By on March 10, 2009

Here are some comments you don’t normally associate with the Ford Econoline: lack of manufacturer support and repair facilities, high repair cost and crippling loss of revenue during downtime. That’s what I gleaned from a Dodge Sprinter fansite and those comments came from one of the forum’s more even-handed members. Which explains the sea of Econolines (white paint, out of state plates) on the Bayou City’s expressways after the devastation of Hurricane Ike and not a single Sprinter. So let’s check out a Regency conversion van to find the Econoline’s inherent goodness, hmm-kay?

Right. Aside from the early 90s wind tunnel testing, a Super Duty-esque schnoz and Kenny G friendly color palette, the Econoline’s form hasn’t changed much since its 1970s heyday. It’s a classic two-box design, with a stubby hood and upright rear pillar for maximum cargo space. The stamped fender flares and forged five-spoke mag wheels lack yesteryear’s mullet-worthy flair, but work nicely with the van’s silhouette. It’s a somewhat more refined look than the afterthought, tinker toy appearance of its archrival, the Chevrolet Express.

But the Econoline’s Regency Conversion isn’t all sugar and spice: peep those paint schemes worthy of artwork in a Motel 6 bedroom and Pontiac-ready side skirting. But the high top conversion tells everyone it’s time to “raise the roof” all up in this mother-trucker.

When the party gets started, there’s no better place than inside the Custom Van Lounge. That’s because the Regency-fettled Econoline has all the toys: even the heated/cooled drink compartment keeps beverages handy and healthy. Touch the rich carpeting, wood appliqué afterthoughts and remarkably well-crafted leather captain’s chairs. I wish my apartment was that frickin’ nice. Note to the Ford Flex: who’s your daddy?

For the trendy gangsta-wannabe, why not flip the switch on the power-folding third row, hit the mood lighting, pop some chilled Cristal and make a rolling VIP room? Or grab your buddies, connect the PS3, boot up “Rock Band” and hit the Grand Funk Railroad on the plasma screen before the tailgate party? Dig it: we’ll help you party down, because we’re an American Van.

The Econoline’s street cred (so to speak) is virtually bulletproof, but that’s not the point. Ford’s forgotten soldier carries the whole family to weekend vacations in the kind of luxury unattainable in a mere SUV. The ride on any road is undeniably decadent and disturbingly silent. The Regency conversion adds many moving parts, mercifully void of squeaks or rattles. Even the mini blinds kept their collective mouths shut within their integral plastic channels.

Well, at least for now. I remember the hack job, rattletrap conversions of yesteryear, so there’s a good reason why Ford’s warranty doesn’t cover the aftermarket luxuries. But the Econoline isn’t for passengers only: the driver has the goods for a few Pistonhead-approved giggles. Perhaps the tragic accidents in 15-passenger rental vans lit a fire under the Blue Oval Boyz, because the fresh suspension tuning, big-ass brakes and active handling put the monster van in its place.

And it’s about damn time: the pinky-finger steering feel and highway wander are history, replaced by somewhat wonderful feel and arrow-straight highway tracking with the Econoline’s leather wrapped tiller. Better spring tuning with an Addco-worthy swaybar help the Econoline in the corners, putting the bonehead Twin I-Beam suspension on par with the fancy pants wishbones of its F-150 cousin. More to the point, the Econoline handles like a Chevy Suburban in most situations.

But it feels wrong: sitting north of the engine, the driver’s uninterrupted view of the road garners the reactions of a drunken tourist gawking over the railing of a cruise ship. Push the Econoline hard and you’ll go overboard. The active handling nanny is just that, the laws of physics hit faster in the Econoline. That’s partially why people flock to mega-SUVs of questionable utility in the first place.

What a shame. The Econoline is a treat to drive on occasion, but the EPA doesn’t bother testing its economy for good reason. (I averaged 14 MPG in mixed driving.) The trio of 2-valve gasoline engines are responsive enough: our midgrade 5.4L tester cruised nicely and made some genuinely entertaining noises too. But the Ford trucks get more juice from their 3-valve motors, not to mention the craptastic 6.0L Power Stroke Diesel is the sole oil-burner on the Econoline’s options list. Epic fail.

