Every year, Midstate Mopars brings all manner of Chrysler family vehicles to Bendigo on the Queen’s Birthday (now King’s Birthday) long weekend. While it’s a Victorian event, Midstate Mopars regularly attracts Chrysler owners and enthusiasts from interstate, too.
Hosted by the Central Victorian Chrysler Club Inc., Midstate Mopars is a two-day event, Midtstate Mopars is a two-day event, with a cruise on Day 1 and a big public Show ‘n’ Shine on Day 2 that takes over Bendigo’s Town Hall precinct. The panel van pictured was one of almost 250 vehicles that were on display this year.
When Holden introduced the Sandman toward the end of HQ Series production in 1974 – and it was a success – it was only a matter of time before Ford and Chrysler responded with their own ‘lifestyle’ panel van. Ford had dabbled in this area previously, but it was all-new territory for Chrysler, whose first panel van of any type had only been introduced with the CL Series in April, 1977. The ‘Drifter,’ Chrysler’s response to the Sandman, launched at the same time and actually beat Ford’s Sundowner van to market by a few months.
Applying a similar formula to what Holden had done in creating the Sandman, the Drifter came in a choice of bright colours and distinctive exterior decals. These were combined with sports alloy wheels, the grille from a Charger, colour-coded bumpers and a special exterior trim piece aft of the doors. A 265 Hemi six and four-speed manual was the standard driveline, with a 318 V8 optional. Inside, bucket seats, a floor shifter and sports steering wheel were also standard.
On the panel van pictured, the Regal grille, chrome bumpers and not-quite-right striping point to it being a Drifter tribute instead of the real deal. The ‘225’ in the number plate suggests it may be running a 225 Slant Six engine, too. Regardless of whether it’s a tribute or genuine, this van presented very well, with aftermarket wheels, a roof rack and what appears to be lowered suspension amongst its other exterior features.
Inside, this example had been customised in the best ‘70s panel van tradition, with a pass-through to the rear section that was lined, carpeted and fitted with side a full-length, button-upholstered headliner. Custom cabinets, cigarette lighters with ashtrays on each side, along with a multi-speaker sound system were also part of the rear fitout.
The yellow and black toning from the rear continued in the cabin, where custom-trimmed black seats accented with yellow piping had been fitted. Black and yellow trim also featured on the custom centre console that included cupholders and a skull gearshift knob. These were the obvious changes from factory spec, but the steering wheel, dash and gauges all appear to be standard.
To see JUST CARS’ report from the 2023 Midstate Mopars, click HERE.