BF Classified: 1976 Ford E-150 Denim Machine

Seller’s Description: 1976 Ford Denim Machine Hot Rod Magazine Give-Away (1 of 10). True barn find! Super rare van from the ’70s. I’m the 3rd Owner.

In the early ’70s, with oil prices rising, the muscle car era was ending as emissions standards were put into place.
Hot Rod magazine began to pick up on the growing customized van trend (much to the eyre of some of its readers who were still focused on muscle cars and hot rods).

To celebrate the U.S. bicentennial In 1976, Hot Rod magazine teamed up with Ford, Coca-Cola, and Levi’s to give away 35 Denim Machine vans (U.S.: 10, Canada: 25).
Hot Rod magazine received 2,000,000 entries in the giveaway.

An additional 87 vans were created and used by Coca-Cola bottlers for promotion. None were ever sold to the public.
It is estimated that only 14 of these Denim Machines are still in existence.
Due to the interior being Levis’ a lot of these vans interior succumbed to mold and rot. Levi’s are holding up very well.

This van was one of the original 10 given away in the U.S.
It was won by an 11-year-old kid by the name of Paul Frownfelter from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
Since he was 11 and could not drive it the vehicle it was sold in 1977 to Charles Dalton, at a Baltimore car show.

Mr. Dalton owned the vehicle for the next 41 years and now lives in Virginia. The vehicle was discovered in some type of barn/storage in 2018 and had been sitting for several years (see attached photos).

As documented in a letter from a Denim Machine owner and “historian”, this may be the rarest of them all. The historian in the early ’90s sent a letter to the original owner, who then sent it to the 2nd owner which states, “yours may be the rarest of them all”. The letter also included the list of all 10 U.S. winners including the list of the 750 people who won Levi’s leisure suits.

There are some areas where the vehicle is missing some of the original equipment. Mr. Dalton’s wife burned her legs on the side pipes, so those were removed and running boards added. The Hooker header which was side-exit still also needed to be removed since the connection to the side pipes. The roof scoop was removed due to leakage. The Snooper Scooper radar detector was confiscated by the police. Remember radar detectors were illegal in Virginia.

It has a 351 Windsor with automatic transmission and Hurst Floor Shifter and a shift kit.

There has been one repaint done to it but it was done consistently to match the original color and graphics. There is some fading and patina. The vehicle was Ziebarted and spent much of it’s time in the temperate states of Maryland and Virginia.
The body and suspension are very solid.

As the 3rd owner, the vehicle was made operational again with a heavy focus on restoring the interior. I never cared for the original wheels, so I ended up putting on period-correct Cragar SS wheels. The vehicle shows 13,455 miles on it so I am assuming it turned over one time. It drives and handles very well. Typical with a vehicle this old, it has engine and transmission leaks, the A/C does not blow cold air. The rear driver fender flare was recently damaged when I hit the side of my garage. it has been removed and the body area repaired. The fender flare would still need to be repaired and reattached. The basic electrical does work to operate the vehicle but some of the aftermarket electrical features are not functioning including the refrigerator compressor and some of the lighting. The exterior lighted Coke sign still works on one side.

Ironically, in June of 2019 when I got the vehicle running, I took it to it’s a first car show in Columbus Ohio (won best of the show for its class).
A woman approached me and told me she was one of the other 9 winners of a Denim Machine and still has the small TV that came with it. All the documentation and information of this encounter and the above-described history is well preserved and comes with the vehicle.

The vehicle is also listed locally, so I reserve the right to end the listing at any time.
Thank you for your interest.

$25,000 or Best Offer through Sept 1

Price: $25,000
Location: Westerville, Ohio
Mileage: 113,455
VIN: E14HH68425

Seller’s Listing: Here on eBay

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Comments

  1. geomechs geomechs Member

    I well remember when they were giving these away. Back in ’77 it seemed that everyone coveted one of these. I might add that that was the only time in my life I was ever attracted to a van. It would’ve been real funny if I had won because at that time I was working for a GM dealer and I had taken delivery of a new Ford truck the very day the boss signed the contracts with the General. I would’ve been fired for sure if I brought one of these around…

    Like 8
    • Don

      I entered this contest – I came in second place – And won a whole Levi’s wardrobe which I got for my dad –

      Like 6
  2. Mitchell Member

    If this van’s a-rockin it’s certainly patriotic

    Like 4
  3. 86_Vette_Convertible

    I remember all too well the HRM articles on the build on the Denim Machines. In fact like countless others, I put a registration in. Didn’t win but then I expected I had no chance to begin with of winning one.