But the Econoline refuses to die. Maybe it’s nearasdammit to perfection: one version is a responsible working machine while another is an immensely practical play toy. Who knew a vehicle with a “School Bus Prep Package” on the options list transforms into one of the best luxury cocoons on the road? Next time you see a Pistonhead towing his pride and joy behind a mega-dollar SUV, shake your head in disapproval. They’re better served with an Econoline.

[Joe Meyers Ford provided the vehicle reviewed.]

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44 Comments on “Review: Ford Econoline Conversion...”


  • avatar
    superbadd75

    I never could drive a van, it just never felt right. Sitting in a chair so tall it could be a barstool and driving just don’t seem to mix so well. The cramped floorboards don’t help a whole lot, either, and it always seemed strange to turn around while driving to find a mobile living room. No thanks, a van will likely never find its way into my driveway.

  • avatar
    miforest

    have had 3 of these over the last 15 years . best family vacation machine ever built for my family of 5. terrific for hauling the kids and their friends. Its always funny to hear kids who’s parents have lux suv’s talk about how cool the econoline is. a wonderful family vehicle.

  • avatar

    I am endlessly fascinated with conversion vans – I rather dislike driving anything larger than a midsize sedan, but I would make an exception for these rolling living rooms (a much more appropriate application of the cliche term) had I a long trip ahead of me and no hotel money. Or are these things not actually that practical to live out of? I have imaginations of driving to a campsite and just staying in the van, but I never really see it happen.

    Idunno, as a chubby, not-too-fancy Midwesterner, these things appeal much more to my sense of true luxury (big comfy seats, lots of space, quiet ride) than some stupid 7-series BMW.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    A high school friend of mine had one of these with a putting green on the roof.

    Good times…

    -ted

  • avatar
    no_slushbox

    I would never have one of these as a primary car, but it would make an interesting 3rd car for some road trips, and for towing and moving stuff.

    Especially since they depreciate very quickly.

    Sajeev:

    Obviously there is no stow-and-go, but is occasionally removing the seats in this thing within reason?

    ———————-

    This is the ultimate conversion party boat (the back comes off so you really can gawk over the railing like a drunken tourist), but good used ones are getting hard to find:

    http://www.fourdoorbronco.com/

  • avatar
    BEAT

    The Ford Transit USA edition will be coming out soon.

    When I see this van. I think of kidnappers and child abductors. Probably I just watch too match tv.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    But the Econoline refuses to die. Maybe it’s nearasdammit to perfection

    Both the Econoline and the Panther are, effectively, the sharks of the car world. And no, not because they’re sleek, fast and lethal, but because they’re anachronisms, left beind by evolution, perfectly adapted to their niche but helplessly outmoded otherwise.

    This isn’t a bad thing per se, but there’s a reason why I, and buyers like me, buy Siennas and suchlike and not E150s.

  • avatar
    BDB

    I wonder how much minivans getting bigger and bigger with more living room like features (multiple TV screens w/DVD hookup, the “Swivel ‘N Go” in the ChryCo vans, etc.) has taken sales away from conversions.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Great review Sajeev.

    I’ve had a few of these vehicles. In fact, I’ve had all three of the major manufacturer’s conversion vans at one point or another… including the smaller chassis versions (Astro, Windstar, Grand Caravan)

    Believe it or not, the best one I ever had was a Chevy Astro. Back in 2006 I had a 1999 model with 41,000 miles on it. Bought it for around $4300, put about $700 on it for a new tranny, and literally doubled my money. The folks drove it all the way from Georgia to California and it gave them right around 18 to 19 mpg if I remember correctly. It wasn’t nearly as top heavy as most of the other models and was actually quite easy to steer for my wife and family.

    TV’s were always the biggest selling points of these vehicles back in their heydays. You can have all the rich leather and burled walnut you want. But the most important ingredient in the recipe for most folks was the ability to sit on their duff and watch TV while on the road.

    You can do that these days in most minivans. Conversion vans offered bad fuel economy, PITA maintenance that became even more of a PITA when the assembler would go belly-up, very low safety standards, increased road noise compared with most minivans, and support from the big three that went anywhere from token to nil.

    All in all, conversion vans are one of the few automotive concepts that has been beat by better machinery. Now if you want to discuss the efficacy of RWD American wagons, that’s a very different story.

