1966 Ford Econoline Van Project Ride: Nostalgic Cab Over

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If you’ve been reading some of my other Driving Line stories, you’ll have noticed a common nostalgia theme across my work. Like most car people, I’ve got a few projects in the garage that keep me busy when I’m not writing or shooting photos. Currently I’m at the middle-end of this 1966 Ford Econoline Van project, and the present assignment of sharing it with you all lit a fire underneath me to keep sanding, sanding, sanding…but I’ll get to that more later…

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It all started out as a kind of joke between the wife and I before we were married. I told her that since I bought the engagement ring, it seemed like I should get something out of the arrangement too (like she isn’t enough!)…you know, something like a boogie van or boat.

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I guess the words stuck in her head, because one day she pulled up this Econoline Supervan on Craigslist – just another example of why I married her! Taking it for a test drive revealed that it barely ran, had zero brakes and was way too long, but I knew I could fix this little van up and give it a new life.

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Originally billed as “America’s lowest priced pickup,” the Econoline was an innovation in design with it’s cab over design in ’61. Enabling more rear storage space on the same chassis, having the cab over the engine was good on paper – but in reality it turned out to create a cramped and hot passenger space and poor cooling for the engine. By 1968 Ford decided to move the engines forward more, solving the issues but ending the iconic flat front.

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Although these 60s Econolines have inherent issues, it ends up there’s a large following for them within car culture…which leads me to believe that lots of others are just as crazy as I am! Back to the Econoline that my wife had found me on Craigslist… I envisioned returning it to its former glory of a “work van.” Big enough to fit all my photography equipment inside and get me to a shoot, with the added bonus of being cheaper than a hotel room if I got too far from home.

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In a few months I had a “new” inline Ford 300, which I hopped up some, powering it down the road with an automatic over-drive transmission behind it. Since these vans weren’t known for their awesome stopping power, a new brake system was put in with all new plumbing. It was running and stopping and I was rolling down the road – with the ugly puke tan and magenta stripe paint it had come to me with.

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With my nostalgic roots, I wouldn’t be happy driving just any old van for the long run, this Econoline was going to have to be special. I happened to drive it to a shoot one day at Starlite Customs in Torrance. They mentioned they’d like to get crazy on it, and all I had to do was provide the materials and put my own elbow grease into the body work.

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I’ve done a good deal of body work and sanding in my days…but this van is stupid! Up until yesterday when the buffing started, I’ve sanded it top to bottom 20 times over! But I think you’ll agree, the guys at Starlite customs have done an awesome job giving it an outlandish and nostalgic look.

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With all that sanding, a “simple” little paint job took much longer than expected, but I’m planning to have her complete in time for the Grand National Roadster Show this coming January. I’ve got my work cut out for me – if you make it to GNRS, be sure to say “hi!”

-Tim Sutton

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1 comments
Pikesan
Pikesan

Tim, can't wait to see it at Grand National Roadster Show. Clearly an America's Most Beautiful something contender!!

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