"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
Second Series EconolineA redesigned van appeared halfway through the 1968 model year, the Second series of Ford's Econoline. They were designated as 1969 models and were available as standard E-100, heavier E-200, and super heavy E-300 models. They were more stylish (not just a box on wheels), with a curved windshield, a sloping hood, and wheel openings that were moved forward. Suspension was upgraded to the Twin I-Beam design while the engine was still the 170ci six-cylinder with an optional 240 cubes available. For 1969, you could also get a peppy 302 V-8. This style of van continued with minor exterior changes and interior option changes until it was restyled in 1975.
Some Second series notables:1968: School Bus package offered with heavy-duty alternator and battery, inside rear door latches, and flashing lights for the roof. It was available as an E-200 or E-300 and had optional trim and interior upgrades.
1969: Courtesy Transport package offered, only on E-300 Series. Features included nine-passenger seating, separate luggage storage area, and armrests. They were ideal for hotels and motels to pick up patrons.
1970: Two-tone paint offered for the first time Also offered was an Electronic Service package, which gave the repairman shelving, cabinets, extra lighting, plywood walls, and electrical outlets and fuse box.
1971: Introduced halfway through the year, the Econoline Camper Special was a van from the front with the same driver and passenger seat area, but a class C motorhome body out back.
1972: A sliding side door is now a feature.
1974: The final year for the Second series van, and 300ci six-cylinder is optional.
Looking back now, I guess there were some classics in these vans. I recall buying custom van books in the '70s about vans with names like the "Japvan," the "Gladiator," and the "Denimachine." And who can forget the Scooby Doo "Mystery Machine." My dad had a couple of vans that I drove, my buddy Richard had a "company van" decked out with extra seats and a fold-out bed that saw use in the back of the local drive-in, and I owned one set up for camping and drive-in use, as well. Sure, there was a lot of tacky stuff like shag carpeting, chandeliers, gaudy murals, outrageous themes, and ridiculous ideas. I once saw a van with the dash and console carved from a couple of tree trunks with a shifter in the console where a branch would have been. Talk about tacky! But our beloved Effies have seen a lot of wacky mods over the years and have withstood the test of time. I'd love to see some of the old-style vans done in tasteful retro style with today's technology. Maybe they're out there?
So Rick, here you go, here's hoping someone has an extra second series panel van for you. And by the way, let's start working out the details of that "being indebted to me forever" idea!Until next month, keep it...Forever Ford.
Gary Pratt8196 Old Scugog RoadEnniskillen, OntarioCanadaL0B 1J0E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org