  • avatar
    mach1

    I’ve had 33 Club Wagon E-Series since 1975. Obviously these big boxes fit my life style.

    - Long distance cruising: We’ve done 1800 miles in two days on the way to Arizona and over 1100 miles in one day coming back from Florida.

    - Towing a 22 foot salmon boat

    - Hauling building materials for home projects

    I love the high seating position, comfortable seats general utility, and overall ruggedness of these vehicles. Fuel economy wasn’t all that bad for such a big vehicle with highway performance around 18 mpg and 14 around town. My vehicles suffered from more than their share of squeaks and rattles but were very reliable with no major problems.

    I wish Ford would offer a smallish MODERN diesel in their vans, like those available in Europe.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    You can do that these days in most minivans. Conversion vans offered bad fuel economy, PITA maintenance that became even more of a PITA when the assembler would go belly-up, very low safety standards, increased road noise compared with most minivans, and support from the big three that went anywhere from token to nil.

    I used to work for a company that was subcontracted to do the fibreglass work for conversions. It was, admittedly, a while ago, but the argument for coversions vis a vis minivans still applies:
    * Their real competition is full motorhomes, not top-trim minivans. As such, the mileage and warranty issues aren’t really that bad.
    * You cannot perform the kind of surgery on a unibody minivan without serious compromises in safety and coverage. The E chassis was designed to meet (minimal) crash and safety requirements when sold bare. It’s not much, but it’s something.

    It really does help if you think of these as an alternative to a smaller motorhome: you get simpler mechanicals, more support and much better mileage. They’re easier to drive, to boot.

    My personal favourite was the old Toyota Van. We had a standard one, and I went to high-school with someone whose parents had one converted into a small camper (bunks, little range, tweed fabric everywhere). Got decent mileage, too, even if it was a a) slow as hell and b) a deathtrap.

  • avatar
    r129

    I’ve had 33 Club Wagon E-Series since 1975.

    I’m running the numbers in my head, and I’m a bit puzzled. Did you buy a different van every year, or keep two at a time and replace them every other year, or do you have a big fleet of vans?

  • avatar
    mtymsi

    As the conversion vehicle sales manager of a Ford dealership that was at the time (2000-03) the largest conversion van dealer (all brands) in the country I would say for a true luxury highway cruiser a conversion van is in a class of its’ own. A mini van has nowhere near the interior space or comfort a full sized conversion van does. The Regency reviewed is a true highline well built product. The caveat to the hightop is you need an 8′ garage door (most are 7′) to park inside, you need to pay close attention to height restrictions in parking structures and car washes that can accomodate the hightop are few and far between. GM, Ford and Chrysler all mandated that the conversion warranty had to equal the vehicle warranty however as stated servicing the conversion portion was much more difficult because the number of converters (most of which are now out of business) and number of models (the difference being in the plushness of the interior) usually meant parts had to be ordered. In addition, the level of service from dealers who didn’t sell conversion vans was generally poor. Quick release rear pedestal and rear bench seats were generally available especially on the highline conversions. You can’t really lump all conversions together as some cost $2k and some $20k (Regency being at the higher end). In our best months we sold 120 vans which even at that time was more vehicles than many dealers sold in total monthly. Safetywise you had to keep in mind you were driving a fairly large truck not a nimble sports oriented vehicle. One interesting safety point I always thought was the passenger seating level is above the level of a car hood in side impacts. Starcraft btw, invented integrated seat belts for their conversion vans and sold the technology to Volvo. Today the time for the most part has passed for full size conversion vans but they are more a victim of the $4/gal gas than anything else. To say a Sienna is a superior solution is comparing an apple to an orange. They are totally different vehicles. To the poster that mentioned driving one to a campsite, the reason people don’t is a conversion van doesn’t have a stove, toilet or potable water. A class B RV conversion van does but they aren’t very popular because they lack the interior room of a class C or A RV. For pure luxury rolling down the highway a nice conversion van in my opinion is unbeatable.

  • avatar
    Don Gammill

    Terrific review, Sajeev.

