Live Auctions

Ever Seen One? 1978 Quadravan Find

This Ford E250 based Quadravan was converted when new to a four wheel drive vehicle. Apparently there was a small industry doing these, mainly in the Pacific Northwest in this time period. This particular one is found in Missoula, Montana and is up for sale here on eBay where the buy it now price is only $2,950, but the seller is willing to consider even lower offers.

As best as I can tell, the Quadravans were converted to four wheel drive (with Ford’s blessing) by a company called Pathfinder, which is no longer around. This van then received further customizing by The Van Workshop in Portland, Oregon, which I suspect included the decals and distinctive interior.

You can see some rust issues starting in the fender arches, but the body as a whole doesn’t look too bad.

It certainly is a distinctive interior, isn’t it? With the long wheel base, this could really be a work horse, especially if some of the seating was removed.

Here’s a close up of the custom headliner and console. Wow! Someone really liked orange, didn’t they?

Just in case you were wondering if this van had the go to match the show, that’s a 460 cubic inch V8 crammed in under there! The van is said to run and drive well, by the way. After reading some bulletin board threads online here and here, it’s apparent that these are quite capable off road vehicles, and that their owners tend to hang on to them for a long time. The only negatives constantly mentioned are confusion when you need to come up with spare parts, and fuel economy in the 8-11 miles per gallon range. With $2.10 per gallon gas where I am, that fuel economy isn’t a total killer, although I wouldn’t want to use it as a daily driver! But I don’t really need the four wheel drive in North Carolina; I suspect this will go to some enthusiast in the North. What say you, Barn Finds readers? Any interest in this go-anywhere rolling box?


  1. Mr. Bond

    Somewhere I read that 4wd Vans weren’t that popular for serious off roading, because they aren’t nearly as flexible as a pickups, and the body ended up with stress cracks. Sounded plausible, but not sure if it’s true or not.

  2. stang1968

    Might make a good hunting rig. Pull the seats and you can field dress your game back there.

  3. redwagon

    true. they end up twisting a lot.

    i ordered one for work from ford who sent it out to a conversion company who created a 4wd e250 on the long bed using ford approved parts. that way there was a new vehicle warranty on all the components. we dont do a lot of off roading with it – oddly enough we use it in relatively flat fields to haul seedlings and equipment to water or spray herbicide for site prep. still a 2wd van is about the worst thing you can have off road. i now have a panel van with a crew bench behind the driver and passenger but if i had to do it over again i would spend just a tad more money and get the regular 12 passenger van with windows. sitting in the crew bench is a bit claustrophobic with all that metal and the only window straight forward.

    where i live the folks were salivating over mine. wanted to use it for grouse hunting with large parties.

  4. BillyBoi

    There is a company that still manufactures Van 4×4 conversions..I think their name is Quigley conversions.

  5. Glen

    There used to be a plumber around here that had a 4wd Ford van. I don’t know who did the conversion, though. I thought it was a good idea for the roads around here in the Winter. I’m in Haliburton County ,Ontario, look it up.

  6. Drew V

    Only 4×4 van I ever saw in person was at McClain Chevrolet in Kennett, Mo in 1979… They had a matching 4×4 swb truck, both of them decked out in the GBX graphics package (ie decals, special rims,the truck had a rollbar with lights the van had a light bar with lights) highest sitting van I have ever seen…

  7. angliagt

    One of our fire department Captains bought one of these
    brand new,from our local Ford dealer.It was regular length,with
    a stripped interior.I thought it was really cool looking.
    I also saw one for sale a few years back,in Southern Oregon,
    for about $1500.On one of the back doors,it said “Not Your Momma’s 4WD”.

  8. Leon

    In the 90s my mechanic in New Orleans worked on one a guy took to Mexico to dig rocks. I just recently saw a fairly new one at Lowes. About 4 or 5 years old. Wonder who does the 4×4 converts now ????

    • redwagon

      as mentioned above quigley does them and if they do then ford honors the powertrain warranty

  9. Adam T45 Staff

    Reading this post, the thing that makes me whimper most is the price you pay for fuel. In Australia the going price isn’t $2.10 per gallon. Our price is $5.72 per gallon! This is what killed off the local manufacture of family sized sedans in this country. We are now relegated to a situation where the only affordable V8’s available to us are a limited number of imported Ford Mustangs (very limited numbers). Cherish and enjoy these behemoths of the road. You are so lucky.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Adam, spoiled, is more like it. We’ve ( Americans) enjoyed relatively cheap fuel ( compared world wide) for many years. That’s why we have units like this, that get 0 mpg. Don’t worry, our time will come, and you literally won’t be able to feed these things. Same reason why everybody got bent out of shape on my 396 Chevy pickup comments. Again, I just don’t think people remember what gas hogs these things were. They had 2 gas tanks for a reason.

      • Adam T45 Staff

        Hi Howard. I remember the days of cheap fuel, of Fords with big block engines. In Australia we’re heading through a tough time. After a long history of local vehicle development and manufacture, Australia is now watching the end to this industry. Ford ceased local manufacturing here in October. Next year GM (through its Holden brand) will also cease manufacture. Mitsubishi and Nissan have already gone. The only performance vehicles that will be available for us will be European (Merc, BMW….but who can afford those?) with limited imports of Mustang and possibly the Camaro. For someone who grew up in an era of distinctive Australian performance cars it’s a strange experience.

  10. chris lawrence

    I’ve never seen one in real life, however it doesn’t stop me from lusting after one.

  11. Warren


  12. JW

    Seen a few in the Chicago area where I grew up but mostly contractors who need to get around in all sorts of weather. The off roaders I hung out with had shortbed pickups and jeeps, the vans were too hard to see out of when navigating around trees and big rocks. The featured one would be nice for camping / fishing / hunting, gas here in Kansas City is $1.89 a gallon.

