As you may know, the Frickin’ Van II is a conversion van. More specifically, it started life as a 1996 Chevy G1500 cargo van, and was modified using parts from a now-defunct company called Glaval. The top was chopped off and replaced with a high-rise fiberglass cap that enabled the company that made the van to install a TV and about six inches of additional headroom, and it has amenities like a thick carpet, wood paneling, special lighting, and big, comfortable “Captain’s Chairs” in the front and middle, as well as a bench that can recline into a bed.
Well, the Frickin’ Van II now has 235,000 miles plus on it, and amazingly, the drivetrain is still going strong. Say what you want about Chevrolet, but they know how to build heavy-duty fleet vehicles. I wish that the rest of the van was holding up as well as the engine and transmission. At 14MPG on a good day, the van doesn’t get very good mileage, but it’s been a solid performer and is quite comfortable. It even made it to Florida and back last year.
A lot of the electrical equipment doesn’t work right anymore — the second stereo in the back is shot, for example, and the bench no longer reclines into a bed. The A/C doesn’t work and we’re starting to have starter problems. Plus the “Service Engine Soon” light comes on, and my mechanic can’t figure out why — it doesn’t have any emissions problems or other major issues, so we think it’s just a faulty sensor somewhere. Again, with 235K miles on it, and given the price I paid my sister in law for it, I have limited expectations.
The latest problem happened on Sunday. We were driving to my mother’s to pick up James, who had slept over the night before. On the way I leaned back to grab the cell phone out of my pocket so I could call her, when I heard a loud snap.
The driver’s seat is one of those captain’s chair style contraptions I mentioned, and it’s mounted on a power platform that enables you to adjust distance from the pedals, tilt and height using a short joystick. The seat itself is mounted on that platform using four anchor points. Apparently those anchor points have been slowly cracking or breaking over the years — I’ve felt the seat getting gradually “looser,” if you will, but that push I gave it yesterday was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The last anchor point finally broke free entirely.
The first thing that happened was that the seat dropped a good four inches to the floor, and swung upright quickly. Driving 40MPH down the road, that caused a few moments of sheer terror, I can tell you. I think I’ve finally gotten it into an acceptable position for now, but clearly I have to get it fixed quickly.
I’m dreading the calls I’m going to have to make tomorrow. Finding a place that can service the specialty parts on conversion vans is difficult enough; finding replacement parts for Glaval conversions is possible, but it’s going to be one of those things that requires more time and more money than it probably should.