    I worked as a service writer at a Chevy dealer during the Summer of 1996. As I was a 21-year-old college kid (universally referred to as the “FNG” by everyone there), one of the more experienced service writers offered me a little advice about the vehicles I could expect to have the most problems with:

    “Son, your two biggest pains-in-the-ass will be a) conversion vans, because the f’ers that do the conversions don’t give a damn where they splice a wire or drill a hole, and b) Corvettes, not because of the car so much, but because of the sumbitches that own the things.”

    Turns out, he was right on both accounts, for the exact reasons he gave. Having to deal with arrogant ‘Vette owners had an upside, though: I got to drive some cool cars (Callaway Twin Turbo, ZR1, LT1 w/ 9PSI blower, etc.). Unfortunately, there weren’t any such positives when it came to the conversion vans (there was this girl who worked at the bank, though…).

    I haven’t had much experience with Corvette owners lately, but it’s nice to know that conversion vans have gotten better.

  • avatar
    SupaMan

    I wonder how the Transit will impact the sales figures of the E Series. I mean, the Transit is roomier, more efficient and as much, if not better, than the E Series at being endlessly customizable.

    I’d still take the E Series though. A Pimp-Mobile in every sense of the word.

  • avatar
    Jonathan I. Locker

    A buddy’s parents had a conversion van when we were in high school. Needless to say there was never any question about who was driving on Friday nights. We would cram a bunch of us in the thing, and have a blast, doing things that are better left unmentioned.

    Yes it was big and bulky, but we had a great time with it, and the extra space in the back made for all sorts of antics that could not be pulled off in a mini-van…especially the power fold down rear seat.

    Conversion vans can be a lot of fun. I don’t mind going along for the ride, but do not think I would ever pay for one with my own hard earned cash…and that may be the problem.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    Go on up about 85 miles from here to Piqua, OH where a massive conversion van center is located. Shop until you drop until the money and good taste runs out!
    Like others here, for whatever reason, I love these things – not to drive but to cruise anywhere and everywhere.
    Of course some of the stereotype vans are still out there…you know:

    Faded blue paint with cracks
    A coyote howling at the moon while standing on a mesa painting on both sides
    Two bumper stickers: “Don’t Laugh. Your Daughter’s in Here!” and “When this van starts a’rockin’, don’t come a’knockin!”
    Missing blinds on missing windows
    Disco ball in the back
    Nude woman mudflaps
    70% metal, 30% rust
    …MEMORIES!!!

    I know the Honda and Toyota and Chrysler minivans are approaching full-sized van size, but as long as I-90 and I-10 point west through vast country, there will always be a market for these rolling living rooms filled with people, pets, camping gear, a fridge filled with whatever, and the softest leather seats thought of by man.

  • avatar
    CAHIBOstep

    I see that the roof-mounted boomerang antenna is no longer necessary for TV reception.

    Where is the chrome ladder on the left rear barn door?

    Between my Dad and his girlfriend, I drove or rode in Ford, Chevy and Dodge conversion vans back in the day. They were all done by Geneva conversions in WI. The Dodge had originally been a 15-passenger. It was a monster.

    My Dad’s Chevy Beauville was base white, painted over with a silver and azure metallic paint scheme. The three colors were somehow “faded” together as you went from the bottom to the top (airbrushed maybe?). Some gold pinstripes, azure plastic cladding and faux BBS spokes (with whitewalls) completed the package. Even back then it was super, super ugly.

    Even worse was the fact that my Dad otherwise only bought Lincolns, and he hated any type of Chevy.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Did the Detroit-Orlando-Detroit circuit in one of these years ago. best damn road trip ever! My son sat blissfully in the back (seat folded down) playing video games and watching movies. I had a commanding view of the road. Tired? We pulled over at a rest stop, closed off the curtains and got some shut eye right there in the big ol’ bed. When we got to Florida, we had plenty of room to haul the family around in grand comfort (we borrowed my mother-in-laws conversion)…full-up leather, room to sit comfortably…yeah. If I had a long-distance road trip in my future, I’d love to do it in one of these things again. True American luxury…sadly probably fading away.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    The differences between a brand new E150 and something like a Honda Odyssey is about 25+ years. Full sized “vans” simply are far outdated – Crash Worthy? Nope. Fuel Economy? Nope. Decent Handling (for a van)? Nope. Reliability? Questionable compared to Toyonda mini-vans. Luxury? Depends on the conversion, but a coffee table in the back doesn’t do much for me.

