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Old 08-24-2016, 09:24 AM   #1
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which is better to buy? Dodge 1997 or 2001 ram 3500 van

Thanks in advance
I have found two vans for sell. I plan on building a camper van for me to travel here in Texas for mountain biking racing and for my wife and I to travel and camp in. probably no popup top till I can save up

1997 Dodge 3500 van EB with under 50k 5.9 auto with windows pass van

2001 Dodge 3500 van EB with under 60k auto no window cargo van

1997 has side and rear swing out doors 2001 has rear swing out with side large slide door

The 2001 cargo area is bare since it is a cargo van and 97 is pass with seats

When I run the vins there only a few differences worht noting

tranny looks the same 2001 says HD auto wOD and 97 says auto w OD but gear ratios are all the same

engines 2001 5.2 225hp and 295 torque 1997 230hp and 30 torque

axle wt ratings 1997 front 3600 rear 5360 2001 front 4000 rear 5740

Most everything else is the same or very similar

The cost is close the 1997 is alittle cheaper.

IS the Mpg, maintenance, and reliability about the same? Cargo verse passenger van setup is one better to build off of? I have never owned a dodge gas van or car. Which would be a better buy??

Im thinking the 97 but not sure
Thanks
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Old 08-24-2016, 09:34 AM   #2
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Generally campers prefer the swing doors (or barn doors) as opposed to sliding doors.. But generally campers prefer cargo van as opposed to window van.

Sounds like the toss of a coin. I'd go with whichever looks to be better maintained, less rust, cleaner in general.
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Old 08-24-2016, 09:44 AM   #3
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Based on the information you provided, I'd personally go for the 2001. 4 years newer, about the same mileage, and about the same cost. Plus, I think the cargo is a better option for camper vans. If you don't plan on putting beefy tires that would interfere with the sliding door, then I think the slider should be fine. But like Rallypanam said, you'll have to assess how well it's been maintained, rust, your personal pref on cargo vs windows, etc. Good luck with whatever choice you make.
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Old 08-24-2016, 11:53 AM   #4
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If you plan on adding a pop top, you may want to ask vendors if they have a top for that van. I know SMB made Dodge vans with pop tops, but I haven't seen anyone get a pop top added in recent years.

I don't know what those vans are priced at but Ford vans seem to be the most supported in terms of parts availability and aftermarket. You can usually find them for good prices too since there are so many.
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Old 08-24-2016, 12:11 PM   #5
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which is better to buy? Dodge 1997 or 2001 ram 3500 van

Random thoughts from a 7 Dodge van owner:

GVWR for each is the same at 8510 lbs so axle ratings are irrelevant. In fact the front ball joints for the heavier axle are getting hard to find.

I have a cargo based Dodge and Leggz wants windows and a finished interior so check with the boss on that issue.

The sliding door is great except at 2 am when nature calls. Noisy.

Fuel economy won't differ much.

The pop top is going to be tough. I had to buy a 1982 Sporty to get one. The roof line remained unchanged since 1978 or so. If you can find an EB top off a wrecked class B camper you might have a starting point for a home build. It's been done.

The 97 will have vent windows and the 2001 has one piece windows. The 2001 will be quieter on the highway as there is better weatherstripping and noise control.

The transmission will do 100K mis. with minimal work. Change the fluid often and use an auxiliary cooler. Change the rear end fluid too.

Flush the rad. It's probably junk after this many years. Buy a new one. They're aluminum.

AC hoses are no longer available; most of them anyway. Expect to have new ones made up custom.

Strut rod bushings will be shot. Replace only with Mopar or high quality aftermarket units. Install exactly as directed. Stops the popping sound on slow bumps.

Driver's door hinge will wear as will driver's exterior door handle. Lube frequently.

When you put the key to on, before starting, the check engine light will come on for a few seconds. The day it doesn't change the computer with a Mopar reman unit.

Good luck.


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Old 08-24-2016, 02:27 PM   #6
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The major reason Im going with these Dodges instead of ford or chevy is price. Im hoping to get either of these under 2000.

Future Popup is OUT I called sportsmobile and they don't produce one. So i was thinking a fiberine Bubble top instead down the road.

I called 4wd parts to check on a 2" suspension or body life just to get a little extra clearance for slightly larger all terrains and I cant find anything

rallypanam/wish41 - I was thinking barn doors are ideal however I've read that cargo w no windows make easier DIY campers. The 2001 does have a alittle surface rust which gives the tie to the 1997 which has zero and I would like to get a little bigger all terrain

Pntyrmvr Thanks for info. I did jump on rock auto for possible ac lines and found them on there.

SO looking over the vans again the 1997 is much cleaner on the outside and inside. The 2001 has a fair amount of surface rust, maybe 6-7 spots the size of my hand. Ideally I would like some windows, barn doors, and better exterior basically a combo of the two. I think I will go for the 1997 since it looks to be in better shape.

I have been trying to read DIY conversions if you know of any blogs or websites please send them my way. I live in Austin and want to work with Sportsmobile but dang 14months behind! Not sure I can wait that long

PS just realized both vans have side slide doors.
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Old 08-24-2016, 03:38 PM   #7
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Rock Auto does not carry complete AC lines for these vans. Trust me. 7 of these vans...

Pop top could show up in classified ads. They are out there. Unsure if Fiberine still makes a Dodge top of any shape. Try 'em.

Some Dodge pickup guys used to use van control arms and spindles to lower their trucks. I wonder if the reverse is true for raising them?

Go with the rust free unit. Nothing worse than watching it come back.

Let us know when you get it. Pictures too.


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Old 08-24-2016, 03:56 PM   #8
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Old 08-24-2016, 04:02 PM   #9
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Based on those pictures, definitely the 97! Rust around the windshield can be a real problem.
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Old 08-24-2016, 05:54 PM   #10
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"Dude, Bach off." Love it. Points for that one, but the 97 looks much better.
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