1974 Ford Econoline ‘Shorty’ – Project Profile

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By Chris Pollitt

Vans, generally speaking, aren’t built with the intention of stirring our soul or making us fall in love with them. A van is not a Jaguar E Type. It’s a machine built to carry stuff, it’s there to do a job, or to facilitate a person’s ability to do a job. Look out on the street today and you’ll not see anyone coveting or carefully waxing a new Transit. That’s not why they exist. At least, that’s the case at first. 

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Vans build themselves into social history. We can all remember the vans of BT, Securicor, White Arrow and of course, Royal Mail. As such, after a time we become nostalgic for them. That’s why it’s not uncommon to see said vans, complete with full livery, at any one of the many car shows up and down the country. Some vans transcend their origins, and get converted into cool retro campers or promotional vehicles for businesses. Still working, but as the pretty face of a company, rather than as the workforce. Yes, old vans are cool. And few are cooler than those from the USA. Again, they were once workaday vehicles, but we find ourselves drawn to the chrome and of course, the V8s. Buy a classic American van today and you’ll be buying a head turner. Which is why this week’s project of choice is a 1974 Ford Econoline ‘Shorty’

 

What is it? 

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The Econoline is to Ford of America what the Transit is to Ford of Europe. Launched in 1961, the Econoline, or E Series, is still in production today, and is still as popular as ever. It’s one of those vans you see in every configuration, too. The Econoline has been a minibus, an ambulance, a fire response vehicle, a breakdown truck, a box van, a motorhome, a… you get the idea. And back in the day, it was also available as a ‘shorty’. That’s what we have here. An Econoline of charmingly diminutive stature. 

Designed to lug lighter loads, and to be more manoeuvrable in urban areas, this Econoline hasn’t been beaten as hard as its bigger brothers would have been. As such, this ‘dry state’ import is remarkably solid. Plus, being a second-generation Econoline, it has a V8 – a 302 in this case. And as we all know, V8s make everything better. 

It’s obviously been owned by a ‘vanning’ enthusiast in the past, as it has brilliant porthole windows fitted to the sides, as well as a small kitchenette inside. It’s a bit weathered on the outside, with the odd ding, scrape and faded paint, but it adds to the charm if you ask us. 

Why is it a project? 

This 1974 Ford Econoline has been shipped here to the UK and that’s about it. The vendor, who has a business bringing in solid, rust-free cars from America, has registered the car on NOVA and now it’s ready for its new UK home. The vendor has an eye for finding solid, honest vehicles that are perfect for the budding restorer. 

The van, as we mentioned, is fitted with a 302 V8. The engine turns over, but that’s all we know. However, parts for the Windsor V8 are plentiful, so don’t be too concerned. In reality, you’ll want to yank all the running gear out and give it a full freshen up and overhaul. 

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The interior is all there, though you’d want to pull it and retrim the seats and do something better suited to your own needs in the back. The old kitchenette is a cute nod to the past, but there’s no denying it’s probably best if it’s removed or replaced. The rest of the cab is in decent condition, though the dash has succumbed to the hot Nevada sun, so will need work. 

Externally, the van is solid and free of any serious rust. It looks like the van was once yellow, but has since been painted green. The paint is brilliantly worn though, with the yellow creeping through. We love how it looks, and think some period signwriting would set it off a treat. The chrome face is present and correct, though has picked up some dings over the years. The vendor has also fitted a new set of Goodyear rubber to the van, too. 

Five things to look for:

1) Rust

This vendor is known for bringing in cars that need very little structural work, if any at all. However, this is a van, so have a look underneath just to be safe. 

2) Poor Repairs

Again, this was a working vehicle once, and working vehicles are often bodged to keep them going. Have a look for any poor past repairs that might need to be rectified.

3) Wiring

The part camper/day van conversion that this van has been subjected to includes power outlets in the rear. We would be very keen to check and probably completely rewire this van for the sake of safety. 

4) Engine

The engine turns over, which is good. However, no attempt has been made to start it. You’re going to need to put a battery on it. If not, you can at least check for leaks, for damage and for anything that looks seized.

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5) Trim

Vans like this need the trim to be in good order, because it’s what makes them stand out. So have a good, detailed look at the front end, the bumpers, the mirrors and any other specific trim. Finding replacement stuff is going to be tricky. 

What should you do with it? 

It’s a van, so the world is very much your oyster. If it were our money, we’d go for the ultimate car show cruiser. As well we all know, spending a day in the blazing sun at a car show or other event can be exhausting. So why not deck the back of this van out with comfy chairs, a fridge, maybe even some sort of air conditioning. Make it a little base to escape to. It could be super cool in there. 

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Failing that, you could go down the camper route, or you could even use it as, you know, a van. Perhaps as a promotional working vehicle for your business. Imagine this Econoline with your company’s logo painted on it. The business will come flooding in.

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