The engine is the 2.6 Mitsu 4-banger, and has been reliable as a hammer, though in 2001 I had to replace the camchain, balance shaft chains, and all the various chain guides and gears, because two of the guides had worn out and broken away and had falle down into the sump and were causing a terrible racket. I bought a camchain replacement kit from JC Whitney for $175, and fixed it right up.
I've had to replace the ignition (Cap, rotor, wires, plugs) twice, after it became very sensitive to moisture in the air, as in, it wouldn't start on rainy days. This seems to happen every 4 years or so.
I replaced the radiator with a newer, boneyard-sourced piece in the spring of 2003. Half the corrugations on the original had rusted away, leaving only the tubes. the radiator didn't leak, but withouth the corrugation between the tubes, it couldn't shed the heat fast enough.
Many of this van's problems are the result of it living outside it's whole life (corrosion), and not being driven regularly for a couple years (2003-current).
I converted the carburetor from automatic to manual choke, because the automatic function began sticking. Also the secondary throttle plate shaft corroded shut, and so I bent the arm out of the way and it just runs on the primary throttle. (As if it needs more)
I have had to replace the front brake pads twice, the front rotors once, and only recently replaced the brake pads on the rear, because one wheel cylinder got stuck (from corrosion) and the passengers' side rear brake was only working on the front shoe, which had worn out down to the metal backing plate. I was able to free the cylinder piston and make the wheel cylinder work again.
I have replaced ALL the steel brake lines in the front of the van due to corrosion/leaking, and both front brake hoses as well because the rubber sheathing deteriorated untit they began leaking and one burst.
I had to replaced the driver's side rear wheel cylinder because the bleeder valve was rusted in place, and when I tried to release it, it broke off.
At 104,800 miles (in the fall of 1991) the speedometer cable broke, but I've never replaced it.
In april of '05, I had to remove the primary drive cover on the 3-speed automatic (a stamped steel cover on the driver's side end of the tranny) and solder shut some rust-caused pinholes that were making the transmission leak fluid pretty copiously.
I replacedf the stock, factory exhaust just last month, because the OEM muffler had developed two small pinholes. The rest of the exhaust was solid, though rusty.
As you may have guessed, I do all my own work. Except for the Camchain replacement, none of these other repairs I've done are what I'd consider major, or more than a short term annoyance.
This has been a great vehicle. I bought it used for $1,350, and have gotten every penny's worth, and more. My oldest daughter recently got her driver's license, and I gave her my "Good Car", and began driving the van regularly again after 2+ years of it sitting in the driveway non-running for up to 2 months at a time. I put a new battery in it, and began driving it daily. Since the long hiatus, the more I have driven it, the better it has run.
It starts up very time, runs smooth, doesn't burn any oil (though it leaks a bit). The body even looks fair (minor bubbling on one rear fander and the back hatch around the window) though the paint is sunburnt and faded.
It recently passed the Massachusetts Comprehensive Vehicle Inspection, including the emmisions portion, without any problems. Current sticker, good to go!
It gets about 19-21 mpg average, so it's not terrifically great on gas, but then again it's a big shoebox. The Speedo cable broke about 2 months after I bought it in 9/1999, and so the odometer has read "104,800" since then. I am only guessing that it has 185K on it, it could be more. It's really been, in terms of reliability and cost of ownership, one fo the best vehicles I've ever bought.
Somebody not able to do their own work might not think so though.