My New Van

July 23, 2008 by archiesmith

Several years ago, as I was teaching Drivers Education in the public schools to supplement my income, I enjoyed listening to the young (15 year old) student drivers talk about the car they were going to get when they got their drivers license.  They talked about their “dream car” that they were going to have.  The list of cars ran the “gambit” from Mustangs to Porsches to Corvettes etc.  They never tired of talking about their dream cars.  “AH, THE EXUBERANCE OF YOUTH”,

One day as we were driving, the subject came up once again of their “dream cars.”  As the various qualities and attributes of the “muscle cars” were again being debated and rated according to their degree of “sexiness and coolness”, a FedEx van came by.  It was a Sprinter Van often used by FedEx and other businesses..  I pointed to that van and said, “Do you see that?  THAT is MY dream vehicle!” The look that I got from those 15 year olds was something to behold.  The looks ran from – “You have GOT to be kidding” to “Man, you are SO over the hill.”  I really enjoyed the looks that I got from them, but the fact remains that it truly is my “dream vehicle.”

Let me tell you about the Sprinter Van!  (I should preface this by stating that, No, I am not on the payroll of, nor am I being paid or subsidized by anyone.)  The Sprinter Van is made in Dusseldorf, Germany by Mercedes-Benz.  Mercedes then puts either their name and emblem on, or Dodge, or Freightliner.  For reasons best known to themselves (unquestionably financial),  the vans are then taken apart, shipped (in the case of mine to South Carolina) where is put back together by Freightliner and then shipped out to the appropriate dealers – Mercedes, Dodge or Freightliner – THUS HAVE I BEEN INFORMED, OR FIGURED OUT.

They are expensive but WONDERFUL!!   One of the great things about them is their resale value – this is one of the things that really sold me.  Before I bought, I was looking for a used one.  The only one that I could find (on line) was one in California that was being sold for MORE than HALF of its original price and it had ONLY 401 THOUSAND MILES on it.

I decided that, as I was almost 65 years old, “By George, I was going to GET my Dream vehicle!!”  I am, by nature, upbringing and practice, a very frugal person (my frugality skills were honed to a razors edge during the time that I taught history at a small private college for twenty some years.)  However at 65, deferred gratification can be viewed, in some instances, as being overrated.  And besides, it would be a good investment, because I could always get a good proportion of my money back when I decided I was ready to retire from the crafts business – (I figure probably at around 95.)  I had talked to a number of people on the circuit of the “Arts and Crafts Shows” who have Sprinters and I have yet to talk to anyone who does not LOVE his Sprinter.  The only “semi-negative complaint” is that they all wished for better fuel mileage.  In this day and age, we ALL wish for better mileage, but with 20-25 MPG we really don’t have much room, relatively speaking, to complain especially with a vehicle of its size.

I ordered my silver-gray van in October, 2007 and I picked it up at the dealer (Lake Norman Chrysler Dodge Jeep) in April, 2008.  I LOVE IT!!  It is a 6 cylinder turbocharged diesel and gets about 22-23 MPG.  (I just came through the Rocky Mountains and it has enough power to handle the mountains while maintaining decent mileage.)   I can stand up in it – much to the relief and pleasure of my thrice surgically-repaired back.  (Speaking of Diesel – I am sure that you have heard the not-quite-symphonic-valve-clicking sound of most diesel engines.  Sorry guys, this one doesn’t have it.  You can hardly tell from the sound that this is a diesel.)

I built racks in it to carry boxes, instrument and display materials.  I also built in a bunk and so I often stay in it when I am “on the road”.  With the extra battery that I put in it (paralleled with the primary battery) powering a 1200 watt inverter, I have AC.  I am presently writing this blog on my laptop (plugged into the inverter) as I sit in my van illuminated by a low wattage florescent light bulb (13 watts, also plugged into the inverter) at a rest stop in Washington State after having used my inverter/battery powered microwave to fix my dinner. The van alternator will charge the batteries as I drive tomorrow. Can’t technology be wonderful!  (It also saves on motel bills.)  There is even a Sprinter owner’s web page for fellow Sprinter aficionados.

The only negative aspect that I have discovered so far is that regular maintenance (oil, oil filter, fuel filter, etc) is expensive.  Fortunately this regular maintenance only comes every 10,000 miles.

To modify somewhat a bumper sticker that I recently saw – “A Man and his Sprinter – it is a Beautiful Thing.”

As  always, comments are welcome.  E-mail me at

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