Rare Rides: Luxury Van Time With a 2017 Ford Transit Explorer Conversion

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides luxury van time with a 2017 ford transit explorer conversion

Today’s Rare Ride was sort of off the radar as a present day vehicular category until your author was presented with one in an ad. It’s the sort of luxurious conversion van people bought to take their grandkids on vacation in the Nineties and early 2000s, but updated for today.

Presenting the Ford Transit Explorer Conversion. It’s quite large.

The Transit name is a longstanding one in Europe and places not North America, where it’s been on sale as a cargo hauler since 1965. The van entered its fourth generation in 2013 and debuted at NAIAS that year. Unlike other Transit generations which were Europe-centric, this generation was designed jointly by Ford teams in North America and Europe. The Transit entered North America as a replacement for the absolutely ancient E-Series van (still produced today in stripped chassis version). Transit went on sale as a 2015 model in North America.

Available in cutaway, chassis, cargo, and passenger versions, the Transit’s flexible platform is rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and front-wheel drive in some markets. The front- and rear- drivetrain optionality appeared for the first time on the third-generation Transit in 2000 (still in production for select Asian markets).

The Transit is presently available in cargo and passenger guise as standard 129.9-inch wheelbase, as well as a longer 147.6-inch version called the 150. Roof heights also vary, separated as low, medium, and high. Cab and cutaway versions have their own short, regular, and long wheelbases as well. A variety of small inline-four engines are available globally, but American versions have a 3.7-liter V6 (275hp) as standard, with a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 (310hp) an optional extra.

Explorer conversions offer seven- and nine-passenger luxury versions of the Transit 150 as well as a Factory Medium Roof version of the Transit 250. All Explorer Transits have the EcoBoost engine, and all-wheel drive is optional on all models.

Today’s Rare Ride is a nine-passenger low roof version, to which Explorer fitted a luxurious two-tone brown interior. Leather and wood are almost everywhere you’d expect in a conversion van, along with the curtains and interior roof lighting. The extended roof also contains a large TV, a rear sunroof, and transom windows along both sides. It’s pretty far removed from a standard Transit passenger van, and that shows in the price. While our used 2017 example is $43,900, a new one will cost around $80,000. Here’s betting this is a much better vehicle than an old Econoline or Express conversion.

[Images: Explorer Conversions]

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  • MaintenanceCosts We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.
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