By on November 24, 2011

I’m back in California to visit the family, which means I also get to visit my favorite East Bay self-service junkyards. I was hoping to find a Dodge A100 to donate some parts for my A100 Hell Project; instead, I found this Econoline to serve as possible customizing inspiration.
This van appears to have been customized after the peak of the mid-70s van craze, since it’s more wholesome-conversion-van than bongs-and-black-light-van.
The exterior graphics have a distinctly 1980s feel, and there’s a real lack of plastic bubble windows shaped like cannabis leaves.
Ford went to a front-engine design for the Econoline in the 1968 model year, which freed up more interior space for waterbeds and wood-burning stoves, but I still prefer the mid-engine design for style reasons.

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22 Comments on “Junkyard Find: Customized 1971 Ford Econoline...”

  • avatar

    Perhaps this recession is the right time for a new van revolution. Many live at home recent grads and young people take to vans and cuvs for weekend parties away from the folks.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not so sure that during a recession a van is just used for weekend parties, I’ve read and heard of numerous people living out of their vans/truck campers due to losing their homes.

      • 0 avatar

        Edmunds had a yarn a while (years?) back about a fellow who sold his house as part of a divorce and, this being pre-recession SoCal, couldn’t afford one on his own income.

        So he bought a Bentley instead and lived in it.

    • 0 avatar

      I think I’d tell that grad to go ahead and live in it. Not in my basement… LOL

  • avatar

    These big 70s custom vans were a great road trip vehicle. We went from here in western Canada to Esenada Mexico in a van.Still my favorite road trip of all time.

  • avatar

    If I knew where that junkyard was, I’d get the electrical tape from the steering column and sell it on ebay. Profit!

  • avatar

    The window crank handles were made from an exotic material called “drillium”. Apparently the world’s drillium mines were exhausted back in the 70’s and the stuff was never seen again.

  • avatar

    Boy, this brings back memories of “If this van’s a-rockin’, don’t come a-knockin\'”!

    The van phenomena got to be so big around 1973 that Hot Rod Magazine was forced to acknowledge the trend. I admit that at the time it intrigued me, but never enough to actually buy one, although a friend did buy one and he used it to travel in and had it fixed up very conservatively but functional.

    If I recall, window crank handles and other assorted interior metal adornments were plated pot metal. Yes, they did break easily if you weren’t careful, as I found out on my dad’s 1955 Dodge Royal Lancer, when the rear window crank broke off.

  • avatar

    Retro-fitted inertia reel integral 3-pt shoulder harness?! In a ’71?! Obviously a safety-minded stoner!

    • 0 avatar

      yeah, but attaching the passenger side one to the side door? Well, I’ll agree with the stoner part. So, if you open the side door while the shotgun seat is occupied, do you strangle the passenger?

  • avatar

    I had one of these, a white ’74 with blue shag carpet and walnut paneling. No windows, but a smoke-tinted roof vent. Completing the package was a blue airbrushed mural on the sides, forget what of, and Pos-A-Traction Torque Twister tires on bean-shaped hole aluminum wheels.

    Previous van was a ’66 A-100 Dodge, white, of course. No style, but I had far more interesting road trips in it because I was younger. The Ford turned out to be more of a toy hauler, getting dirt and oil from motorcycles all over the shag carpet.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Back in the late 70’s a friend of mine had one of these metallic blue 240ci 6 auto with a custom interior of the era shag & vinyl. He replaced the low back buckets w/ Pinto buckets. With a little modification they fit right in.

    The drawback with this gen 68-74 Econoline was the rear qtr rust. The wheelwells were spotwelded to the quarters, which were wavy, so much for fit and finish, and after a few years they rotted through.

  • avatar

    I agree that this looks like a mid to late 80’s conversion. The style of the seats including what appears to be the power bed/seat in the back looks a lot like the interior of my hightop 87 E-150. The only things that look out of the 70’s are the window cranks and the sunroof. The fact that it is on a E200 is also unusual. It almost makes me think that someone had an old van and came across a newer conversion van to get the seats and side windows out of. However the headliner and side upholstery would have had to be done specifically for that van.

  • avatar

    I grew up in a ’73, manual shift on the column. Yes, Mom used to grind on occasion. I remember watch the ground go by as the floor rusted out behind the rear wheel floor.

  • avatar

    I can’t quite make it out…but I think those are the cool ass “powered by ford” valve covers. You should grab ’em…you never know when a small block ford project is going to pop up…Sheet…makes me want to go to el pulpo.

  • avatar

    I find the 80s graphics, bay windows, interior styles etc extremely inconguous with the era of this van.
    It reminds me of a TV-stand in, you know, the old switcheroo that shows like the Rockford Files were famous for…where an older vehicle that somewhat resembles the original shoot vehicle gets destroyed instead….the budget you know.

  • avatar

    What you have their is a family van. Only the family vans had big windows all over it. And skor is wrong about the window crank handles. They were not made from “drillium” that’s what they wanted you to think. They were actually made from “crap-tonium”.
    A company called Cal-Custon sold millions of these great parts.
    They eather broke in half, or they just stripped completely.
    We all ended up drilling small holes into them and using nails to keep them from falling off.
    The best years in my life came from my vans.
    1965 Ford, powered by a drive train from a wrecked 1969 BOSS 302 Mustang. Sure I had to bend down to the floor to shift , but it was fast and it had a kingsize bed in it. And for a long haired guitar player, it worked on so many levels.
    And I’d like to be the first one to say, “Van’s are coming back.”
    I’ve been seeing them at shows and around town. I don’t know where they’ve been, but I for one am glad their back.

  • avatar

    There are a lot of reasons why I never liked these vehicles.

    First of all, people are not cargo. It took a single model generation for minivans to add a second sliding door. Even after fifty years manufacturing and selling full size vans, has a similar design been widely marketed. Full sized vans are not for passengers anymore than a coupe is designed for rear seat riders.

    It takes little to imagine that a full sized van is nothing more than an enclosed pick up truck with an abbreviated front end. During the first generation of these vehicles, the Corvair, the Falcon and the A-100 were all available with an open bed, similar to a pick up truck. These were utility vehicles looking for a market successfully being filled by the VW Station Wagon/Vanagon at a time when Detroit became aware of VW’s sales successes at their expense.

    The Full Size Van craze of the 1970s and early 1980s is precedent to the Sports Utility Vehicle craze of the 1990s. In both cases, Detroit took a simple body on frame truck and filled it with profitable options. In both cases, people replaced cargo in the original vehicle design. Consequently, a number of suboptimal design compromises were used to make these vehicles passenger friendly, although decidedly substandard to passenger vehicles.

    The shortened front end of the full sized van resulted in a substandard design concerning passenger and driver safety. Placing the engine within the passenger compartment removed it’s possible use as a crash barrier. In crash tests, dummies lost their legs and feet, in low speed barrier tests.

    Pining for a full sized van in 2011, is like pining for a 1996 Ford Explorer in 2026. Nostalgia does not make these vehicles any better than for what they were originally designed to be – an enclosed urban truck using 1950 technologies.

    But you know that, and remember using these vehicles as a place to get away from the ‘rents. OK. Being a tad claustrophobic, I was never able to enjoy these vehicles, regardless of window sizes. Being shipped within one was not fun.

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