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Electric Conversion Project: 1967 Chevrolet Ultravan

The Ultravan has an interesting but brief history and – though it began with Corvair engineering beneath it – Chevrolet never produced it. Only a few hundred were built by different ownership groups from 1960-74. This one is amid a conversion to electric power, but it’s a stalled project that needs someone else to pick up the pieces. Located in Meridian, Idaho, this ’67 Ultravan is available here on Facebook Marketplace for $2,500 OBO.

David Peterson is credited with developing the Ultravan. After hand-building a motorhome with a Corvair engine, he liked the idea so much he created a company around it in 1961 called the Ultra Van Mfg. Co. For a time, production was handed off to the Prescolite Mfg. Corp. before coming back under Peterson’s control. The Ultravan saw its greatest success under Tillotson Ultra Inc. who built 376 of them from 1966-70, which is the period when the seller’s van came to life.

During the Tillotson era, 320 of the Ultravans were built with Chevrolet Corvair engines, air-cooled, of course. Most of the others had V8 engines ranging from 307 to 455 cubic inches, meaning some of the motorhomes were much more powerful than others. 95% of the Ultravans were 22 feet long, with a handful of others ranging up to 27 feet. We assume the seller’s van is one of the shorter ones.

If the seller’s Ultravan had the Corvair engine, it’s gone now in favor of some kind of electric conversion the seller started before Covid struck. That period proved hard, so work stopped and the need to sell the project has emerged. We’re told the motorhome comes with a 150hp forklift motor, a rear-end from a 2006 Lincoln Mark VII, and custom front control arms. The frame is said to be solid, so presumably, rust won’t drive you crazy. Our own Jeff Lavery covered one of these in 2020 here on Barn Finds and we borrowed an interior photo from that article as we don’t know what this one looks like.


  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    I came across one of these in downtown Hyampom,California,
    while on a British car run.Downtown Hyampon consists of three businesses.

    Like 4
  2. leiniedude leiniedude Member


    Like 14
    • Cadmanls Member

      An electric RV? What were they thinking, what possible range did they hope for? Just pull over and wait for it to recharge using solar power. Really couldn’t have thought about using it after it was completed.

      Like 9
      • Terrry

        At least they’d have a place to stay waiting for it to recharge.

        Like 7
  3. Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

    Park it down by the river, under a bridge, and let life walk by.

    Like 6
    • Al

      Flip it over by the bridge, and then you have a barge.

      With a good river current, you could get twice as far as the electric charge.

      Just somehow does not look like the precursor to the Tesla.

      Like 10
  4. CCFisher

    The Volvo VNR Electric semi has a range of 275 miles, but that takes a 575kWh battery system. For comparison, the Ford Mustang Mach-E tops out at 91kWh. Both use lithium-ion batteries, which are smaller and lighter than the lead-acid batteries shown here, but more expensive. To get meaningful range with lithium-ion batteries would cost at least $40K. To get meaningful range with lead-acid batteries, you’d have to fill the thing up, and then it would be so heavy it would probably just collapse. Utterly useless.

    Like 9
    • Christopher Benjamin

      Re Install a Engine ?

      Like 1
  5. Terrry

    If something this big and heavy came with a Corvair engine, it would be safe to say “on the level” this was a fine automobile.

    Like 3
    • Matt

      I have one! I drove it from Oregon to Florida with the Corvair motor. Hopefully this one can be returned to Corvair power.

      These have no frame. And weigh about 3500lbs.

      Like 10
  6. Jonathan Q Higgins

    It was designed by an aircraft engineer so it’s very light for its size. It’s probably not designed for heavy batteries. It looks to be pretty beat up so it’s not like the ruined one in good condition.

    Like 3
  7. Richard

    Cool rig but this one’s a nightmare. Use it for a boat anchor.

  8. Robby C

    It would be great to see it polished up like an Airstream!

    Like 3
  9. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    What a happy day it would be for the seller when they see this monstrosity leave the yard.

    Like 1
  10. Steve Clinton

    Drop it in the ocean and make an artificial reef for the fishies.

  11. Lothar... of the Hill People

    Well, if you drag it home and cut a big door into it, it might make a nice shed, if you don’t have neighbors. The batteries might run some interior LED’s for a while. That’s about it.

    Some people shouldn’t take on projects like this and that includes me.

    Like 2
  12. Howie Mueler

    Make Offer? $1 would be too much.

    Like 2
  13. Wayne

    Saw a running, driving, original one in Prince Albert National Park in Northern Saskatchewan. The guy that owned it owned a body shop in the town of Prince Albert. Cool vehicle and a really nice guy.

    Like 1
    • Richard

      There’s one in my neighborhood. Really cool and unique but this one just looks like a mess.

      Like 1
    • Mike Johnston

      Wayne. How long ago was that? I bought mine out of Prince Albert years ago. UV290. Just wondering if it’s the same one.

  14. CharlesS

    I have seen a couple of them with small block Chevy V8’s. Maybe someone will either return it to a Covair engine or a small block conversion. Either one will work better then this half-baked electric conversion.

    Like 1

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