Seven Things To Know Before Buying A Dajiban!

Mr. Abe shop

In reference to our previous post on Dajibans we figured we would provide some insight on how to go about starting in this hobby. If you did not get a chance to see our previous post CLICK HERE to get up to speed on these awesome Dodge Vans out of Japan!!! These are just guidelines and may not be to the liking of some. Yet, these were (Racing Dodge Vans) also suggestions by Mr. Abe (pioneer of Dajiban) himself.

If you are considering purchasing a van with a warranty or after-sales service, make sure that you have a well-maintained car and it is from a reliable shop. Even the final model has already passed more than 10 years, and it will be difficult if problems occur later. You don’t want to mess up with difficult problems, should they appear themselves soon after purchase. Purchase of a van should give you time to at least use it as a form of transportation unless the initial buy was a roller (non-working condition).

DB Electrical New Alternator For 3.9L 5.2L 5.9L Van 99-03

Most of the Dodgevans imported into Japan are models from 1994 to 2003. However, there are various models under the name Dodge van or Dodge Caravan. We will omit fine generation, but there are two major types that are used for this niche of racing. They are recognized in Japan as the early type from 1994 to 1997 and the late type from 1998 to 2003. In addition, for models before 1993, the body is angular, and it is 
still loved by many because the design of the van brings out a very retro atmosphere. 

Interior of a Dajiban

As a feature of the latter type, in order to make the best use of the indoor space, spare tire (which is housed in the rear side wall) in the newer generation it is mounted at the lower rear (under the floor) of the vehicle. Therefore, the gasoline tank, which was installed in the center of the rear of the vehicle in the early model, changed in shape in the late model, and is extended in the front-rear direction and installed in the lower left. As a result, the room inside has been further secured and stiffened making it better for cornering and suspension modification.

Dodge & Plymouth Vans Repair Manual: 1971 to 1999
Old Generation vs New Generation (Late and Early Model)

Furthermore, it is the shape of the front bumper and the lines that are the difference in the appearance, but as can be seen from the above image, the late type Dodge van has the nose part in front compared to the former type. This is because the late type changes the engine mounting location a few centimeters forward of the engine, and as a result, the foot clearance near the driver’s seat and the passenger’s seat is largely secured compared with the early type. When moving from the passenger seat to the rear seat, the foot area is narrow depending on the position of the seat in the former type, and it is difficult to move in the latter type, but it becomes possible to move smoothly in the latter type.In the final model of 2003, the original wheel was changed to 16 inches, the brake of the rear was changed from drum to disk rotors, and improvements were added in various points. The late generation has greatly improved the reliability and comfort the car, and has become a very popular year as a family use. 
However, as a result of these changes, it seems that turning concerns have arisen due to the left-right weight balance of the vehicle (the effect of the amount of gasoline) and the effect of the forward load. In addition, because it is a freight car that emphasizes the practicality of carrying luggage rather than running performance, it is not something that general users care about when tuning a Dojivan for racing .

Chilton’s Repair Manual Dodge Plymouth Vans 1967-88

Let’s introduce seven more check points that you won’t regret if you know them before purchasing your Dojivan project!

Part 1. Body Size A Dodge Van

There are three types of body sizes, large, medium, and small, for a Dodge van. The width of the car is the same for most car types and is approximately 2meters (without the mirrors). Due to the narrow road conditions in Japan, the vehicle width of 2 meters needs a little getting used to. 

SHORT (SHORTY) BODY

The shortest model of the Dodgevan cuts 5 meters. The wheelbase is also short and does not differ from large domestic cars. There is not much trouble in the parking lot in regards to fitting or maneuvering in a parking garage. However, since the total height is more than 2 meters, depending on the location, there may be places where it can be difficult to get around, think urban cities. If it is lowered on springs or coil-overs, it will be perfect in most parking garages or height limited areas.

