The Ford Econoline has been coming out of the assembly line since 1961. The vehicle underwent very few style revamps; in fact, the current generation of the Ford Econoline has practically been left untouched since 1992. Apart from it being a marketing strategy, the vehicle strived to maintain its configuration because the current design allowed the Econoline to be up-fitted and converted into a commercial vehicle with less hassle. While it is arguable that other full-sized vans can virtually outclass the Econoline with regards to design and handling; Ford’s consistent cost-efficient marketing and respectable reputation makes the Econoline the preferred choice by the economical market.
1961-1974: The big guy with the big name
Ford introduced the Econoline with every intention to sell it as a tow vehicle. Its design was based on the compact Ford Falcon, the Chevrolet Corvair Sportvan, and the Volkswagen Type 2, which were 172.3-inches (4,376-millimeters) long. Even during its first release, the Econoline has a Gross Combined Weight Rating of 20,000-pounds (9,076-kg). The target market is mainly composed of commercial, fleet-end users, and cargo vans to some percent. To sustain the over-all weight of the vehicle, a load of 165-lb (75-kg) was installed over the rear wheels to balance the heavy mass on the van’s front end. This fitted load can be removed by the owners if the cargo area is already stuffed with massive freight.
The first Econoline vans that came out featured a 4.9-liter inline-6 engine as the base. At no additional cost, a choice of three gasoline V8 engine and a V8 diesel intake was also made available. Trim levels have always been available in E-150 and E-350 styles, with vehicle lengths; XL, XLT, and Chateau. A three-speed manual transmission also came as standard.
Back then, the Econoline had a flat nose with the engine placed between and behind the front seats. This design was also adopted by the Chevrolet Van and the Dodge A100 some years later. The cargo area of the Econoline also features a double-wall design that provides additional protection to the exterior sheet metal against damage from varying cargos.
1975-1991: Platform update
The Econoline boasted an all-new platform for the 1975 model year. The previous flat nose design had been given a proper hood, and the engine was also moved from the front seats to the nose. The full frame also allowed the chassis to be used for cutaway vans; this is under the same design initiative for buses, trucks, and ambulances. The 1975 model year also marked the beginning of aftermarket four-wheel drive van conversions.
The exterior remained exactly like the original 1961 release until the 1979 model year. The front fascia received a minor facelift that updated its grille and headlights. Also, in 1983, the “Blue Oval” Ford logo was integrated into the front grille.
1992-present: Design changes
For almost two decades, the Ford Econoline practically retained its original design conventions since the 1979 model year. In 1992, the vehicle underwent a redesign to allow room for aerodynamic handling. The steering wheel can already be tilted, the front seats were installed with airbags, and the driver’s compartment already made room for switchgear and gauges. Antilock brakes came in late compared to other vehicles; they were installed at the turn of the century.
In 199, the Ford Econoline was rebranded as the Ford E-Series in Canada. This rebranding came in late for the United States; the name was only adapted during the 2002 model year.