Junkyard Find: 1970 Ford Econoline Custom 200 Van

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The second-generation Ford Econoline van abandoned the forward-control layout of its mid-engined predecessor and was a big sales success. I still see these vans in junkyards (in fact, I found one in Sweden last year), but I tend to photograph only the most hantavirus-laden campers, attractively weathered window vans, or Chlamydia-enhanced customs. I saw this workhorse cargo Econoline (the technical term, coined by angry neighbors, for a featureless Detroit van with no windows is “Molester Van” or “Free Candy Van”) in a Denver yard recently, and it seemed like a good time to shoot this worn-out piece of van history.

It appears that someone might have been living down by the river in this Econoline, based on the shag carpeting and insulation.

The driver’s door top hinge broke, was rewelded, and then broke again. This may have been the camel-back-breaking straw that sent this van to The Crusher.

I had no idea that Econolines came with the slide-out-step option, like my Dodge A100. These things are cool, but also a shin-bashing hassle.

Stickers with grenade logos are very popular these days. Anybody have an idea of what FS! stands for?

So much better than a forward-control van!

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • 415s30 415s30 on Jun 17, 2015

    I saw one that same color going towards the golden gate the other day, so cool. I don't know if you covered it Murilee but that lot of Citroen in Denver is up for sale.

  • VolandoBajo VolandoBajo on Jun 25, 2015

    Once owned an early and even more primitive version of these things: a 55 GMC 3/4 ton panel truck, BOF, or more precisely, Body still predominantly on the Frame, bought cheap from a co-worked to have something to haul my British motorcycle and to sleep in at race weekends. Stiffest shocks in the Western Hemisphere. Rattled and banged incessantly. Finally bought a then-fashionable among hippies, etc., set of brass bells, called Bells of Sarna, and hung them on a cord across the middle of the van. Then when you hit a bump, you had both a rhythm section and some melody, not quite so nerve-wracking. And when it threw a bottom pulley on a Saturday morning, on my way to my reserve unit drill, a country mechanic priced a GMC pulley for me, for over a hundred 1960's dollars, probably worth several hundred dollars today. Ouch! Then he taught me something that has stayed with me all my life: he called a nearby Chevy dealer, and ordered the same part under a different part number. Cost, about fifteen dollars or so. When I, in my youthful naiveta, asked why the difference, he said that GMC division had much more overheard, and a lower sales volume to allocate that overhead to, hence their markup on identical parts was much higher. But whether it was one of those monster panel trucks, or one of the Econolines of slightly later, they were a motorcycle rider's best friend, especially if you rode a motorcycle that used British-made Lucas electrics. Those electrical parts were so famous for outages that British bike riders (Norton, Triumph, BSA, even one Matchless) referred to Lucas as the Prince of Darkness. But the GMC truck taught me a good bit about cost vs. value in automobiles, and the Norton taught me how to diagnose and repair electrical problems. I had about a thousand dollars total in those two used vehicles, but got my money's worth in education. After that GMC truck, my first VW Bus, a 66, seemed like a luxury car. A lot of miles and a lot of roads since then. But still, lessons learned and fun times had. But the nicest more or less barebones van of that era that I recall was a Corvair van that belonged to two brothers in a local band. Modest interior, but very roadworthy. I wish they still made more of those inexpensive box vans. Or maybe they do, and I just haven't looked for them very much. But I think one with a bit of towing capacity might work better than a pickup truck for my son's mowing and snow removal business. Seems like all the ones I see now are full of windows, rows of seats, etc. Never just a box with a couple of side doors, and a couple of seats in the front. Sort of an American, higher-powered version of a VW bus. But like VW buses, mostly gone, and when not, overpriced. Ten K they want for that thing? Good grief, Charley Brown. It probably didn't cost that when new.

  • ToolGuy First picture: I realize that opinions vary on the height of modern trucks, but that entry door on the building is 80 inches tall and hits just below the headlights. Does anyone really believe this is reasonable?Second picture: I do not believe that is a good parking spot to be able to access the bed storage. More specifically, how do you plan to unload topsoil with the truck parked like that? Maybe you kids are taller than me.
  • ToolGuy The other day I attempted to check the engine oil in one of my old embarrassing vehicles and I guess the red shop towel I used wasn't genuine Snap-on (lots of counterfeits floating around) plus my driveway isn't completely level and long story short, the engine seized 3 minutes later.No more used cars for me, and nothing but dealer service from here on in (the journalists were right).
  • Doughboy Wow, Merc knocks it out of the park with their naming convention… again. /s
  • Doughboy I’ve seen car bras before, but never car beards. ZZ Top would be proud.
  • Bkojote Allright, actual person who knows trucks here, the article gets it a bit wrong.First off, the Maverick is not at all comparable to a Tacoma just because they're both Hybrids. Or lemme be blunt, the butch-est non-hybrid Maverick Tremor is suitable for 2/10 difficulty trails, a Trailhunter is for about 5/10 or maybe 6/10, just about the upper end of any stock vehicle you're buying from the factory. Aside from a Sasquatch Bronco or Rubicon Jeep Wrangler you're looking at something you're towing back if you want more capability (or perhaps something you /wish/ you were towing back.)Now, where the real world difference should play out is on the trail, where a lot of low speed crawling usually saps efficiency, especially when loaded to the gills. Real world MPG from a 4Runner is about 12-13mpg, So if this loaded-with-overlander-catalog Trailhunter is still pulling in the 20's - or even 18-19, that's a massive improvement.