HOME ARCHIVE 2017

The old van may be dead after 20 years and a quarter million miles

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

What’s wrong with it, I asked the mechanic.

“The biggest problem is that you have a quarter million miles on a 20-year-old car,” came the reply. I detected a little cynicism.

Can you fix it?

“It’s a process of elimination. I can spend a lot of time changing out a part just to find out that it’s not that,” he replied.

I got the feeling that he was trying to tell me something, like get rid of this piece of junk.

This is the van that I have written about before. It is famous in some circles (very small circles, perhaps). We have been through a lot together. I used it for many years, even drove it to Orlando once.

A Little League baseball went through its windshield, the same one that my daughter painted on the inside when she got bored as a 4-year-old. Her artwork, sadly, was lost when the windshield was replaced.

My sons learned how to drive in it, and it has delivered a lot of papers almost weekly. And it has never broken down and left me stranded. I always made it home, and then it broke down.
I have pampered this dark green 1995 Dodge Caravan as much as I could, but it may have reached the end of the line - maybe.

I don’t need the car. I just kept it around for sentimental reasons all these years. When I drive it, sometimes it takes me back to the days when the kids were little, and we went on trips together and had a lot of fun.

Our trip to Orlando was one of those times. We closed up shop, put a turtle carrier on top of the van, packed up the family and headed to Disney World and the other parks around there for Christmas vacation.

The trip was their big present that year. But we made sure they had presents to open in the hotel room on Christmas Eve. It was a magical Christmas with all the glitter that Florida theme parks could dish out to make it memorable.

“How come you’re not driving that van you have written about,” asked one of our readers when I stopped by her business.

It has a little problem, but I’ll bring it by next week. At that time I didn’t know how serious it was, that the old van was on its last leg - maybe.

Dodge vans used to be garbage, in my opinion. They really didn’t get their act together until the 2000 models. They had a bunch of recalls I never knew about, but the van kept on churning along, doing its job of getting me where I wanted to go.

They really built them poorly back then, but I wasn’t told that when I bought it. I did learn that in a crash the van’s engine is designed to follow a downward pattern as a safety measure. That’s nice to know, since I didn’t want a hot engine in my lap. But I never crashed it, anyway.

While they may have been designed poorly and made to last just long enough to be traded in for a newer model, I didn’t trade it in, just kept driving it.

Meanwhile, it got a new paint job, which also wore off over the years, a new interior and a lot of things under the hood. For a while, it seemed that the old van would fool everyone and just keep on lapping up the miles.

Until this thing happened the other day. I may have just written the old van’s obituary - maybe.
What’s the big deal? It’s a pile of junk, you may say. Millions of cars are made each year. What’s one 1995 van?

The value has nothing to do with money. It’s about memories. But, all that is now over - maybe.

I’ll keep you posted.