By on November 6, 2012

Dodge stuck with the forward-control/mid-engine van design through the 1970 model year (at which point their Tradesman gained a hood), but Ford moved the Econoline’s engine forward starting with the 1968s. For 1968 through 1974, the Econoline had this extremely short snout, with the engine just barely in front of the driver. You don’t see many of this generation of Econoline these days, so I photographed this one when I spotted it in a California self-serve yard a couple of months ago.
It’s got plenty of California-style body rust, which attacks very slowly (unless the victim is an air-cooled Volkswagen) from the top down. At this rate of decay, rust-through would take place by about 2052.
Tiny four-wheel drum brakes on a half-ton passenger van in 1970? Sure, why not?
No idiot lights, but also no frills.
After 42 years, this van has been completely used up.

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36 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1970 Ford Econoline Van...”

  • avatar

    We used one of these as a family car in the early 80’s. I remember it being cold and noisy, but was really impressed by the cool running board/step that swung out from under the van when you opened the side/rear doors. Pretty clever design.

    • 0 avatar

      Do you live in a non salt state?

      • 0 avatar

        Actually, Ohio – definitely plenty of salt. Funny you mention that, though – we sold the van to one of my dad’s friends (probably around ’86) who drove it for a few years until the steering box rusted off the frame and fell off while he was driving. No one was injured, and I think he got his $175 investment back out of it in scrap. I remember (I was pretty young at the time) that the floor in the back was perforated with rust holes, and some previous owner had pop-riveted in sheet metal to cover the more offensive rust-through.

      • 0 avatar

        The fact that this example has rocker panels and lower door panels means that it was a California vehicle all of its life.

        My family had a ’71 E300 window clubvan converted to a camper with raise up Turtle Top and prior owner fabricated plywood interior.

        It suffered from NJ salt roads and living at the NJ Shore near the ocean. It had holes in the door panels you could stick your fist through and no existing rocker panels. It too suffered from the steering box rot out that made the steering “floppy”. My father had a guy weld it up with a stick welder and scrap 1/4 steel.

        The battery box was made out of plywood due to acid rot and when batteries shrunk we used a brick to wedge the new battery into the box.

  • avatar

    Bruce Berry was a workin’ man/He used to load that Econoline van

  • avatar

    Can someone explain to me why the valve covers are missing from so many of these Junkyard Finds? Their absence make the engine look so violated.

    • 0 avatar

      A.Thanks to most aftermarket chrome valve covers becoming cheap Chinese crap, there is a resurgence in the popularity of stock ones. They can look pretty cool with a nice paint job.

      B.”Oh no, what’s wrong with the motor? (takes off only thing accessible on the engine)Nope, nothing wrong in here. I guess it’s F-d. (Tosses loose parts in the back) Let’s take it to the junkyard.” -Previous owner

      C.Removed by scavenger to assess condition of the engine or if it was well-cared for. Some guys will do this even if to just take a radiator hose or other small item off the vehicle. Definitely if they are looking for an engine.

      D.On some engines, to look for casting#’s or attributes to tell what kind of heads they are.

      E.Removed for access to other components.

  • avatar

    “A sparkle was in his eye,
    but his life was in his hands…”

    …especially with four drum brakes!

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    recall driving one of these cargo vans in the snow with no snow tires, sloppy handling and mushy brakes, I had never realized how dangerous certain vehicles could be.

  • avatar

    Given he preponderance of bright work, bumpers, grille, brake light surrounds, and full windows with interior trim (or what’s left of it), I’m of the HO that this is not an Econoline.

    It is a Club Wagon.

    • 0 avatar

      Bingo; Dad bought a 1972 Club Wagon new; two tone green with a V-8, auto, and the Mark IV air conditioning unit installed; we named it the “Jolly Green Giant.” We took it on a trip from central Louisiana to central Arkansas; only to have it break down along the way. It was repaired, and we were on our way; it was trouble-free after that.

      But, oh how Dad hated working on it. I rarely saw Dad get mad, but some those moments were working on this van. To remove the oil filter, one of us boys had to get in and manhandle the steering wheel around to get the steering linkage out of the way. The spark plugs were right at floor level inside the van. A very tight installation, also noisy and hot.

      But Dad stuck with it until the oldest of us six kids got married and moved out; he then downsized to a 1976 Volare wagon. My petite Mom got very good at driving it around town; and was quite a sight handling that big van.

    • 0 avatar

      My VIN decoder gives the 3rd position as a “2” for an 8-person Club Wagon, so well spotted.

  • avatar

    Has had some engine work, judging by the ’77 or later cylinder heads

  • avatar

    Remember Raymond Burr as “Ironside,” the police chief solving crimes from a wheelchair?

    Ironside was driven around San Francisco in a specially-fitted Club Wagon while barking out orders to Ed, Eve and Mark, the cool male nurse/ex-ghetto guy. With that running board/step design, the van was ADA-complaint 20 years before there was such a law.

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t exactly call those drum brakes tiny – look at the width of those front drums – I’d say that the shoes are at least 2.5″ wide.

    Now for truly TINY drum brakes, look on the rear axle of a late 1980s econobox, like a Hyundai – those brakes are the size of a tuna fish can!

  • avatar

    Anybody know what the IIHS frontal crash rating was on this bad boy? Probably slightly better than a VW Type 2.