    • MrBlueOval 57

      Yep, they were very popular in the Chicago area, especially right after the Chicago 1979 blizzard hit. I had a friend that had a nice black E-250 Quadravan conversion that he bought brand new from the local Ford dealer. it too was a Pathfinder conversion. I remember he had 4 of the brightest off-road KC lights I have ever seen on the roof of that thing and 2 Unity Spotlights on the windshield posts. He could light up the countryside wherever he went with it. I had a brand new ’79 F-250 4×4 at the time and used to meet up with him and a few others and go 4-wheelin’ all over the place all the time. A fun & popular thing to do at the time when if you had a 4wd, you had a REAL 4×4, not one of the newer so-called “SUV-4×4″s that you see on the road nowadays. it’s a shame but 99.9% of the new 4wd’s never even see any off-road use. I put my 4×4 places that most people wouldn’t even think of going in ANY vehicle, let alone anything that was a daily driver and I made it thru it too.

  13. Stephen

    I’ve seen alot of vans that were converted over to four wheel drive by either swapping over the transfer case and axle from a four wheel drive pickup or is cases where the chassis was compatible just swapping over a complete chassis

  14. Steve

    Crazy. Once again this price would be around 5500 bucks here in Minnesota. Used classic vehicles go for crazy money. I would buy it in a heart beat at that price.

  15. sir mike

    A lot of these done in PA where I live by Quigley’s…spelling may be wrong..Friend of mine had one with a chair lift and hand controls.He also used it for small game and duck hunting.Just roll his chair to the lift and shoot from there.

  16. Blindmarc

    There’s 3 or 4 newer ones I see all the time, here.

  17. Todd Zuercher

    Pathfinder and Quigley were the big ones back in the day. We still see a fair number of them here in the west. These days the two main players are U-Joint and Sportsmobile. Sportsmobile is the favorite of the overlanding crowd. Check out their prices……

  18. CJay

    I don’t know what company did the conversion, But I looked at a 4X4 Ford ambulance that was for sale. It had two drive shafts going out the front of the transfer case. One to each front wheel. I had never seen one like tat. When I asked a friend who had a 4X4 Ford van in Buffalo NY he screamed for me to “buy it”! The $1200 price it was worth it to him for the parts. He was running 40 inch boggers on his van and claimed it was a great dependable setup.

  19. DrinkinGasoline

    Not sure what upfitter but they are still being made. This one is set up with a wheelchair lift with no driver’s seat. The owner is a paraplegic.

  20. DrinkinGasoline

    Pictures not loading for me nor is the edit option working.

  21. Walter Joy

    Is it a solid front axle? Anyone know about the V-Drive 4×4 systems that came with a dual differential front axle and a v transfer case

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Walter, that would have been VEMCO out of Ft. Wayne, Ind. Neat looking setup, I wonder if it worked?

      • Todd Zuercher

        I don’t think it worked very well. I’ve seen a few of those in the junkyards over the years and I’m always left shaking my head….

    • Warren Johnson Member

      Got a quote from Quigley to do my 1 ton ford van, $12,500.00. My warranty from ford is honored.

  22. Wayne

    Quigley is still around (official modifier for Ford and GM). I sell 4-10 a year. In fact I just took 2 in trade. (1 each Ford and GM). They use all factory parts. And are very reliable. Good company!,

  23. Sheffieldcortinacentre

    In the UK this type of conversion is popular with utility companies esp in rural areas, the most common is the ford transit (avl from “county conversion’s” since the late 70s ).
    There highly sort after by enthusiasts.
    As for fuel its around $7 a gallon here, of which 75% is tax! & is why we’re stuck with dodgy diesels & kiddie cars.still got my 1/25 kit stunt van I think it’s called has a solid frt axle, a swb econoline panel van from late 70s

  24. Adam T45 Staff

    I’ve got a couple of interesting ones from the land down under for you to look at. The first is a Holden (GM) Overlander wagon. Based on the Holden Kingswood station wagon, it was fitted with the transfer case, drive-train and suspension from Toyota Landcruiser (but with the standard Holden engine). It was available with a 202ci six cylinder, a 253 or a 308ci V8. Very popular in a limited run version. There are plenty of these still kicking around today.

    • Adam T45 Staff

      The other one from down under was released in 1970. It was a factory Ford Falcon 4×4 utility. Based on the rwd Falcon utility, this was a factory conversion. The car suffered a multitude of reliability issues, so few were produced.

  25. Guggie 13

    Lots of these in upstate New York , seem to work out great up here , for both personal and commercial use ,see a lot of guys pulling boats and snowmachines with them ! Gas still under $3 bucks !

  26. Tony

    Sup, I have a 82 G30 pathfinder. Bought in 96 from father in-law. Used it for years to haul big jeep to off-road events around Midwest. Has a sb400,t-400,205,14 bolt rear,d-44ft, 6″ lift on 37″ H1 boublebeadlocks. Has bed and 4 capt chairs…and a 1/4
    Million miles…and lots of rust!! In Oklahoma and gas is 1.80 a gal. 😎

  27. tasker

    THERE is nothing wrong with a Quadravan! 429 and yes, it does go quite well off road

  28. Tony

    A pic of my 82 g-30 Pathfinder. Hopefully. And that was H1 doublebeadlocks, not boublebeadlocks. Not sure where that came from? Lol. Thanks. Btw, it’s 5 degrees in Oklahoma this morning and gas is 1.85.

  29. GoldNugget

    My ’78 E-350 Ford Quadravan in Northern California. We use her often for remote camping in all kinds of weather. Just returned from a trip to the Grand Canyon and up next, Madras Oregon for the total eclipse.

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