My experience with a cargo van is definitely one for the books. So in 21st century fashion, I’m going to present it to you on the Internet.
There’s no need to bore you with the mechanical facts of a 1997 Ford cargo van, especially one of a base model like the one I had, with two submarine-like windows on the right side that had been spray painted on from the inside and no retractable bed or fancy interior lighting to speak of. Just in case though, my now-defunct van boasted a 4.2 liter V6 engine pumping out a meager 200 horsepower at 4800 rpm and delivering a whopping fuel capacity of 12 mpg in the city and a solid 17 on the highway. The guy I’d bought it from was a Hispanic man who seemed to be concerned solely about making ends meet, for the inside of his van was a dirty, rusty and essentially apocalyptic mess of frayed wires, screws, sand, loose pebbles and derelict tools. The floor of the cargo bed itself had a huge gaping hole in the rear-right side, which provided a perfect conduit for the un-catalyzed fumes from the straight-piped exhaust channel to enter the cabin and stink up the place even more. To round it all of, a dead fuel gauge, weak battery, unreliable alternator and various misfiring cylinders made you feel confident when ascending highway ramps at a barely maintainable 55 miles per hour.
You may be asking a perfectly fine question: was there anything positive about the van at all? The answer is yes. The roomy cargo area – once it was rid of its rotted wood floordboard and cleaned to the extent of human capacity – allowed me to install a set of free Craigslist couches, a $20 Wal-Mart area rug and three Walgreens air fresheners. Together, this set allowed me to witness the birth and untimely demise of a fun idea gone awry – the camper van done cheaply.
I purchased the van based on the idea that a two wheeled vehicle – propelled by human or motor power – would be my main form of transportation, and that any moving box I ever bought would be reserved for pleasurable drives around the city. While this idea of mine still stands, I admit being very wrong about exercising that idea with this van. Van ownership is not for the faint of heart – these machines are complex works of modern engineering that can take so much abuse from people that treat them like garbage that one day, they’ll just throw their hands up in the air and burst.
And that’s exactly what happened to this one.
Less than 3 months into owning the van, its engine block blew up into a fiery mess. An array of parts inside the block shot out of the block one day while I was driving the van to my job, leaving a gaping hole on the left side of the block that would make someone think a T-Rex clawed its way into the engine. The hole provided a front-row seat to the flames that bore on inside the block until no more oil was left to be burned.
Just a few days later, a tow truck driven by another Hispanic man looking solely to make ends meet picked up the van and hauled it away, as one of the rear cargo doors flew wide open when he made a right turn onto the street (yeah, that door never worked). More than $1500 later (after purchasing the van for a modest $800 but spending the rest on commercial insurance and Florida registration fees), I was back on my bike.
Note to self – never buy a van again. Unless it’s something cool, like a VW van of years past.