Since I’ve been a single dad, I started thinking about picking up a second vehicle for hauling the kids around. I have the Silverado, which is an extended cab. The back is roomier than the extended cabs of yore, but on a long trip, that back seat is really cramped. Emma’s feet touch the seat in front of her no matter how far forward you move the front seat. So I started looking at older SUVs, and even minivans.
Looking cool wasn’t a priority. I really wanted something roomy and with the kids traveling 4 hours twice a month, I wanted something they’d be comfortable in. As I was browsing local listings, a couple of these vans would pop up into my search. But most of them were rusty, or busted up. So my focus kept going back to SUVs and minivans. I almost bought a Toyota 4Runner, but it already had 250,000 miles. There were several minivans in my price range, but the more I looked at vans, the more I kept seeing conversion vans.
Then suddenly, this van popped up on Facebook marketplace, and it was in Great Bend! I messaged the seller right away and even though the listing hadn’t been up for a day yet, he said he had 4 people coming to look at it the next day. Maybe… maybe not. You never know. But it was a nice looking van from the photos. So I made time to go look at it that night.
I had the kids wait in the truck while I looked it over. It was definitely old. 1993, but there was no hidden rust, all the fluids checked out. It started right up. If nothing else I figured it was worth the risk. So we bought it that night. The kids LOVED it instantly. So much room inside. They thought they could run around inside while I was driving, but they were a little disappointed when they found out that they had to stay buckled in their seats. But when we got the van back home, they got to unbuckle and roam free. They put all the shades up, and down, and up again, and back down, and then Dad told them to stop.
They loved the fold down bed. Again they were bummed that they couldn’t lay down in the bed while we were driving. But if we decide to go camping some time, this will be better than a tent!
The story of the van involved some long trips to Denver in the mid 2000’s for cancer treatments for the previous owner. Then the van set for a long time, like 10 years in a barn. So that’s always a little bit scary when a vehicle has sat for a long time. The biggest problem was the tires. As best I could tell by reading the codes on the tires, they were from 1998. Yikes! That’s some old rubber. They looked fine, but I didn’t want to risk a blow out with my family on the road. So the van sat for a couple weeks until I could get some tires.
I decided that I wanted to save a little money since I sorta blew my budget on the van itself. So I ordered tires online. I figured I could just swap out my own tires. When I was a kid I replaced my own bike tires all the time. WEEELLLL. This was a little harder. These tires were super old and had become “one with the rim”. I tried busting the beads loose with my shop press, and nothing doing. But after a trip to Harbor Freight for some tire changing tools, I eventually got it done. And still saved about $200 from going to a tire shop. I definitely worked for it though!
Much to my satisfaction, the tires didn’t leak air, and honestly below 70 miles per hour, they are balanced great (total accident).
Since then I’ve been driving the van quite a bit. I take the kids to school/daycare and they love it. The only other immediate problem I had was that the heater didn’t work very well. I pulled off the heater hoses and flushed out the cores with a garden hose and a bunch of brown nasty water came out. After that the heater worked AWESOME! Here on the last trip the heat started to fade a little bit, so I bet there’s still more sediment in the coolant that is getting caught up again. I might have to flush it a few more times as we go, but it’s easy to get to right under the hood and only takes about 20 minutes.
Non immediate stuff includes the “party/mood” lights. They blow a fuse instantly when you try to turn them on. So I have to try to find the short there. That’s going to be a little bit of a challenge. And the rear blower fan is seized up. That’s a pretty cheap part, but so far I haven’t found any way to get all the trim panels removed without destroying everything in the process. So that’s going to have to wait until the kids are gone for a little while before I attack that. I suppose that I could just go back to the truck for kid hauling purposes, but the front blower does a good enough job keeping everything nice and toasty.
So it’s been the butt of a lot of jokes. I’ve heard them all already. But it’s spacious, it’s comfortable, and it gets pretty much the exact same gas milage as the truck from what I’ve measured so far. There’s plenty to work on like any old car, but I kinda dig that stuff. I took the kids 2 hours to meet their mom this weekend, and Luke said he felt like he was in an airplane. Haha. Perfect.