By on September 25, 2010

This Econoline caught my eye for a number of reasons. These old bread boxes are getting scarce, even in Eugene. And this is one of the extended-body SuperVans, no less. But that’s not all; it has a trick in its hat. Watch this:

Yes, pop top campers are no big thing, but I hadn’t encountered one like this in a long while. No canvas here: the sides are rigid frames with windows all around. The clerestory camper. Being tall, and having memories of crawling around in the back of my ’68 Dodge A100 van makes this a very attractive proposition indeed.

The original Econoline appeared in 1960, in response to the growing popularity of the VW bus. Just like the Falcon it was loosely based on, the gen1 Falcon Van/Econoline was a highly pragmatic approach to building a compact van, compared to Chevy’s more ambitious rear-engined Corvair van (Corvan/Greenbrier). A box, a solid beam front axle in front and back, a wheezy little six between the seats, and no front crumple zone: a winning combination that is still being built around the world, although with independent front suspension. A timeless formula.

Despite all the enthusiasm about downsizing in 1960, the original Econoline ended up a bit smaller than what some folks, especially tradesmen and fleet buyers had in mind to carry their pipes and two by fours. I’m not exactly sure of the year it appeared, but Ford just grafted on a chunk on the rear end, and Presto: the SuperVan was born. It was a lot more primitive than what the competition did: Chevy and Dodge made extended wheelbase versions of their boxes. Ford was looking for a quick fix, since their idea of where their van was headed in a couple of years was already pretty clear.

The front seat in these vans was a memorable piece of primitiveness, even for the times. Just hunks of steel welded and screwed together. The padded dash on this one is a minor concession to safety that appeared on the later models. And the motor box made a handy third seat, nice and toasty in the winter.

The “regular” Econolines had the little Ford six, either the 144 or 170 cubic inch variety. They were both short on grunt, the 144 particularly so. But around the same time the SuperVan appeared (1965?) Ford also offered a “HeavyDuty” version, with the now venerable, but then brand new 240 CID “Big Six”, along with bigger 14″ wheels (instead of 13 inchers) and heavier springs.

I have vivid memories of riding in a HD Supervan, as a paperboy in Towson in 1965-1966. Our distributor drove one, and I’d hop in the back with stacks and stacks of Afternoon Sun papers. Old Econolines always evoke the smell of newsprint, and memories of ink-blackened hands.

I have to assume that the “long tail” Econolines probably had better traction, given the extra weight out back. The regular versions were notorious in the winter, with all that weight up front.

Getting enthusiastic about Econolines can be a bit challenging, but this one does it for me. If you’re an Econoline enthusiast, head here for the pickup version CC.

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17 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1965 Ford Econoline SuperVan Camper...”


  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    That camperized stretched Econoline is a classic.
     
    It is probably pretty bouncy on a dirt road and hopefully it’s a three on the tree for coming down a steep mountain pass in second gear with those drum brakes.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    The Ultimate Hippy Mobile. Does a small block fit in there?

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      My dad claims to have bought one in highschool that had a 289 wedged in there.  He said that, with the low gears, let him lug it around at idle, and when he’d nail it it would momentarily lift the front wheels off the ground…and then break a motor mount.

  • avatar

    These 1960′s era camper vans are very distinctive with their two-tone paint and jalousie windows.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    My grandfather had one in passenger configuration.  He refered to it as the “Sufferin’ Six” because of the weak wheezy little I-6.  My mother can remember the brakes overheating on a few summer vacations and the harrowing trips down the great smoky mountains in it.  Gramps didn’t have it very long before he decided a large sedan made much more sense for his family hauling needs.

  • avatar
    th009

    Wow.  That interior makes my (still not forgotten) ’72 Beetle look positively luxurious — it even had a padded dash and vinyl door panels.
     
    Were early GM and Chrysler vans as spartan on the inside?

  • avatar
    obbop

    So much detail omitted.
    Brevity is too often over-rated.
    Except for political speeches.
    And babbling by (gag) “stars” at any of the innumerable awards ceremonies.
    And at my actually not-that-common seemingly endless rants with an occasional rave blended in just to lend some spice and a compelling hint of youthful lust to bring back, perhaps, a bittersweet memory to the old coots within the herd.
    Where were YOU in ’62?
     

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    wow, with those windows, i bet at highway speeds the air howls as if in a poorly-chinked log-cabin during a hurricane!!!

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Would love to have seen pics of the camper interior.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    This one is an automatic, if you look closely you can see the shift quadrant  just below the steering wheel.
    When my first wife and me first married in 84 we rented a small house from a widow in her 80′s, right next door.  Behind her house she had a 4 car garage, which contained a passenger version of the van pictured above, red and white, I can’t remember the year.  She also had a green corvair van, and a white highly optioned 65 289 powered falcon station wagon.
    I never saw either of the vans out of the garage, so I have no idea whether or not they ran.
    She would get the falcon out a couple of times a month, though, and it sounded cool with it’s dual exhausts. Whether or not ford offered duals from the factory on the falcon wagon I have no idea, but it sure looked funny seeing the elderly woman coming down the street in it after hearing the rumble of that 289, it kinda sounded like it had glasspacks.
    @GS……..yes a small block will fit, I have seen these as well as the econoline pickuos at car shows with small blocks. If I”m not mistaken ford offered the 289 as an option on the later models.

  • avatar
    nikita

    Ford never offered a V-8 option on the Gen 1. GM and Dodge were able to shoehorn them in, making tuneups a disassemble the interior affair. We had 273 and 318 powered Dodges and a friend’s dad had a 307 in his Chevy. While all were Spartan, Dodge had the added crudeness of a 1940′s style windshield. I did like the “beer tap” dash shifter for the Torqueflites.

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Styling is a matter of opinion, of course.  While it’s true that the A100 had a split windshield many consider it the nicest looking and most clean style of the 60′s van’s.

  • avatar
    KitaIkki

    Ford hasn’t changed that much.  Today’s extended length E-series is still just a plug in the back.  It shares the same wheelbase as the regular length van.   Chevy/GMC long vans, on the other hand, have a 20-in longer wheelbase.

  • avatar
    Nick

    Interesting vehicles these.  There was a reddish orange pickup version in my old neighbourhood.  Sat for years and the guy put it up for sale when he decided to move to a condo.  I remember inquiring about the price and he wanted a ridiculous sum for what it was and the shape it was in.  It eventually disappeared…he either landed a sucker or someone really loved it.

    Can a Divco cc be far behind?  I always thought they were very interesting vehicles.
     

  • avatar

    I had a ’65 Supervan that started as a school bus in the B.C. interior. Windows all around. It had loading doors (factory) on both sides. The engine had been swapped out for a 300cid inline from a ’73 5 ton. With that awesome 3 speed auto that could be started from a stop in 2nd gear, and heavy lug mud/snows on the back it was like a little jeep off-road. Got it in ’79 for, I think, $150. A bed, and wood stove made from the hood of a ’69 GMC pick-up. Great fun camping in the mountains!

    Sold it in Ontario in ’89 for $2800.


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