    Like 3
  4. Tom71mustangs

    They had two of these on display at the Carlisle Ford Show this past weekend. Coincidence?

    Like 5
  5. Rosko

    Hmmmm. Those flames look a little rushed

    Like 3
  6. AMCFAN

    I actually owned one 12 years ago. It was known in the collector Denimachine circles as Zanes van. Zane was a master. He too like many saw one couldn’t have it so built It was a replica. It was done so well that the historian that kept track considered it one. Zane located the correct side door hinges that clear the flairs. He had a working Super Snooper.

    The van was done with such amazing detail. I had a new Denimachine emblem made for the side and lt looked like a mirror and much better than the original. It still looks great today. There are many pics still on the web and can easily identified by the Hurricane Wheels. The fronts are Red and the rears are Blue. Zanes idea. He also changed up how the red flames went down the doors over the white. A natural flow for the eyes.

    I sold it to Barry Lefroy and he did little except make it famous. With him it was featured in Hot Rod and was later sold at Mecham. Obviously it for him (and me) to was fun to own for a min.

    The drawbacks. It had a three speed auto. With the sidepipes it would scream on the highway at 70 mph. Remember these were made during the time the national speed limit was double nickels. The manual AOD trans didn’t arrive till the 80’s.

    Hard to stop to get gas and believe me needed it all the time. Driving it through town was like driving a parade float. Gets a little unnerving after a while. People staring.

    Couldn’t pull off of the trail to go “Parking” someone would always see it and pull over for a look. Then you are busted.

    Needed a BIG garage.

    I think 25 Large is an adventurous price.

    Like 8
  7. Tom

    A 4 speed manual floor shift was put in a 78 ford E150 . I bought my 77 and when i saw the 4 speed in 78 ,I wished I had waited.

    Like 2
  8. Glenn

    When I was in high school in the late ’70’s, I had two custom vans (not at the same time), and I remember this contest. Would love to have this van, but I have to pay out-of-state college tuition for my kids. So I’m broke for the next 4 years!

    Like 2
  9. Russell Ashley

    A friend of mine who was not into cars or vans, or vehicles at all except to get to work in, won one of those. It was one of those “I’ll register for it while I’m waiting on my wife” situations. He quickly grew tired of it and sold it because he said that everywhere he went people asked about it and wanted to talk about it, and look at it. He never read a Hot Rod magazine in his life (still hasn’t) and he was exactly the wrong person to have won it. He didn’t like it for the reasons that car enthusiasts would have liked it, to talk about it and show it to people.

    Like 3
  10. 67Firebird_Cvt Member

    If it was made to commemorate the US bicentennial why did Canada get more of them. Strange…
    Neat story though.

    Like 2
  11. TimM

    Really cool story!! I personally never heard of the contest but it would be cool to own!! It would be cool to see more pictures of it!! One picture and no interior pictures of the denim and how well it held up is a little disappointing!!!

    Like 1
  12. AMCFAN

    I was the kid trying to win too. You would think the owners of these vans would be very protective of them. At the end of the day it seems they are just a truck.

    Before mine I had done quite a bit of research pre internet. I remember back in the early 90’s finding one in Columbus Ohio right off of High street. It was in a seedy area and the guy was living in it. It was rough. The interior was a mold farm. Amazing it was still outfitted with the frige and all. Had the original paint. The price then for this guys house was only $800.

    Found out another was gutted by the original winner and used as a tool hauler as the guy did construction. He primered over it black. Another was in Ill being used as a flea market hauler. The rear scoop was tore off and had been leaking for a long time. As recent as 4-5 years ago one showed up in a Pick in pull salvage yard. It never made it out and was crushed.

    I had found others and the prices as recent were in the $3500-$8000 range a few being nice drivers somewhat presentable. Others ride the Coca Cola wave and think they have a one of a kind and want the moon. People are not buying.

    You need a big space. You need to appreciate old musty faded interior and Twin I Beam ride. As I said above. Mine was a reproduction but was the best looking and presentation of the original. There are pics of it on the web at a coliseum. Barry had taken it to a show I believe. It sparkled. It was done in base clear. A science that was unknown in the 70’s. To do that now would be hundreds of hours to get right.

    Still It grew old quick. Think of an old movie star that has long faded. Sometimes you have to be careful on what you wish for. Once you have it isn’t all that great. For those that want one keep dreaming.

  13. Brenden

    When I was in college in 1991 there was one of these in a trailer court not far from where I lived. It was well used at that point but still roadworthy and it seemed they drove it everyday. I I knew it was something special but never knew it was that rare. Pretty cool. I’d love to have that just for the conversation piece it would be.

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