Evolution of the Dodge Multi-Passenger Van
Dodge’s A-series vans were produced between 1964 and 1970, and then in 1971, the B-series was introduced. Among the B-series vans was the Dodge Maxivan, which could carry more passengers than any van before it. The Maxivan had a passenger capacity of 15, and a school bus version was produced. The Maxivan broke more ground in 1974, when the first sliding van door was introduced. The Maxivan was updated and reworked in many ways throughout the next few decades, later giving way to the Dodge Ram Wagon 3500 in the year 2000. They were no longer marketed after 2003, and were replaced in Dodge’s lineup by the Sprinter, which was produced by Dodge from 2003-09.
First Generation Maxivan 1971-77
The first generation of the Dodge Maxivan was a member of the B-series vans. They were made more aerodynamic than the A vans of earlier years had been, and due to that, and some other design changes, they were more fuel-efficient. The Maxivan was longer than any of the A vans had been, and thus had a larger passenger capacity or cargo space. The engine was inside the van, enabling the front end to be shorter, so the van didn’t take up much more exterior space than the A vans. It was, in fact, only five inches longer. Dodge’s vans were the first to sport a sliding door, which was added in 1974.
Second Generation Maxivan 1978-93
In 1978, in response to the fact that people were using the Maxivans as makeshift RVs, Dodge added swiveling passenger seats in the second row, and there was a fold-out table between the second and third rows. The front passenger seat could also be turned up to 180 degrees. In addition, seats could be laid down, so that passengers would have a more comfortable place to sleep. The body was made a bit longer to accommodate the rearrangement of seat spacing. Sales went down in 1979 due to gas prices, and the 1980 models were released with a four-speed automatic transmission to replace the three-speed manual.
Third Generation Maxivan 1994-2003
Optional anti-lock brakes and a standard driver-side airbag were added in 1994 and ’95 respectively. In 1995, a natural gas alternative version of the Maxivan was placed on the market, along with the original Maxivan. Many improvements were made in airflow and convenience of loading and unloading throughout this time period. Around 2000, the B vans came to be known as conversion vans. They could be equipped with more modern conveniences like TV monitors, gaming devices, and electrical outlets.
Dodge Sprinter 2003-09
The Maxivan, along with the other B vans, was discontinued after the 2003 model, and Dodge took over production of the Sprinter, which had formerly been a Mercedes vehicle. Like the B vans, there were three sizes of Sprinters. The one comparable to the Maxivan had a V-6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. The Sprinter included a "mega-roof) for more storage space, and seats could be easily removed to store more in the van as well. By 2007, a CD player had been added, along with a heater booster for colder weather. Dodge sold control of the Sprinter back to Mercedes-Benz in 2010.
For many years, Dodge was a leader in van production and innovation. Many attributes of the former Maxivan can still be seen in the modern Dodge Ram Cargo Van. According to some user reviews, the Ram C/V handled more like a minivan than the larger vans in the past. The Ram ProMaster van hit the market with a 2014 model, which offered 3,472-pound load capacity, yet weighed less than the 2012 Ram C/V. The Dodge Maxivan also paved the way for many other popular van models that were sold by Ford, Chevrolet, and other big names in the auto industry.