This customized 1973 Dodge Tradesman B100 is a fantastic example of the vehicles that launched the 1970s van-craze that swept the United States during the decade of disco, feathered hair, and bellbottoms.
Power is provided by a 318 cubic inch V8 sending power back through a 3-speed automatic to the rear wheels. The van has been given a full custom paint job by artist Dirty Donny Gillies of San Francisco, and in the back it has full shag carpeting and a bed platform for overnight stays.
Fast Facts – A Custom 1970s Dodge Tradesman Van
- The Dodge Tradesman, also known as the Dodge B-Series, was introduced in 1964 as a full-size van, built to cater to the needs of small business owners and tradespeople. The first generation featured three engine options: a 170 cubic inch Slant-6, a 225 cubic inch Slant-6, and a 318 cubic inch V8.
- The second generation of the Dodge Tradesman, which debuted in 1971, saw significant updates in terms of styling and performance. The van now featured a unibody design and introduced a new 360 cubic inch V8 engine option for increased power.
- During the 1970s, the Dodge Tradesman became popular for customization and conversion into recreational vehicles (RVs) and camper vans. This trend, also known as “vannin'”, saw enthusiasts personalize their Tradesman vans with elaborate paint jobs, plush interiors, beds, upgraded sound systems, and some even had a disco ball hanging from the ceiling.
- The van you see in this article is a 1973 Dodge Tradesman that’s been given a full paint scheme by artist Dirty Donny Gillies who is also the former owner, it has thick shag carpeting in the rear, a bed platform, storage cabinets, and it’s powered by a 318 cubic inch V8.
Vansploitation And The Custom Van Revolution
The 1970s were a time when the flower power vans of the hippie movement were left behind and a new style of van appeared with higher-performance drivetrains, airbrushed fantasy graphics, thick shag carpeting, velour upholstery, and bubble windows in the side.
These new custom vans were so popular across the United States that entirely new genre of cinema was created called Vansploitation which was largely made up of B-movies in which the van culture of the time was a central plot element.
Many of the vans used started out as commercial vans with flat panel sides that had empty cargo areas behind the front seats. These provided the best (and most affordable) starting point to build what was in essence a minimalist camper van, with a mattress in the back and few other amenities.
This custom van movement actually continued well into the 1980s before interest died down. A couple of decades later the interest in vans skyrocketed once again thanks to the “Vanlife” movement, which saw people setting up vans as cheap campers and taking to the open road for some adventure – often well documented on Instagram and YouTube.
Above Video: “SuperVan” is arguably the most famous example of the Vansploitation genre, it was released in 1977 and it’s classed as an action adventure comedy road movie suitable for family viewing, with a PG rating.
“Vandalf” – The Custom Dodge Tradesman V8 Van Shown Here
The van you see here was named “Vandalf” after the Lord of the Rings wizard Gandalf. The airbrushed artwork on the side of the van includes a mural of a wizard and a galaxy. This vehicle was customized by its former owner, the artist Dirty Donny Gillies of San Francisco in 2014 and he took great care to turn it into a period correct 1970s-era custom van.
Once the dome windows had been installed in the sides scoops were added to the hood and roof, and the front spoiler was installed, after this the paintwork was completed. A pair of side exit exhausts were fitted along with a set of Detroit Vintage 15″ wheels front and back fitted with BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires, and there are chrome bumpers front and back.
With the exterior largely complete attention turned to the interior where a combination of thick shag carpeting and wood paneling was fitted to the walls, floor, and ceiling. A JVC TV was also installed as well as a platform for a double bed over a set of drawers that can be used for additional storage space.
Up front there are two captain’s chairs upholstered in black with a diamond quilt stitched pattern, and the seats have arm rests to keep you comfortable on those longer roads trips.
The door panels and front headliner are upholstered to match the seats and the van also has a heater, cupholders, a dice knob on the column-mounted shifter, an eight-track cassette stereo in the dash, and Polk Audio speakers – an equalizer and an Alpine CD stereo are fitted to the overhead console.
An octagon-shaped steering wheel has been installed, an unusual wood-rimmed wheel that would have stopped the presses back in the 1970s, and it still looks vastly nicer to use than Tesla’s ill-fated yoke.
Power is provided by a 318 cubic inch V8 fitted with a two-barrel carburetor, and power is sent back to the rear wheels via a 3-speed automatic transmission. The van has power front disc brakes and drums on the rear, and the front suspension has been lowered to give it the right stance on the road.
It’s now being offered for sale out of Tiburon, California on Bring a Trailer with 66,000 miles shown on the odometer. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images courtesy of Bring a Trailer.
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with well over a million monthly readers from around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.