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Dad's Old 1972 Dodge Van -- New Life for a Handmade Camper?

My father passed away two years ago and, among other things (frayed wire, shards of plywood, etc.), left me his 1972 Dodge van. The Yellow Van is a fond part of my childhood – I spent many hours with my dad fixing up the vehicle and going on roadtrips with it. He had converted this vehicle into a RV: constructing his own camper shell roof; making back seats that fold out into a bed; kitchen area equipped with a sink and space for a gas stove and mini-fridge; stall for a chemical toilet; auxiliary gas tank; and other little handmade conveniences. It ain’t pretty, but this van has been imbued with my dad’s independent, travel-loving, tinkering spirit.

Unfortunately, this vehicle is currently in California while I am in school in Connecticut and bringing this van into my possession is not feasible. Though the state of California has a vehicle buyback program, I just would love to see my dad’s van go to a good home. I’ve kept the vehicle’s registration current. As for the running condition. . . . honestly, I don’t know, but I can’t imagine it is great. This van has over 100,000 miles on it and fell into some disrepair during my dad’s final illness.

So, dear Car Talk community, is it possible there is someone crazy enough to want a vehicle like this and give it a new life? Where might I find folks like that? Or should I give up and let go?

Thanks so very much.


I am sure someone would want it. Maybe even you! might be fun to look at bids for a cost estimate. ebay or craigslist someone will buy it. A used car salesman bud used to say there is an * for every seat. I am cheap and not used to current values but would think it would go quick for $1,000

Agree with Barky. Might as well try but are you sure you don’t want to take it? The only issue is being in California. I’m sure the market there would be better but I would be concerned about the severe emissions requirements being a major drawback.

A good project vehicle for someone with lots of time and a good skill set, as well as very tolerant neighbors. Old school busses are more rewarding to work on.

I don’t think you can even sell it in CA if it doesn’t pass emissions.

edit, yes the age may get it an exemption from inspection.


Here’s a few observations . . .

The van will definitely have more value to you than anybody else

Since the van spent its life in California, it’s probably relatively rust-free, versus any other surviving Dodge vans of its vintage. That might make it attractive to somebody

I believe the van might be old enough, that it doesn’t have to pass a California smog test. Sure, it has smog equipment, but it might be exempt by now.

Since you are a student, you might not have time to work on the van even if you can get it delivered to you. Then there is th cost to transport it. If you still want it, have fun with your project.

Ca. also has lots of good ways to sell those vehicles. Photo AD and Trade Express are good ways. They come out every week. I miss them since I moved away.

CRAIGSLIST… Plenty of Whacko’s on there…but it reaches so many people so fast it will make your head spin.

If you personally dont want your Dads Van…there are plenty of Pseudo Hippie Road Warriors out on the left coast who would want it. No doubt.

I would like to see you fix it n drive it honestly…its a simple machine


Your dad did not buy this van in Maine did he. I had this exact model with those wheels while stationed in Northern Maine circa 1985. It was painted the same yellow color by a good friend of mine right before he sold it to me.

Thanks for sharing the photos. Your Dad seemed like a cool guy, and it very well may have rubbed off. Don’t know what your $$$/life situation is, but if you can ship and store it, or have it stored there 'till you can do something with it, you’ll have something cool and personal plus memories which no amount of money can buy. And if it was The Van Formerly Owned by the @missileman that would just be gravy!!

Anything has value and I’m at least fairly sure there is a bit of desireabilty (how much I don’t know…) for those old Dodge vans and especially one that has been fitted out as a camper.

Who would have ever thought back in the day the old VW air cooled Type 2 (bus) Westfalias would be bringing what they are.

Thanks Marconi.

Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts and suggestions! It is certainly tempting to put the vehicle into storage and fix up the van myself someday, so I’ll look into those options. Of course, the HOA is getting crankier by the minute so I’m gonna have to purchase a ticket to California and think fast!

Anyways, thanks again for the advice and kind words.

I enjoyed looking at the pictures, @Yellow_Vanquished . Good luck to you. I suppose flying to California and driving the van back is out of the question? Agree, HOA’s suck. Glad I don’t have one. I missed out on my own father’s station wagon and a great assortment of tools because I was living in an apt when he died and had no place to put any of it, and I was too young to be able to afford the insurance for an extra vehicle at that time. If you’re ultimately not able to hold on to the van, at least take lots of pictures / video of it before you sell it.

I don’t know how it is in Connecticut, but in my state something that old you could put historic / antique tags on it and the insurance & registration would be quite cheap. If it runs you could park it on a public street and just move it every few days or so until you figure out what to do.

We do a lot of camping. And I see older completely restored camper vans almost every weekend. Not sure how valuable they are…but the ones I see are restored very nice with $10k custom paint jobs.