    The only real positive I can see over modern mini-vans is the towing capacity and the cargo capacity. Personally I don’t see the need for a living room sized passenger cabin since kids are small anyway, and all that size does NOT equal safety. (I guess it does appeal to fat assed Americans who Toyota & Honda keep inflating their sedans for.)

    Outside of making A-Team or Scooby Doo novelty vehicles these things are ready for the scrap heap of history. Like the Crown Vic, Ford badly needs an update for their full sized van.

  • avatar
    mach1

    r129 :
    March 10th, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Did you buy a different van every year, or keep two at a time and replace them every other year, or do you have a big fleet of vans

    I leased a new one every year from 1975 through 2006 – except for one year when I had two.I bought the 2006 at the end of the lease and am still driving it. If (when) Fprd brings the big Transit over from Europe, I’ll have to decide to either buy the last of the E-Series or move on to the next generation.

  • avatar
    MBella

    I’m surprised about all the love with conversion vans here. I would not think it would appeal to most people here.

    My dad had a Dodge in the mid 90s. I cannot think of a better car for a road trip then one of these vans. You could load it up with luggage, and seven people in way more comfort than a Suburban. These things had TVs before flip down LCDs became popular. It made a long road trip way more enjoyable, because you weren’t uncomfortable. It was like taking your living room on the road with you.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    Nope. Sorry. This van is completely outdated. An ox cart with metal panels.

  • avatar
    GeeDashOff

    Man, I always wanted one of these to go cross country in.

    I think the biggest problem would be the attention it would get from cops. There’s no way they wouldn’t pull me over driving one of these things.

  • avatar
    guyincognito

    One of these vans saved my life, just after almost taking it. In fairness, it wasn’t the van’s fault it almost killed me. It was my school who rented us the van (for only $3K for a week) with dry, rotting tires. When the right front tire blew, sending us veering sharply to the right at about 70 mph, the 25 ft trailer we were towing came whipping around and detached from the van while throwing it onto its side. I went through the window but it didn’t cut me and the van stayed on its side, thus allowing me to remain hanging onto the back of the drivers seat. Thus, I’ve always had a soft spot for them.

  • avatar
    NickR

    Ick. Too many memories of the hideous shag-carpet, mural adorned vans of the 70s. Today, I’d definitely opt for a Ford Flex instead.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    If you buy a conversion van, new or used, pay particular attention to the type of insurance you get. In order to quote you a low rate, a broker or insurance company might quote you a rate for a bare metal van. Be advised, standard insurance policies for vans and trucks exclude non-mfr parts. If your van is customized, you need to have the customized bits scheduled as a rider for an extra fee.

  • avatar
    superbadd75

    Thinking about it, are vans trying to make a comeback? The Stride gum commercial and the Alltel (I think, with the Wizard?) wireless commercial feature them. Maybe it’s more poking fun at them than supporting their return to glory, now that I think about it… Oh well. Viva la ’70s.

  • avatar
    paul_y

    My girlfriend’s parents keep around a rickety 1995 GMC 3/4 ton conversion van, that they used to road trip in (it’s getting steadily more fussy and dangerous, and is mostly retired, save for getting her stepdad around town), and it’s great. 18mpg at sensible speeds, and stupid-easy to keep running.

    I always liked the older GM vans a little better than the E-van, because they feel even more odd to drive– it’s as close to forward-control as you can get.

    Still, this is a good review– a nice conversion van is an absolutely wonderful way to waft down the interstate.

  • avatar
    Accords

    MAN…
    WOW.
    Im 31yrs old and my step-father always wanted a AMC EAGLE wagon…

    We always used to promise him, he’d get one.

    But that was going on 25+yrs ago.

    Ive had a hidden hunkering for a conversion van for a coupla years now. It doesnt promise anything it cant deliver, and it does the job it was designed for.

    A bunch of people down the street had one of these.. in a dark red color with stripes of similar color all around it. I always thought how interesting the vehicle looked, and how interesting it would be to drive one.

    Makes me sick.. to think about how SUVS / CUVs have emerged as the transportation with this in mind..

    I can see myself driving one of these..

    But not a SUV / CUV or Minivan.

