1978 Chevrolet Beauville With 3-on-the-Tree Is Junkyard Treasure

Before the advent of the minivan but still during the heyday of the big Detroit wagon, many Americans opted for the passenger version of the American cargo van for the purpose of transporting families. These are beefy machines built on truck chassis, inefficient, and very simple by our current century standards, but they sell well and last for decades. Today’s Junkyard Treasure is a van, a Chevy Sportvan Beauville with the most unusual drivetrain (see gallery below).

Murilee Martin

In 1978, the cargo version of the GM G-Series van was known as the Chevy Van (the previous generation of vans had the hyphenated Chevy-Van name) and the passenger version was the Sportvan. The Beauville package upgrades the Sportvan with plaid fabric on the seats and interior panels and costs an extra few hundred dollars for a van that retails for between $5,468 and $6,590 (about $24,820 to $29,915 in 2022 dollars).

murilee martins childhood 1973 chevrolet sportvan beauville

Murilee Martin

My family owns a red-and-white 1973 Chevrolet Sportvan Beauville 3/4-ton, bought new to move from Minnesota to California, so this yellow-and-white ’78 3/4-ton 3/4-ton seems very familiar.

1978 chevrolet sportvan beauville van in colorado destroyer yard

Murilee Martin

Beauville’s signature plaid fabric is harsh and ominous, and much of my childhood was spent wondering what doomsday-rated industry materials were sourced to provide the stuff. Sportvan Beauville GMC’s partner, Rally STX, has identical fabrics. At least GM matched the fabric color with the exterior paint color.

1978 chevrolet sportvan beauville van in colorado destroyer yard

Murilee Martin

Since the Chevy Sportvan and GMC Rally passenger vans are popular, I still see a lot of them during my junkyard trips. What makes this one unusual is the engine/transmission combination. Just about every post-1960s American van buyer looking for a family-carrying engine sprung up for the optional V8 engine.

But this Beauville has a base (for a 3/4-ton Sportvan) 292-cubic-inch 4.8-liter straight-six, rated at a pathetic 120 horsepower and a decent 215 lb-ft of torque. The 292 is a serious truck engine, but your typical Sportvan buyer will want a 5.7-liter or 400-cubic-inch 6.5-liter small-block V8, producing 165 and 175 horses, respectively.

1978 chevrolet sportvan beauville van in colorado destroyer yard

Murilee Martin

The engine choice is quite odd, but I have never saw a Beauville with a three-on-the-tree column-shift manual transmission before this one. This was the basic transmission on GM light trucks in 1978, and remained available throughout 1987.

But the three-speed automatic adds $345 (about $1,565 today) to the cost of the new ’78 G20 Sportvan and makes it easier for drivers to sip an Oly while tuning the radio and telling the kids in the back to stop. Dodge offered manual floor shifts in its Sportsman van around this time (with the shifter positioning awkwardly so the driver had to reach return for that), but I’ve never seen a Chevy Sportvan with it.

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Built tough from the ground up, that’s the truth.

This content is imported from YouTube. You may be able to find the same content in other formats, or you may be able to find more information, on their website.

Here’s a dealer video for the Sportvan later that demonstrates his prowess as a monk carrier.

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