Ken Hopcraft has an overpowering affection for all forms of the first-generation Econoline. his Kitchener, Ontario, garage houses this surfer-dude '67 eight-door cargo van variant and a '67 factory camper conversion van, as well as a Pro Street-style '65 Mercury Econoline E-100 pickup.
As if this triumvirate of trucklets wasn't enough, Ken also has a bar in his basement made from yet another Mercury Econoline's snout, sawn off at the base of the windshield, but still equipped with working headlights. Is he obsessed with these stubby little cargo haulers? Uh, yeah.
It took nearly three years of pestering to pry this one from the hands of its previous owner. Of particular appeal to Ken was its rust-free, factory-paint, 70,000-mile originality. Fittingly enough, this cancer-free body was the result of its original purchase and use by a Texas branch of the American Cancer Society. Not much road salt in Texas, we reckon.
As delivered, it was about as basic as an Econoline could get, save for its eight-door configuration-one of only 515 built that way in 1967. This means manual steering, 10-inch drum brakes, a three-on-the-tree manual gearbox, an in-line six of underwhelming power, and not a side or rear window in sight. This one was optioned with a heavy-duty package bringing along heavier springs and shocks, bigger rear brakes, a front anti-roll bar, and a practically indestructible 9-inch rear axle.
After completing its Cancer Society duty, the little box-on-wheels went through a small succession of owners before Ken snagged it four years ago.
Though rust-free, it still had the road rash three decades of service were bound to have inflicted, so Ken prepped the body himself before handing it over to Paul Molto for some fresh coats of enamel in the original Wimbledon White hue. The sheetmetal remains entirely stock with the addition of a billet surfboard rack built by Richard Ruiter. The obvious ride-height slam was accomplished by flipping the spring locations on the solid rear and I-beam front axles with homemade kits. Even the stock springs are retained, bolstered by KYB shocks (air in back), but the wheel openings are now filled to capacity with 17-inch American Racing Torq-Thrust II wheels, 7-inches wide in front, 8 inches out back, mounting 215/50 and 245/45 front and rear rubber.
Inside, the factory painted tin-can look remains pretty much unmolested, though Ken did add a grayish-blue tweed headliner. Everything else in the cockpit, including the steering wheel, the fully instrumented gauge cluster, and the blue vinyl buckets, remain factory original. Ken did take one small liberty under the engine cover that separates those seats. He yanked the old six-banger and wedged an injected 5.0 liter from a '91 Mustang in its place. He used the 'Stang's stock EEC-IV processor, but added ceramic-coated long-tube headers, three-chamber Flowmaster mufflers, and Crane roller rockers in the process. According to Ken, "I didn't cut or alter any of the original sheetmetal or wiring harness in order to stuff that injected 5.0 in the van. I said from the start that if I had to cut anything, I wouldn't go through with the project, with it being such a rare piece." The 302's prodigious power and torque still flow through the original three-speed gearbox on the way to the equally original 9-inch axle, with 3.25 gears and an open differential. We're guessing block-long, one-wheel burnouts aren't much of a problem.
The '67 Econoline was the last of its generation, and we applaud Ken's efforts at preserving-and evolving-this particular species.