    Amazing review and I thank you to all for allowing me to listen to your stories of these vehicles.

    Funny.. I rarely see them on the road.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Keep in mind this is a review of a 1994 model (well, assuming the one in the photo was the one reviewed…) and that conversion vans have widely gone by the wayside.

    My dad taught me to drive in a conversion van, which did make me learn to check mirrors and blind spots with almost obsessive compulsive regularity, and also made my first time in the drivers seat of the V6 Pontiac Grand Prix driver’s ed car (which was like a Ferrari compared to the van) an interesting experience.

    As far as the old-school underpinnings on the E series, they don’t need updating as they are perfect for their current job. Ford makes its bacon with the E series through commercial sales, they aren’t trying to compete with minivans in any way. The E series cutaway is the defacto standard for ambulances, short busses, small motorhome chassis, and plumbing/electrical/utility bodies. The E series wagons are great for passenger transport when the need to carry 15 people outweighs the need for fuel economy, and the E series cargo vans are perfect for cargo with lots of factory upfit options for whatever specific needs you have.

    The Transit Connect coming to the US is another beast entirely, and may take some business away for urban delivery routes, catering, and parts runners, but as far as I know the larger Ford Transit still isn’t slated for a US debut.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    What an unexpectedly interesting review! I realize I haven’t thought about these ve-hickels in decades.

    I’m left wondering how much cargo space this van has. I’ve seen other conversion vans with very little luggage room. A weekend camping trip involves oodles of items of gear. If you have to pack everything indoors, you lose that much living space. You’re not going to mount any cargo boxes atop that raised roof, I bet.

    My tool for this mission is a 16-foot fiberglass trailer. For the rest of my driving life, I can haul it behind whatever’s the family’s biggest car. That turns out to be no more than 3 or 4 times a year. My trailer has about a dozen moving parts, counting the cabinet hinges, and it looks and works the same 20 years after it was made.

    I’d hate to see a special-purpose motor vehicle like this Econoline sitting idle in my driveway most of the time, aging and depreciating.

  • avatar
    davey49

    nullomodo- plenty of Conversion Vans around still for sale. You’re looking in the wrong place. The pic I see is of a 2008 with that big chrome grille.
    These vans are mostly bought by couples who travel often. People with kids tend to buy trailers.
    Wheatridger- a cargo trailer or a travel trailer?
    Where do you sleep?
    romanjetfighter- you don’t get it, this is the best oxcart with metal panels available!
    The E-series is the best van available anywhere.
    The biggest issues with minivans in comparison to full size
    fullsize- 3 adults can sit in one row comfortably, even in the biggest minvans its a tight squeeze.
    you can stand up in a high roof conversion

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    It’s a Scamp travel trailer, a white plastic Airstream-lookalike. They’re made in limited numbers by a family up in Minnesota, just about the same way now as thirty years ago. It’s the biggest thing I’d ever want to tow and the smallest thing I’d care to sleep in with a small family. The cargo mostly stays in the back of the Forester, and we sleep in the egg.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    Davey – Someone edited in new photos after my post, the review was originally posted with a single photo of an older van with a mouseover caption that identified it as a 1994. However, the van in the new photos is pretty sweet looking.

    I am sure conversion vans are still on sale somewhere, just saying not nearly as many of them find buyers as did ten or so years ago.

  • avatar
    obbop

    Is pudgy Disgruntled Old Cootish me the only card-carrying member of the working-poor commenting upon (within?) this message board?

    Over the years I have known numerous folks who lived in a used older conversion van or converted their own full-size van.

    One guy was quasi-crippled from a job injury but the employer had the better lawyers so the only housing he could afford was his van while struggling to work part-time through the pain of his injury.

    Others lived in their van as the economy went up and down and fortunes waxed and waned.

    Any y’all notice the few news stories about the “new” homeless and the “new” tent cities and the modern-day “Hoovervilles”?

    Those who are already at the bottom are better prepared for times such as these. Those with a paid-for conversion van, even an old beater, will fare far better homeless with their van than those relying on cardboard boxes or tents.

    A few hundred bucks savings or more can go a long ways with a van to live in and the advantages over tents and boxes etc. is obvious.

