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Oddball Hauler: 1961 Ford Econoline Truck

1961 Ford Econoline

Is this a car, truck, or van? Not a car, one might think, but the first generation Ford Econoline trucks and vans were apparently based on Falcon mechanicals, and early light duty trucks weren’t built to haul anywhere near the loads that are routine for today’s trucks. But still, it has a bed, so it can certainly haul cargo, but it’s not a Ranchero or El Camino either, so what is it? The body appears of course, to be most closely related to the Econoline van. It was designed to compete with the Corvair “Greenbriar” and the Volkswagen Microbus, it preceded Chevrolet and Dodge “flat front” trucks and vans by a few years, as well as those by various overseas manufacturers. Find this one here on craigslist in Cushing, Oklahoma with an asking of $1,500!

1961 Econoline

It’s also sort of a cab-over-engine design as well, and these apparently were front-heavy enough, that they left the factory with a 165 lb. counterweight installed in the rear of the frame, designed to improve rear wheel traction. It would have been irresistible to many owners of the era to remove this added weight, to perhaps increase fuel economy or payload capacity.

Torque Thrust Wheels

This one caught my eye due to its attractive color which appears to be original. Although it has no drive train, if it shares one with the Falcon, replacements probably wouldn’t be difficult to locate. And that of course doesn’t include the endless myriad of non-original options. The seller also says both front and rear glass and rubbers have been replaced, and I’m guessing he or someone spent a few bucks doing that. A set of five vintage Torque Thrust wheels is thrown in to sweeten the pot. While it does have rust visible in the photos, at least it looks original, without a lot of painted and puttied-over flaws to end up having to discover the hard way.

Ford Econoline

This one has been listed for sale for awhile, which could mean any number of things; that it sold long ago and the seller never deleted the ad, or that he still has it and is willing to make a deal, or other possibilities. Very likely the deal-breaker here, on this otherwise interesting vehicle, is the lack of title. Laws and procedures for obtaining lost titles vary greatly from state to state. How difficult is it where you live? Have you ever obtained one?


  1. Blindmarc

    Drove many a van, but always wanted to put a V8 mid-engine in one.

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    • Alan (Michigan )

      That concept works for me too.
      And if done right, there would still be a little room left to actually use for hauling…

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  2. 64 bonneville

    Oklahoma has a state stature called 42. To obtain a title 42 in Oklahoma, you have to physically present the vehicle to the tag office. they will verify the VIN and present you with the verification paperwork. Then find an individual that does Title 42 processing and present the vehicle and the VIN certification to them. They typically will handle all the paperwork. On average it will run you about $200.00. I have title 42 5 or 6 vehicles in this way, for various restoration projects, or from re-poing vehicles. The entire process takes from 6 to 8 weeks. BTW Oklahoma is one of the easiest states to get a title for a vehicle, if you live here.

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    • Jason Houston

      I think that word you want is “statute”. “Stature” refers to either one’s social standing or physical pose, depending on usage.

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  3. Karl

    The 1961 Econoline was indeed based on Falcon mechanical components–IIRC the early ads called it the “Falcon Econoline”, and I believe they had Falcon script logos on the doors (maybe that was just on the window vans). The rear weight could be removed, but considering the traction and nose-diving issues that would ensue, I wonder if that idea was really irresistible. Ford didn’t put that weight under there because it was feeling generous.

    The original engine was one of the early Falcon sixes (originally a 144cid or 170cid unit with four main bearings), which would move this little box along after a fashion, but it would help to have a strong breeze at its back. I understand it’s possible to squeeze a small-block V8 under there, but I also understand that doing this leads to cooling issues, given the small area of the grille opening.

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  4. OhU8one2

    Ya know,the Misses has been asking for a hay hauler for the horses. Definitely won’t be another one like it. Wonder what the payload is? And those vintage mags! Price is right that’s for sure. Wasn’t there one of these called “Little Red Wagon”? I think it would do wheelies all the way down the drag strip. Now I’m starting to like this pickup.

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  5. roger pence

    The Lil Red Wagon was a Dodge, but a very similar form factor. Both were very cool. I’d love to rat this little ford.

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    • Howard A Member

      Hi roger, yes, the LRW was a Dodge ( Bill Golden recently passed away) however, many racers jumped on the “wheelie” bandwagon, and the “Backup Pickup” was a Ford. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/4a/f4/23/4af423ee0a2e66940b414a414da3aa4f.jpg

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      • Alan (Michigan )

        Every time I see a photo of an old racer, I wonder what became of it.
        An exhibition special like the “Backup Pickup” may have been more likely to be parted out in favor of a competitive racer?

