"Hey Gary, you gotta find me a '73 Ford Econoline van, seriously, I'll owe you forever!"
"Yeah, sure Rick. I'll find you one! (Why would he want one of those ugly things?)"
Whenever I see him, he asks me if I found him a van yet. I go along with it and then finally do some looking around on the Net to see what's available. You know they aren't that bad after all, not when you compare them with the boxy, "cookie cutter" Astros and import look-alikes that are being produced now. Just like a lot of the formerly "ugly" trucks and cars that are now considered cool and underestimated, maybe the formerly lowly Econoline van will soon be considered a "classic."
In 1961, Ford Motor Company stopped producing the F-100 pickup-based Parcel Delivery that shared many of the features of the pickup including the complete chassis and front sheetmetal. In its place, they introduced the Econoline "van." Volkswagen had such a vehicle and Chevy had the Corvair-based van in 1961, so Ford's introduction of a van was timely. Designated the E-100, it had many components from the sedan-based Falcon including its 144ci six-cylinder motor. Ford boasted that the Econoline would deliver up to 30 mpg. The motor was placed forward as was the passenger area and the result was a 204-cubic-foot cargo area which was almost 40 percent more than a pickup. The motor was actually located between the passenger and driver and had an insulated cover to cut down on noise. The van had the same style rear doors as its predecessor Parcel Delivery, but now also featured side doors to allow "curb access" to the cargo area. All of these features were based on a "unitized" body that also was the chassis frame that attached all the driveline.
From the beginning, Ford also offered the Econoline in a couple other configurations. The "Station Bus" was the same truck but with windows running down the sides: I always knew this as a "window van." Another version of the Econoline was an "Econoline Pickup" which had an open cargo area in back with short sides. Drag racing fans of the mid- to late-'60s will recall Dodge's similar offering running quarter-mile drags standing on its back wheels for the entire length with the "Little Red Wagon" being the most famous of Dodge's "wheelstanders".
Ford had realized several years earlier that truck buyers had become savvier too, looking for dress up and comfort options on their trucks. They offered all three Econolines in "custom" packages that included things like Armrests: cushier seats, rear windows, and interior lighting.
Sales of the Econoline in 1961 were around 60,000 with the majority being standard vans, followed by the standard pickup version. For the duration of the "First Series" of the Econoline, the look of the van remained the same, changing only slightly every year but with increased payloads, improved drivetrains, and more standard features and available options.Some notable First series changes:
1962: Econoline window van became part of the Falcon line, called the Falcon station bus. On the exterior, an eight-door option was available which added a pair of doors on the driver's side, as well. A new optional six-cylinder 170ci engine was offered and payloads were increased.
1963: Offered a 1-ton payload and designated a Heavy-Duty series.
1964: Standard engine offering was now the 170ci six-cylinder. A C4 automatic transmission was now available. Interior storage with drawers and containers available.
1965: Ford offered an optional 240ci motor. Supervan option was an 18-inch longer van with almost 25 percent more space
1966: Taillights on Club Wagon were the same as Styleside pickup.
1967: First series vans were made into 1968. Dual master cylinder were now standard.
1968: '68 vans never existed