Winter is the correct time to visit Southern California, so I picked up a big, gray low-roof Ford Transit XLT 150 van with the 310-horse EcoBoost V6 at LAX and hit the highways. My plan was to visit some of my favorite Los Angeles-area wrecking yards to shoot a few interesting vehicles for the Junkyard Treasures series, then photograph the van at a location us
My first stop was the vast Pick Your Part in Wilmington, a yard that provided many a part for my cars 25 years ago. The big oil refineries next door make for a nice industrial backdrop, and the taco-truck cuisine in the parking lot is first-rate. Immediately, the benefits of driving a great big van with dark-tinted glass became clear to me, when I decided to change out of my nice don't-get-hassled-by-the-TSA air-travel clothes and into my stained-jeans-and-Motörhead-shirt junkyard attire. Plenty of room in this van for that!
El Pulpo is a major cultural force in Southern California, so it was good to be back in one of his biggest yards. Inside, I found this possible movie-car '51 Plymouth taxi, this '53 Plymouth sedan, this '84 Cressida and several other Junkyard Treasures I haven't yet shared. I had more yards to visit, so I climbed back into the Transit.
With the EcoBoost V6 making 400 lb-ft of torque, the Transit XLT 150 isn't just fast for a van— it's straight-up fast, period. It will win uphill onramp-merge races against most real-world competitors, and I'm sure it would still be fairly quick with a full load of passengers. The ride is on the bouncy side (with just a driver in the car), but far nicer than your typical industrial-strength van. I headed to the next wrecking yard on my tour, where I found a super-rare "rope-drive" Pontiac Tempest and a fully optioned 1984 Subaru BRAT.
All these miles of freeway driving in a modern, comfortable, powerful van made me flash back to the days a quarter-century back when I had a series of warehouse and delivery-driver jobs. The un-airconditioned, oil-canning, rattly, sluggish mid-'80s-vintage diesel Econoline van made delivering tropical fish pure misery. This Transit van is like a Rolls-Royce by comparison.
The Mitsubishi Fuso truck I drove after that was, on paper, a nicer vehicle than the Econoline (it had fairly comfortable seats, a radio and air-conditioning), but it had a top speed of 54 mph … on level ground, with no headwind. By the delivery-vehicle standards I'd experienced when driving such vehicles for a living, the Transit XLT was like the product of a superior alien civilization.
I'd planned on staying at a friend's place in a Los Angeles neighborhood of narrow streets and few parking spaces. I was a bit worried about anchoring this big van in such tight confines, but the Transit proved to be quite maneuverable and easily parked.
Many of the scenes from Cheech & Chong's 1978 film "Up In Smoke" were shot in nearby Lincoln Heights, so we took the Transit over for a photo session. Here's Strawberry's House, which looks much the same 37 years later.
After several days in Los Angeles with the Transit EcoBoost, even with the absurdity of using an eight-passenger van as a one- or two-person urban transportation machine (rather than, say, the little Mitsubishi I drove during my previous Los Angeles trip), I found this van to be a very pleasant vehicle to drive. The fact that it can be lived with day to day as a commuter-type car shows that a shuttle driver or deliveryman would be most comfortable with the thing.
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