American Heirlooms - July 2019


JULY 2019


When I was growing up, my dad had a large General Motors (GM) van. It featured a full suspension, and passengers would jostle around as it rode over potholes and bumps. Good luck trying to read a book on those rides! So when my family began shopping for a van recently, I knew one feature was necessary: a smooth riding suspension. There was just one problem with this: GM stopped making the half-ton suspension years ago, and it’s rare to find one. Our old van couldn’t even fit additional friends as passengers anymore, and it was starting to look pathetic. It had done what we needed it to do for so many years, but the thousands of miles we put on it and the rust were starting to add up. We began our search by looking at the latest vans that were available, including the Chevy Express 2500, a Nissan van, and the Ford Transit. Some designs were rather unique; others were just plain ugly. So, we kept looking, saving, and making the best of our old van. Eventually, I stumbled upon a Chevy 1500 — with the half-ton suspension included — for sale on eBay. It had the works, including electric windows and air conditioning. It was perfect, but the seller wouldn’t answer my inquiries. I was only able to get responses from his daughter (who had made the eBay listing), but her answers to my questions were vague and unrelated.

this one to funeral homes, which meant its corpse passengers weren’t smashing their Happy Meals across the floor and seats. Instead, the interior was nearly perfect. With a precautionary round-trip ticket in hand, I boarded a plane for Chicago. If all went well, I would be road-tripping home. If it wasn’t the deal we thought it would be, I would be back on a plane. The man picked me up at the airport, and he gave me free reign to inspect it. Everything appeared to be just what we were looking for, and by that suppertime that Friday, we were the pleased owners of a new van. I drove off for Delaware that evening, eventually stopping at a motel for the night to rest. I made it home in time for church on Saturday evening, but I still missed the “glamping” adventure my family had the night before. They pitched borrowed tents around our backyard, had a hot dog roast, and enjoyed all the luxuries of home in the great outdoors. Meanwhile, I was sequestered to the road with our new purchase. Despite a few misadventures, we are very happy with our van. The tires have a bit of dry rot, but all things considered, it was a great deal. Now, our large family can ride happily in a beautiful, well-running van.

Determined to reach the owner, I did my own sleuthing. The photo of the van on eBay featured the license plate. Equipped with that knowledge, I researched the VIN and license plate numbers, and, after paying for a few background searches, I had a name and some information. Using Google's street view, I was able to confirm that I had the right person, as I saw the very van I was looking at sitting in his driveway. (As a side note: This just proves we might as well live in glass houses if this much of our information is available to anyone online.) Finally, I was able to call the man and inquire about his van. He was surprised to hear how I found him, but he was willing to talk a deal.

There was still just one hitch. The van and this man were 12 hours away in Chicago.

But we were determined to buy this van. It was a great deal, and the field this van serviced meant that it was in pristine condition. The man had rented out vans like

–Ethan Zimmerman

302-653-2411 • 1

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