HOME ARCHIVE 2018

The old green van has seen some better days

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

The old Dodge Caravan sits in the lot, waiting for its next assignment. It looks lonely. Its tasks are few these days.

For more than two decades, it was part of the family business, delivering The Bulletin without delay. It was also part of the family, delivering the kids to practice and even taking a foul ball during a youth baseball game, right in the middle of the windshield.

It took the family to Orlando and back and helped to teach the kids how to drive.

It never left us stranded, although there were problems along the way. Somehow it always made it home or to the repair shop.

If the old van could talk, it would tell a lot of stories, including the time when its master cylinder started locking up, which also locked up the brakes. That was not a good experience. The car wanted to stop, but I needed it to go. Fortunately it let up, and I made it to work in Lake Jackson.

I was hoping that the van would fix itself, but when it was time to return home, it started doing it again. I made it back to the repair shop in Angleton and told them that it needed a new master cylinder.

The mechanics test-drove it to see what was wrong, even though I described the problem to the last detail. As they drove it around town, the brakes locked up for good. The 1995 Caravan had to be towed back to the shop.

Another time it got me out of a ticket by starting to smoke under the hood as the police officer was telling me that I did not signal a turn. I did, but briefly because I decided to make it at the last minute.

I tried to explain it to the officer, but he was not listening. Then smoke started seeping from under the hood, and the officer stepped back from the van, just in case it was getting ready to explode or go up in flames.

He told me to signal next time and left. He probably figured that I had bigger problems to worry about than whether or not I signaled (which I did). I drove the smoking van back to the house, shut it off, opened the hood, got a bucket of water and put out the fire. It was just a small fire. The next day I got it fixed, and it was good to go.

To others it may be a piece of junk. With the paint peeling again, it certainly doesn’t look like much.
Compared to today’s modern, computerized vans, this old wreck doesn’t offer much. But in its heyday, this model was on top of the minivan world.

“It was a van. It was big, heavy, top heavy, and got terrible mileage. It never let me down though. It had power (I could smoke the tires), it never lacked acceleration, and it always had space. Great car, lasted a long time,” wrote a 1995 Caravan owner on a website.

Another guy’s 1995 Caravan looked brand new. It put mine to shame – a lot. I thought I was the only misguided fool who sinks money into piles of junk.

“In the past 7 months since I purchased this car, it’s needed some minor brake work, new fuel pump and battery. Now it has a high idle problem that I HOPE isn’t related to the transmission!” wrote another owner.

Hey, buddy, don’t fret the little stuff. These vans were not made to last this long. It’s just that a few of us made them last. If you want good mileage, a working fuel pump, a smooth idle, or a charged battery, buy a new car. You are not fit to own one of these vans.

Listen to that engine trying to start. It sounds almost as good as the day I bought it, except for that knock. I fixed it by turning up the volume on the radio. It sounds much better now.