In 1983 we bought a brand new Dodge full-size 3/4 ton van. My employer of that time had a smaller one (1/2 ton) that I liked, and I was particularly taken with the feature that both bench seats behind the front captain's chairs could be popped in and out without tools.
So what, you ask? Well, this gave me a large vehicle with lots of optional configurations to accomplish LOTS of tasks.
With all seats in, I could (and did) haul my kids' entire school volleyball or basketball teams to out-of town games. Even with all those passengers, I still had plenty of room for all their gear.
The van was our SUV at a time before SUVs were invented. No, it didn't have 4-wheel drive, but with high ground clearance it could go just about anywhere and do anything. On family vacations we would turn the bench seats so that they faced each other. Our girls could stretch out and sleep on individual "beds." Or they could sit opposite each other, put a piece of cardboard on their knees, and play board games.
With both bench seats removed (easily done) we hauled 4 X 8 sheets of plywood or drywall. We moved several rooms of furniture at a time. The volume of that boxy interior was simply amazing.
We added a trailer hitch and pulled our camper trailer all over the country. For my family and our lifestyle it was the perfect all around family "car."
Well, by 1996 that van had LOTS of miles on it and was becoming unreliable for long trips. Our kids refer back to our vacations in terms of, "That was the one when the van wheel bearing failed," or, "That was when the engine lost a valve."
So we replaced it—with another 3/4 ton NEW 1997 Dodge van. And the new one was a whole lot like the older one. Dodge didn't change the basic design much in those intervening years.
Now—some 11 years and 180,000 miles later—it's time to replace our favorite vehicle once again. So, why is this the end of an era, you ask? Why not just buy another one, and keep the tradition intact?
Well, Dodge quit making full-size vans a couple of years ago. The market went away. Everyone was buying minivans, or SUVs.
The Ford and GM vans lack the feature of bench seat removal without tools. We looked at them anyway, but declined. Carol fell in love with the big Ford Expedition EL, so that will supplant our 24 years of Dodge van ownership.
What are we going to do with the van? It's listed on eBay Motors right now.
If you want to look at all the pictures and see if anybody bids, here's the link. (Sniff.)