        “Foulgers”…. Too funny!

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  6. DREW V.

    I think a late model 4.9L FI. inline 6 with an auto tranny would be perfect for this…

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    • MountainMan

      yup, exactly what was thinkin…mount some meaty tires on the wheels the seller is including and enjoy!

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  7. Mark S

    With the advent of the digital camera you can snap pictures until the cows come home and not pay a dime. So why do we get 4 or 5 pictures especially on Cregslist. The other thing that bugs me is a seller that can’t take the time to at least clean up around the vehicle. So I guess washing it would be out of the question. I want you to buy my truck but I can’t be bothered to make it a little bit more presentable. As for the truck/ van it does make sense to put the engine in the back if only to balance it out. It will be a Ujoint killer as is usually the case with short drive shafts. Unless you could incorporate a CV jointed shaft. There is a Canadian show called restoration garage that built just such a truck it was killer looking.

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  8. 64 bonneville

    Saw one many years ago. owner had installed a 455 and tranny from a 70 toronado in the back, and yes it could do wheelies. He came down to hard on the front wheels and blew out the front suspension.

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  9. Doug M. (West Coast) Member

    Seems to be a good deal. Most of these I have seen in the last few years have been in the $3500 range.

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  10. Warren

    My Dad was a Test Driver for Ford in the 60’s and he told me that without the weight in the back the rear wheels would come off the ground during the panic braking tests.

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  11. JW

    Bought one of these used back in 1982, red and a little rusty but it was a fun truck to haul small items with fixing up my first house. Another vehicle I wish I had kept. Had to heat up the kingpins to force grease in them otherwise you had to be the incredible hulk to steer it.

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  12. Wayne Thomas

    This Ecoline would do well with an Ecoboost engine.

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  13. Howard A Member

    I’ll agree, these were a bit odd, but for contractors doing city work, they were just the thing. This is a true cabover, and were very maneuverable, but really, pretty miserable to drive. And terrible rusters, so to see this is pretty cool. A V-8 is out of the question, ( unless it’s put in the bed like the LRW), as these were front heavy to begin with, and were a pain to work on. Karl is right, the vans had “Falcon” on the rear doors.

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    • geomechs geomechs Member

      Hi Howard. Actually swapping out the six for a V8 wasn’t entirely out of the question. You needed to change the rear transmission mount/hanger and install the V8 mounts. You could install anything from the late edition 221 to a 302. There’s a good article on such a swap in ‘Petersen’s Complete Book of Pickups and Vans.’ Unfortunately it won’t be readily available because it came out in ’72. I have it in my stuff somewhere but it would take some serious searching. Things tend to get covered up over the years…

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      • Alan (Michigan)

        “Things tend to get covered up over the years…”

        Isn’t that the truth!

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  14. Marty Member

    64, if titles are easy to get in Oklahoma, getting them for other people could maybe become a great source of income! Just kidding.

    I finally obtained a “bonded title” here in Missouri, after a long time working on it. It wasn’t crazy expensive, but involved a great deal of work and running around. A number of the people I talked to in the license bureaus here didn’t even know Missouri has a bonded title procedure! Maybe I’ll write it up sometime.

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  15. piper62j

    Another Ford rust bucket accompanied by poor design..

    It would look good on the drag strip with a 429 at your side…

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  16. Rick Borstein

    I own a 1962. Driving these early vans is an experience. The 144ci engine makes it tough on the highway and the backend is so light that it can swing around on you. I’m restomodding my truck with updated components including Mustang II front end, 9″ rear end and Ford Racing 302. I love the look of these trucks!

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    • Alan (Michigan)

      Two Thumbs UP, Rick!

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    • Kelly Moss

      I would like to put a mustang 2 front end in mine. Any info on how you did it would be greatly appreciated.

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  17. alfred

    my neighbor bought one years ago it sat under a tarp and rotted away. he never got around to working on it. as soon as he and his wife split up she junked it. a fitting end I think for such an ugly truck. in my opinion only

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  18. Tundra/BMW Guy

    I think it could be cool looking!! Just in its stock body form. The “no engine, no trans”, opens one up to many options. The problem is all the NO’s
    No engine
    No trans
    No idea to the extent of rust
    No title
    To me that equals “No Deal”

    Like 0

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