    • 0 avatar
      MRF 95 T-Bird

      Probably not as deadly as a Type II since these were the first vans where the engine was pushed a bit forward and had the semblance of a hood. A bit more advanced with better handling than a shoebox-like flat front, no hood 1st gen Chevy/GMC 90/110 and Dodge A-100. When you opened the hood you had the basics at your command. Oil filler/dipstick, master cylinder. To do any kind of maintenance you still had to remove the interior engine cover.

      A friend of mine had one of these during the custom van era which overlapped with the malaise era. Nice paint, interior, captain chairs, Cragers etc. Fun truck though awful in the snow to the point where he would buy a winter beater.

  • avatar

    What’s with all the hate on drum brakes? I have driven a few cars with drum brakes.. As long as they have a power booster, they stop just fine. Never had a problem with repeat attempts at high speed either. If you are talking non power assisted, then yes, they can be scary.

    • 0 avatar

      Back when just about all 15-20-year-old cars (i.e., what I could afford as a teenager) had drum brakes, I had many terrifying experiences with brake fade on such cars. I’ve managed to fade the brakes on a 1,500-pound VW Beetle. Four-wheel drums, like points ignitions and surgery without anesthetic, deserve their place on the ash heap of history.

      • 0 avatar

        Well that’s just it – well maintained drum brakes will stop the car just fine… ONCE. They’ve got plenty of stopping power when cold, but get them hot and they fade. Fade resistance is the reason for discs, not stopping power.

    • 0 avatar

      Have you ever tried to stop a car with drum brakes after driving through a puddle? Drum brakes fade horribly when wet.

      • 0 avatar

        You’re absolutely right. Drums could be awful.

        My father specifically ordered his ’73 Valiant Slant Six with disc brakes. While he was waiting, Chrysler went on strike, he now really needed wheels, and the dealer was offering a loaded model but with drum brakes.

        The old man took the deal and but regretted it. While he’d owned plenty of Fords and Buicks with drums, none were as bad as that Valiant when it rained. My mother wouldn’t drive it.

        When he replaced it five years later with a ’78 Buick Century, I tried to convince him to wait another year; my ulterior motive was cheap wheels for when I got my license. The old man said NO. He was convinced I’d kill myself in it.

        You know what? Considering how reckless I was starting out, he was probably right.

  • avatar
    Angus McClure

    These things flew by so fast I hardly remember them. One of these with a six and stick would still seem pretty good to me.

  • avatar

    My first job in High School was driving one of these for a florist outside of NYC. The van was the ultimate stripper with a six and three on the tree (no floor shift here) an AM radio and totally bare metal from the driver’s seat backwards. It was absolutely horrible in the snow (even with Town & Country snows) to the point that it made you fear for your life in a light dusting of the white stuff. The best part of the job was the couple of times I got to drive into the wholesale flower market on the West Side early in the morning to pick up the shop’s flowers. Nothing like a eyeful of the dock area of mid-70s New York at 5am to teach a kid about the meaning of life.

  • avatar

    Hey ! You`ve been slacking on the mileage on the last few vehicles. (smile).

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t bother getting the odometer readings on cars with 5-digit odos, which Detroit stuck with until at least the late 1980s.

      • 0 avatar

        sorry i’m late… anyone still follow this post? maybe the author?! anyway… i’ve been looking for quite some time for engine mounts out of one of these rascals. i have one with a straight six but wanna put a 302, i’ve had laying around for a while, into this thing. my van is a texas van. so, its pretty well pristine… well, as good as one could probably be for a 73. ultimately, i was just wondering if anyone could point me in the right direction to the location of this van or the correct mounts. any help would be greatly appreciated!!!

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Back in the day ( latter part of the seventies ) knew a few people who drove vans for non- commercial use but almost invariably they chose the cargo vans , sans windows . But I knew a couple of guys who drove the window versions , Club wagons I suppose , both 1970 versions , both white with the extra seats just like this . IIRC , one of them was with a 3-on-the tree and one with the automatic , one with a rather large optional V-8 . I was in a low speed wreck , the friend – rolling a smoke and driving simultaneously swerved to avoid a car he was following too closely and crashed into a tree .He claimed the brakes failed though I remember yelling ” look out ! ” Bumper, grill , and both front fenders were crumpled and he never repaired it . Both guys constantly complained about the lousy gas mileage , which they reported as 8 -10 m.p.g. on the highway .

  • avatar

    I guess it says a lot about how stagnant the US van market got over the years, from the firewall back that body looks no more dated the the full-size vans Ford, GM, and Chrysler were still churning out 15 years ago or so, despite being from the late ’60s.

  • avatar
    69 stang

    My dad brought one of these home from the office and parked it our garage for 6 months about the time I was getting my license. I was just sure I was going to get that thing and improve my social standing by 100% overnight. It was a window van but still vans were cool.

    But it disappeared one day when I was at school and my high school ride was mom’s 68 Galaxie whenever I could get it.

  • avatar

    I well remember these Club Wagons , they were fine at the time , I drove VW Typ II’s instead .

    I hated working tune ups on these as they were designed for L6 engines and the spark lugs were a bear to change , cracked exhaust manifolds too .

    This one is hardly ” used Up ” ~ all it needs is a periodic overhaul to be road ready again .

    Yes , it has the 2-1/2″ brakes .


  • avatar

    After the ’66 Dodge A-100, I had one of these, a ’74 E-100 cargo van, decked out with blue shag carpet, walnut paneling and an airbrushed mural on the sides. It started to rust from the top down, being a coastal California car.

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