Back in the 1980s, it wasn’t uncommon for families to drive around in conversion vans. Conversion vans start life as large, windowless cargo haulers and end up as your grandmother’s living room on wheels. They are some of the most comfortable vehicles on the market, with cushy captain’s chairs, thick luxe carpeting, and a roof high enough for Robert Wadlow to stand up inside.
Eventually, conversion vans became uncool. Vans themselves became uncool. People started buying SUVs to haul their kids around instead. And your neighbor’s high-roof Chevy G20 was replaced with a 1991 Ford Explorer. The trend was dying. Everyone got the memo, except Chevrolet, whose dealers still often carry dozens of converted 2020 Express vans. (Side note: yes, the Express is still in production).
Recently, however, vans have begun to make a comeback. The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has become the vehicle of choice for overlanders and beach-goers. The Ford Transit is popular among extreme motorsport enthusiasts. And a clean 1993 Volkswagen Eurovan is now worth even more than its annual maintenance costs.
The trouble is, though, that these vans are quite expensive. A converted Sprinter is often in the ballpark of six figures. A brand new Chevy Express converted by Explorer asks seventy grand. Even a Metris is spendy. Moreover, 1980s cars are beginning to gain value, as the demographic that grew up with them becomes more financially endowed.
Weirdly, this phenomenon has not yet driven up the prices of 1980s conversion vans. They are still all over online classifieds for as low as a couple grand, which is about the minimum price for a drivable vehicle these days. SUVs from this era, meanwhile, have skyrocketed in value. Generally, when a certain type of modern car becomes popular, classic examples gain value as well, but conversion vans have so far missed the boat.
Still, these old vans are cool. They’re supremely comfortable, incredibly practical (save for fuel economy and size), and a bit out of left field. Now that their modern counterparts are desirable, isn’t it only a matter of time before the effect trickles down to older conversion vans?