Dodge Vans, 1989-98 (Chilton Total Car Manual)

MEDIUM (MIDI) BODY

The wheel base is 40 to 50 cm longer than the short, and the total length is around 5.2 meters. Depending on the location, there may be places where it is difficult to make a turn on a narrow urban road. MR. Abe states, “I have been in the medium for 10 years and have now switched to shorts, but I don’t feel much about parking and traveling in Tokyo”. There is a difference between short and medium in the difference in riding on the road and behavior as a car. If you load a lot of luggage, surf, and ride with a large number of friends or family the medium is a great model.

Large Dojivan

MAXI LONG (MAXI) BODY

It is the longest Dodge van. The rear hangover is significantly extended from the regular model and is often used as a transfer car. There are few imported to Japan and Europe, and it seems that handling and parking in an Urban city is difficult. This is an American van! We recommend choosing a size that suits your home parking situation and lifestyle. Also, depending on the body, engine, and needs. 

Part 2. Engine and Transmission Type of A Dodge Van

There are three types of engines installed in the 1994-2003 model.

3.9 L V6 model

The smallest and only V6 option size is an engine that is paired to the “SHORTY” only. Though there is not a popular following it does have benefits. It is great on fuel consumption and is cheaper to maintain. As for the transmission, a 3-speed AT (automatic) is a standard option. Some users buy a 3.9-liter Dodge van as they are cheap as a base vehicle and then change the engine to any V8 and the transmission to a 4 AT (automatic). It is becoming difficult to obtain a good V8 vehicle, so there may be ways to enjoy it as is.

American Racing AR767 Black Wheel With Red And Blue Strip (16×7″/5×139.7mm, 0mm offset)

5.2 L V8 model

Most of the Dodge vans imported into Japan or Europe are equipped with this engine. The output is about 225 horsepower, but it has a torque similar to that of an American V8 car and is sufficient for running long road trips, even in mountain areas. The fuel consumption changes depending on the tires that are mounted and the way of driving, but it is an average of 18 miles per gallon on city and highway travel and 8 miles per gallon on race basis. By replacing the muffler, it becomes louder with a growl sound like any American muscle car. In addition, with regard to the previous model, even if the engine is a V8, both the 3 speed AT and 4 speed AT transmissions need to be noted. In late models after 1998, all V8 engine and transmissions have been changed to a 4 speed AT as standard equipment. In addition, the base model of said year has reinforced transmissions.

5.9 L V8 model

It is available as an option for the medium body and is the largest displacement. It has an output of about 245 horsepower, and is extremely torque full. However, since this engine is originally mounted on a model with a heavy vehicle weight, the short body + 5.2 L runs more lightly in terms of driving performance. The ideal is a 5.9 L engine with a short body!!! There are also vehicles that actually make this combination in a transformation Dodge van. 

Part 3. Dodgevan’s windows and door types

Window type

Originally used for commercial use and camping in the United States , Dodge vans were provided with various window types. There are three types of conversion types that are often found in the Dodge vans: no windows, camping specifications with very large windows, and wagon types that have windows on all sides which are common in Japan. Of course, the number of windows can be set with options even if it says cargo van, so there are only a few from the one without it at all, and so on. In addition, smoked glass is specified, clear glass, and half mirror type exists as a rear window until the 1994 model. In addition, clear glass tends to be traded or bought as they are rare and demand a high price (compared to others, and it becomes an even more rare item if the window frame is plated. 
Also, Dodge van models prior to 1996 were equipped with a triangular window at the front as standard. Although the 1997 model has the same shape, the triangular window does not open or close. As a result, there are many owners of Dojibans who do custom porting of pre-1996 triangular windows. Below is a van with clear glass, there is a triangular window with plated specifications, which is very popular.

Hot Wheels Mopar, [Blue] Custom ’77 Dodge Van 2/8

Door type

There are various types of doors. The most common one is the rear swing door and the side Cannon door. There are other optional slide doors and rear Cannon doors, and there are many combinations of each. Side sliding doors are very useful in small parking lots. In addition, if there is only one rear door, a Cannon door may be more convenient to use. Among some Dojiban owners the side slide door, rear 1 sheet door, and short body are treated as rare models ….

