What Was I Thinking?
Well, I did something impulsive. I purchased a 1963 Econoline out of Southern California. It was posted in the vans for sale section of the of the excellent Vintage-vans.com website.
Why would I do such a thing, especially in light of the fact that I already have an all-original, one-owner (not counting me) Econoline Panel van? Well, it just so happens that the other van, the seafoam green beauty named "Poochie" (in honor of its original owner), was given to me by the original owner's family who asked only that I "do something interesting with it". Everyone who sees it asks the same question. "You aren't going to change the paint, are you?" Hell no. And therein lies the reason I bought a second Econoline. I want to build a period custom.
But I don't have the heart to change the seafoam green exterior of "Poochie". What I have planned for "Poochie" is to leave all the original scars and bruises and the hand-painted type. And to replace the 141 ci engine/3-speed manual trans/puny stock rear end with a completely modern small-displacement drivetrain. To set the engine back as much as possible for improved handling and performance. A plan that, while not expansive from a bodywork standpoint, will require a lot of surgery and fabrication in order to achieve the desired ride height as seen above. Not to mention a fair share of engineering to stab an EcoTec drivetrain.
Simply put, this "Poochie" has been on the back burner for some time and until my 1929 roadster project is on the road, it will remain there. But that doesn't mean I can't start sourcing the parts and researching, and perhaps lining up some sponsors to provide me deals on parts.
Which brings me back to the original subject of this blog.
I want a mild custom 70s-era van. Something period-correct performance upgrades. An ol' school cool vintage van. Something more along the lines of the vans I post regularly on the Vinvanco Facebook page, and gush about on the Vinvanco.com website. As luck would have it, I happened upon a listing. A perfect Southern California-based candidate for what I have in mind. It had one picture and a simple description. The owner described a west coast body with no rust or bondo, and aside from some very minimal rash, it appeared to be in very solid condition. It was a project that had hit the skids due to a messy business dissolution and lawsuit. I spent a good hour getting the whole story of the Southern California van from Sam, its then owner, who offered to put me directly on the phone with the mechanic who did all the fabrication, which consisted of creating a custom transmission crossmember, V8 engine mounts and plumbing a 9" rear end and suspension.
By the time I talked to the mechanic, I could hardly sleep at night. I sent my nephew and brother in law, who know old cars and as luck would have it lived in the same zip code, over to Sam's to have a look. Their report? A clean candidate. All glass was good. The dash was uncut. The roof was uncut and it appeared to have one older paint job over the original factory blue. The interior was a blank canvas with no signs of ever having been modified. The fab work was well done and the engine, while dusty, was not grungy. Besides the fabrication work by the mechanic, the owner, a metal worker, had fashioned a front tunnel from the nose of the van to the doghouse in order to improve airflow. He had also widened the doghouse to accommodate a 289 engine with headers. The van matched the description I'd been given over the phone so I made an offer, it was accepted and one $800 dollar U-Ship transaction later, it was sitting in my backyard.
In truth, I paid less than the previous owner had invested and more than a lot of van folks would shell out for something like this. But I figured I the opportunity to work forward rather than backwards, and could avoid fixing stuff that was done wrong or was rusted out. Everything the owner had done was something I would have done and the cooling tunnel and widened engine compartment were a lucky strike extra.
Which is all just my way of saying that in my opinion, it was well worth the price of admission.
A rock solid, rust-free West Coast body and an upgraded 289/C4/9" drivetrain was all the convincing I needed. The plan for this old girl, which we're calling Pandora, is the subject of another post.
So there you have it. That's what I was thinking.
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Hi. I'm a van lover, a freelance writer and a dreamer.