    My long-bed pick-em-up with the camper shell/topper was bought with the possibility of an “emergecy home” in mind. The vans were more expensive and better as a “house” but costs led to the pick-up. It will do if the worst befalls me.

    Something to consider for those higher up the socio-economic pyramid.

    What is merely a toy or a vacation vehicle to you can be another person’s house and home.

  • avatar
    davey49

    The Scamp trailers look pretty cool. I think I remember seeing a few while growing up in the 70s and 80s.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    You can learn anything you need to know about these handy, durable trailers at fiberglassrv.com.

    They have a lot of advantages, unless you stand and sleep much over 6 feet tall. They are… compact. Warm in winter, though, and cooler in summer than a tent. They’re easily prepped in minutes for camping or towing, unlike a tent trailer. And unlike stick-built trailers, they have a reputation for durability. The body is just two moulded pieces.

    Mine tows like a dream. It adds a ton, half my car’s weight, and adds frontal area to the aero equation, so your performance expectations get adjusted. The Forester can pull it over any major paved pass over the Continental Divide in Colorado without strain. On the other hand, I’ll need to downshift to 4th for every minor swell across the Great Plains as I drive westward across Kansas. Usually, the speed limit is attainable uphill, if you try. It’s fun, actually, in an odd way, like automotive weight training. You can drive like hell and nobody notices- they’ll just find a way to pass you, because you’re a slow-looking trailer.

    One more thing to consider– on a long excursion, it can be better to split your transportation and your lodging between two vehicles. Like when we camped outside St.Louis, my the Mississippi River. After breakfast, we took the car into downtown, returning for the trailer several hours later. We didn’t have to deal with the trailer downtown, just a small SUV. We didn’t have to pack up everything in camp before we left, either. And if the car breaks down, at least we have someplace to sleep indoors.

    Small trailers aren’t for everyone, but they make a fine alternative to these vans. Assuming they have any camping utility at all. I didn’t learn much about what’s going on the the commodious rear end of this vee-hickle from this review.

  • avatar

    Thank you all for reading. Sorry for the delay in replying and sorry for the picture mix up. I drove a 2008 model, which only differs from the 2009 in the center stack of the dashboard.

    ______________________
    no_slushbox : Sajeev: Obviously there is no stow-and-go, but is occasionally removing the seats in this thing within reason?
    I didn’t even bother to check. The rear would be tough with the power-fold mechanism, but I’m sure two people can make it happen. Older conversion vans had very simple lock/unlock for the swivel seats and coffee tables, so I don’t see why not.
    It’s definitely not for the average soccer mom, but seat removal (and everything else) makes this van the King of U.V.’s…

    _______________________________________
    Steven Lang: You can do that these days in most minivans. Conversion vans offered bad fuel economy, PITA maintenance that became even more of a PITA when the assembler would go belly-up, very low safety standards, increased road noise compared with most minivans, and support from the big three that went anywhere from token to nil.,

    Well put, Steven. My “angle” for this review was limited to people who need a larger vehicle, or want it. That said, I don’t think I’ll ever like a Navigator/Escalade/Suburban/Expedition/Crew Cab after sampling this Econoline. It’s the best big truck for a family and a pistonhead with a trailer. That’s about it.

    __________________

    Wheatridger : Small trailers aren’t for everyone, but they make a fine alternative to these vans. Assuming they have any camping utility at all. I didn’t learn much about what’s going on the the commodious rear end of this vee-hickle from this review.

    This isn’t a press vehicle, so there is no towing or camping allowed. But how could a conversion not have camping utility? Then again, I’ve seen trailer snobbery in person (down the Snake River in Idaho) and the folks who drive big trucks/vans to tow decadent trailers are rarely the envy of the lighter traveling campers…

    I suspect that no matter how well a hi-top conversion pulls an fully loaded Airstream, it will always be hated on by the haters. And, since RV/campers always look out for each other, I mean that in the nicest way possible. Seriously.

    And now a couple of parting thoughts:

    1. Since the last conversion van I drove was a 1992 Dodge, I wonder how these new conversions will fare in the quality and NVH control area. So far so good!
    2. If Ford goes all “Contour” with this Transit Van import, expect the Econoline to be the king of the van market for years to come. (if that means anything) And owners of the Transit to be left in the dark like Sprinter folks.

