Rare Rides: A McDonald's Edition 1986 Ford E-150 Econoline Conversion

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides a mcdonalds edition 1986 ford e 150 econoline conversion

The Rare Rides series has featured around 10 special edition cars in past, depending on how generous you are with the term.

And while every special edition presented here thus far was designed to add some padding to a manufacturer’s bottom line, today’s special edition McDonald’s van had a much more benevolent purpose.

First, some Econoline history. Ford started its Econoline van series in 1961, when it debuted an all-new forward-control unibody van. The engine’s initial location between the front seats lasted only through 1967, as the second generation for 1968 utilized a front-engined layout that was more acceptable to American consumers. Econoline’s second generation was rather short-lived, as well, lasting only through 1974.

The Econoline was entirely redesigned for 1975, moving from a unibody construction to the body-on-frame VN platform. Ford was the first American manufacturer to implement a body-on-frame design in a full-size van. With this third generation, Ford found its footing for van design. The van proved very popular among a broad consumer base and remained in production through 1991. The fourth generation debuted for the ’92 model year, and still uses a version of the VN platform today.

Between 1975 and 1991, Econoline was available in two different wheelbase lengths: 124 inches, and 138 inches as a standard van. The 138-inch wheelbase was also used for the Super Van, which added 20 extra inches to the standard’s 206.8-inch length. Throughout its run, the third generation used manual transmissions of three-, four-, and five-speeds, and automatics with forward gears numbering three and four. Engines started at the 3.9-liter inline-six and ranged up to the 7.5-liter (460) V8. There were also two Navistar diesels on offer, in 6.9- and 7.3-liter displacements.

In the Eighties, Ronald McDonald House Charities selected selected Ford’s Econoline as their patient transportation of choice. Converted by Sands (which may now be this Chevrolet conversion dealer), the McDonald’s vans received a special tape stripe scheme which matched among vans of different paint colors. Running boards were color matched and integrated into the fenders in a nicer way than other Econoline conversions of the period. Exterior looks were completed with a McDonald’s logo on either front door, and some upscale lace alloys. Inside this particular van, there’s a luxurious monochromatic velour interior, as well as many embroidery spots bearing the McD’s logo.

Since 1974, the mission of the RMHC as an independent nonprofit has been to keep families with seriously ill children together during the child’s treatment. The organization provides financial assistance, housing, transportation, and other basic medical care needs in vulnerable communities. Today the charity has expanded to 65 different countries, has 375 Ronald McDonald Houses, and over 536,000 global volunteers.

At the time the Econoline vans were outfitted for different purposes. While some like this one were for shorter trips, others were fitted with accessories like beds and wheelchair lifts. Used around the country, they brought patients and their families to the charities’ locations comfortably, and ensured the whole family could travel together. These vans did important work.

Today’s retired McDonald’s van is located in Arizona. In slightly faded condition and with 68,000 miles, it’s presently listed without a price.

[Images: seller]

Join the conversation
6 of 33 comments
  • DenverMike DenverMike on Jul 19, 2020

    Van conversions mostly missed the whole disco/surfer/hippy/custom van movement. Most came on by '82 with a couple innovators around '78. Some companies folded or did mini truck stretch-cabs, McFly lifts/nerfs/tube bars, and full custom (for their day, pre King Ranch), fullsize pickups by upfitters clearly with nothing better to do by the late '80s to late '90s .

  • -Nate -Nate on Jul 19, 2020

    Pretty cool and obscure . We had a late 1980's (?) Econoline crew van with a 460, boy howdy did that thing get up and _GO_ ! . -Nate

    • See 3 previous
    • DenverMike DenverMike on Jul 20, 2020

      @Lou_BC I drove a 460 V8 EFI, 15 passenger shuttle van, but with both fillers on the same side, I'd fill them at the same time with the 2nd nossle from the other side of the pump. Yeah and obviously glad I wasn't paying the bill. It made an unmistakably sucking sound at full throttle acceleration, like it was trying to breath though a straw. The 460 pickups did to too, but it was a restrictor plate, clearly a last minute mod for emissions reasons? EPA? CARB? It severely embarrassed the 6.9/7.3 diesels without it?

  • Peeryog OK , my fault. But there were a number of inadvertent scatalogical references in the original post. To which, having the intellectual maturity of a 12 year old boy, I snickered.
  • Ajla People that buy a new Silverado or Sierra without a V8 are like the people that get salmon at Peter Luger.
  • MKizzy The Mazda 6 wagon needs to be brought here pronto. Sexy looks aside, it would look less out of place in Mazda's CUV lineup vs the sedan, and since Mazda wants to go "premium," wagon customers tend to be the most affluent (if Daimer-Benz is to be believed). My second choice is the attractive Hyundai i40 wagon, which would replace the defunct VW Sportwagon in the small/mid size wagon niche.
  • Carlson Fan GM needs new leadership. A 9000lb off-road vehicle???? Don't get that thing stuck in a remote area.Imagine if they had brought back the iconic K5 Blazer name and built something to compete with the Wrangler like Ford did with the Bronco. They could have offered that with an electric power train in addition to the gas models. Ford may have some quality issues right now but whoever is steering that ship knows what they are doing. The Bronco & Maverick where both brilliant ideas.
  • Carlson Fan "But it does give General Motors an opportunity to dangle a diesel in front of the faces of consumers and presumably one that yields better gas mileage than the 6.2-liter V8 they’d otherwise be buying."I'll take the 6.2 thank you. The diesel offers some advantages over gas if you use the truck for towing, lower total cost of ownership isn't one of them. I'll add in the gas engine offers better long term reliability & cold weather performance if you live where it snows like me.