’re right. The vast, vast majority of Econolines were automatics, and while there were some four-and even fewer five-speeds, those numbers were tiny.
This is absurdly rare. So much so the person who wrote the ad had to defend their sobriety in the first sentence. This is more rare than, say, a Lancia Stratos. Rare, of course, doesn’t always equal value, which is why this thing is $2,500.
Now, most gearheads I know would be interested in this van. And this is where things get tricky. Trying to explain why this van is interesting to someone not hopelessly obsessed with cars is, I’m going to say, pretty much impossible.
Regular human beings—ones who may actively like cars, and can spot when a car is novel or interesting and may even possibly own and drive a non-boring car— but who are not strictly gearheads will see this thing and think, ‘cargo van.’
And then they’ll stop thinking about it. Maybe they’ll make some joke about parking near playgrounds or something like that, but that’s it. I’m trying to figure out how you’d convince a rational, well-adjusted human being how cool this thing is, but I just can’t figure it out.
I’m not even sure I understand, rationally, why a cargo van with a rare manual transmission is cool to me, but there it is. I can’t help it. And I can’t explain it to anyone outside our strange, sad little peer group.
If anyone wants to weigh in on the possibility of convincing a non-gearhead why this van is cool, I’d like to hear it.
In the meantime, I’ll let myself daydream about adventures in this stupid van for five more minutes then back to work.