  • avatar
    Dan Yeo

    In Korea, these (along with the Starcraft version of the Chevrolet van) are a status symbol as they are the vehicle of choice for celebrities. Apparently it provides enough room for their entourage during transit while also serving as a changing room / rest area / whatever for on-site shoots.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    We rented several conversion vans over the years for family vacations. Most were Ford/Starcrafts.

    It’s the only way to travel with a couple of small children. We tried overnighting at a campground a couple of times but preferred motels and hotels, which are not significantly more expensive if reserved ahead.

    I don’t think a conversion van is a sensible buy, but they are well worth the rental fee for a couple of weeks.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    I don’t know how I missed this one when it was current. I love the E150, but I hate conversion vans. There is a solution. Both Ford (and Chevrolet, if you really, really have to) offer a factory fitted passenger version. These do not suffer the depreciation of the conversions. They are safer and better built, all covered by factory warranty.

    I owned a 94 Ford Club Wagon Chateau for years. I bought it at a year old with 20K on the clock. Every option Ford would put on it. My impression was that it cost no more than a comparable minivan, and gave away about 3 to 4 mpg in fuel economy. In return you get room, room, room. Mine had 2nd row captains chairs, so you could seat 6 in regal comfort all day long (7 for shorter distances), and take all their stuff. Take the seats out and haul anything you want. Throw in that it is a Ford truck with all the durability the name implies, and there you have it. My wife loved the high seating position, and the seats were first rate.

    I miss mine more than I can express. It took our family of 5 all over the eastern half of the US as well as innumerable carpools and games. Everyone we knew had Odysseys, Caravans and Suburbans, but they all wanted to ride in our Club Wagon.

    Alas, mine hit 165K the summer of $4.25/gal gas and needed some money put into it. The spending bill was vetoed, and we replaced it with a Honda Fit (strange, but true). I would buy another.

  • avatar

    I’m glad I found you guys. A conversion van is not a vehicle I ever considered owning until today. A friend of mine gave me their Ford Econoline 150 conversion. I belive it is a 2000 or 2002. Actually I told him I would need to think about it before he signs the pink slip over to me. I currently own two very nice, new vehicles and a extremely nice older sports car. I in no way need this van. As a matter of fact I don’t want it parked in my front yard. With the extended roof I can’t fit it in my garage.
    But, the more I think about it, this living room on wheels could be loads of fun. It has four pivoting chairs. The rear bench seat flattens to a bed with the push of a finger. T.V, tons of storage space. It has cool hidden LED lighting everywhere. It looks to be in great shape.
    If I accept the van I would not feel right turning around and selling it. I need to decide if I want to own this beast. It would rarely be driven. An occasional road trip. Or perhaps a few camping trips a year. My thirteen year old daughter asked if we could keep it for her until she is able to drive. I explained there is no way her first car was going to be a party bus. She seemed to understand and asked if she could live in it parked in the driveway until she turns 18.
    This being said. Mainly you guys that do, or have owned these rigs, what would you do in my situation? I’m sure many would say a free van is a good van. Or take the van and sale it. But again, I would not accept the van to turn around and sale.
    Please give me some advice or feed back!
    Thanks.

  • avatar

    Well, I’ll tell ya’ eric, I came across a situation almost the same as yours. I needed a truck and was looking around when my brother’s neighbor mentioned that he wanted to sell his Regency conversion van, a 1997 model. He told my brother that if I wanted it he would sell it for $2800 because he was tired of looking at it in his driveway. It had 49,000 miles on it, they bought it on a whim to do some traveling in. (This could be you in the future..lol) The only thing they used it for was to go to some Saints games and a few nights out. We had to brush the 1/4 inch thick tree pollen off of it just to see out the windows. It sat so long that I had to buy new tires to replace the ones with about 70% tread left on them because they were dry rotted. I’ve had it for a couple of months and LOVE it. The thing rides like a cadillac. So if you think you might use it at least every once in a while I sure wouldn’t pass up a free one, if it’s not too late, but if your daughter is not going to get it and you don’t think you really care to have it you can either take it and sell it now, take it to let it sit in your driveway until who knows when and then sell it for much less than you could have gotten for it or just not take it. Me?? I’m glad I took it. I’d like to know what you decided to do.


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