Part 4. Dodgevan’s seat arrangement

Speaking of American cars, there may be many people who can imagine bench seats. In the case of Dodge vans, seat reclining is restricted due to FMVSS (American security standard), and in principle, it is only removable and can not slide or recline. Therefore, many of the vehicles imported into Japan are remodeled in Japan to the popular specifications in Japan. 
The general arrangement of the seat is 2-3-3 (bench × 2) and 2-2-3 (4 captain & bench) from the front. In addition, bench seats can be reclined only, front and rear slide & recline, insert headrest type and left and right split types, and abundant types and types that can be easily removed from the floor. In addition, there are many cases where it is changed to fake (vinyl) leather, stitched with logos, or piping processed. 
Among some enthusiasts, so-called “transformation specifications” are also gaining in popularity as they replace genuine front seats with RECARO and completely remove rear seats. In addition, because the seat of the genuine driver’s seat is slightly deviated to the steering. In addition, exchange to RECARO not only holds and looks, but also reduces weight.

Part 5. Dodgevan loading capacity and wheels

The Dodge van is a freight car in the first place. There are not many people in Japan that are beautifully riding fashionablely as a family car in Japan….or any other country wont find these luxurious. Because they are freight cars, the making of cars also differs according to the loading capacity. Mainly divided into three types of 1500/2500/3500, this display is the pound (LBS) unit. To convert to kilos, multiply by 0.4536. The more the load capacity, the more the burden on the car. Therefore, the types of wheels are different. There are 5 holes in 1500 and both 5 holes and 8 holes in 2500 and the 3500 are all eight holes. Of course, eight holes are made more durable, so for example when pulling/ towing etc., eight holes model is suitable. 
If you want to make a custom and enjoy it, the selection of various parts will be expanded by the 5 holes from the abundance of after parts. 
It should be noted that the wheels of the well-established Japanese wheel maker RS ​​Watanabe’s TYPE-R makes wheels for the Dodge van and are very popular. It achieves a significant weight reduction under the unsprung weight theory, and improves ride comfort, handling and fuel consumption.

Part 6. New car parallel import car and used parallel import car

THIS APPLIES ONLY TO THE JAPANESE MARKET!!!!

There are no regular imported Dodge vans or made for that matter. Therefore, they are all imported by specialty shops. There are two types of parallel imports: “new car”, which came in from the time of new car, and “used car”, which is imported from the used condition. Many used second-hand cars tend to be reluctant because they are often overworked because it is difficult to acquire the history in the home country (United States). Mr. Abe had this to say on a purchase he made, “Even if it was 50,000 miles on the meter, it was 200,000 miles when I checked it actually on vin verifying websites. Even though the exterior is beautiful, it was a submerged underwater car when I really maintained it and checked it … ” “I heard that such a story think. On the other hand, I often hear stories like this, so American cars may not have so good images in Japan …? I feel a little disappointed.” One must remember people are trying to sell cars by any means at times and it is only business so be careful and do your research. 
If the new car is also several years old, its value (merit) can be seen, but in the case of a Dodge van, the final production is already in 2003, so it can not be said if it will be a good purchase or not.With a well-maintained ride, for a long time, an American car with abundant third-party OEM parts the van may be able to drive longer than a domestic production (Japan Market)? In addition, commercial vehicles like Dodge vans have simpler engines and are less likely to be broken than general passenger cars. Even if Dodge vans have run through 200,000km and 300,000km, it will not be broken for quite sometime. It will be able to reach 400,000km easily. However, I would like you to note that those who require comfort such as leather and sound deadening these dodge vans are not recommended. 

Part 7. Maintenance Environment

A car is a mass of consumables. Dodge vans aren’t cars that are meant to be stored in a garage like a super car (Ferrari, Aston, Lamborghini, etc). Due to the age it can be difficult if you need same day parts even in the US. Except in the US there are more readily available options than anywhere else in the world (Junk yards, auto store, online). The maintenance of a specialist store that has a dedicated supply route for parts, has a dedicated scanner for diagnosis, and is rich in vehicle-specific knowledge is an important factor. These are vehicle any mechanic can work on and is also a great way for a beginner to start on a hobby. It helps to join forums and purchase books before you buy a van. Keep in mind these were never made for racing and custom work will need to be done.

-MR. PR

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