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Oh, right, and also to perform a comparison test of the newest big boys. After what seemed like a century of incremental improvements to the old-school American vans, our market is now awash with new European-derived big boxes, as well as little-sibling versions. We chose three of the new plus-size van-guard: the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (now in its second generation here in the U.S.), the new-to-America Ford Transit, and a curious-looking thing called the Ram ProMaster. For the sake of intensified Euro-ness, we chose turbo-diesel engines as the exclusive power source.
We specified windowless cargo versions of each entrant because they seemed somehow more in step with the custom vans we expected to encounter at the Nationals. Also, we weren’t running a shuttle service, and we didn’t want people looking through the windows at us as we snored. And then the Ford showed up with windows anyway. We chose low-roof models to diminish the commercial-van look (fat chance!), and no dualies or four-wheel-drive or super-extended models were allowed. The idea was to make them, as much as possible, candidates for modern van customizers. Not that any of the vanners seemed to differentiate much between them. But we did.