I bought a 72 Econoline van for $401 dollars in the mountains of Vermont to drive back to Chicago. I had to haul a bunch of shit back (other people’s shit) and they wouldn’t rent me a truck at the nearest U-Haul because I was not 21, out of state and probably didn’t have a valid license or something silly like that.

Nobody knew how long the van had been sitting, but the rear end was definitely partly submerged in the mud. So it was just about sunk up to its rockers. The plan was to start it up before attempting to dislodge it from the mountain. After making a simple wiring harness for the ignition and starter using some toggle switches and pouring some gas in the carb, it fired up. The oil looked old but serviceable until I could get it back to the farm. It had a 240 or 300 CID straight six, don’t know which one. It did pull itself out of the mud under its own power, so the engine and trans appeared to be at least serviceable. It had bald tires so I switched out the rears with some used ones that had a little more tread. I knew it was leaking oil, but had no leakdown or compression test equipment. The spark plugs were pretty well oil fouled, if it had rings at all they were too worn out to make much power, but it was able to crawl up the mountain roads without the trans slipping or blowing smoke so I figured for the mostly flat ride home it would survive.

However with blowby comes oil consumption, so a few of the cylinders which may or may not have been firing were just pumping a fine oil mist out of the tail pipe. I was driving it around the mountain for a while and didn’t notice any serious oil consumption. But once we got out on the highway on the way home, it would blow out 5 quarts in about 2 hours if we were light on the gas pedal. There were no working gauges, so the only indication that the oil was gone was the engine power dropping suddenly as the crank and bearings came into direct contact. The solution was to stop ever few hours, add 5 quarts and go.

It did actually make it to my folk’s driveway, surprising everyone aboard. However we all likely developed lung cancer on the way home from breathing the oil mist cloud that formed around the van at highway speeds. It also had serious rot/holes in the floor and sides, which were good for sucking that oil cloud back into the interior. At least we had a half mattress in the back for driver breaks and a few towels to act as air filters. I ended up giving the van to a scrapper for nothing.

It wasn’t so much a poor decision as it was the only solution available at the time. I could have paid much less, knowing the state of the engine, but I was enchanted with the girl I bought it from, and she was as broke as I was and had two daughters and a parrot to feed.