Ex-USAF Survivor: 1972 Ford Econoline Club Wagon

For more than 50 years, the Ford Econoline was a staple in the full-size van market. From 1961-2014, it served business fleets, tradesmen, organizations, and families with a straight-forward product. The second generation ran from 1969-74, which includes the seller’s 1972 Econoline Club Wagon, a nice example that worked for the U.S. Air Force and is available through a dealer in Springtown, Texas and here on eBay where a no reserve auction has reached $5,375.

The Ford E-Series (aka Ford Econoline and Ford Club Wagon) was a range of full-size vans produced for 53 years before being replaced by the Transit. For much of that time, it was the best-selling full-size van in the U.S. at almost 80% of the market. The E-Series is second to the F-Series in longevity of models produced by Ford. The second generation began to move away from its car-based roots to be more like Ford’s trucks. They now placed the engine at the front of the vehicle, resulting in a prominent doghouse protruding from under the dashboard. This enabled most repair and maintenance work on the motor to be done inside the van with the engine cover removed. Thanks, Truck Trend, for the Econoline history lesson.

The seller/dealer tells us this van was originally owned by the U.S. Air Force and assigned to McCord Field Air Force Base as a transport. It did its job for nearly 80,000 miles and was then stored and lost inside a military facility until a couple of years ago. In order to get it going again, the motor was recently serviced in order to get it moving, including a new water pump, fuel pump and starter. This van came with the 302 cubic inch Windsor V-8, which was relatively new to the E-Series at the time. This one also has an automatic transmission which is said to go through the gears properly.

Body-wise, this Econoline is straight and rust-free, with just a few scratches here and there. The chrome, especially in the front, looks new. How the original paint held up this well given that it was probably operated by a large number of people is amazing. The interior is not quite as nice, especially in the rear cargo area. Lots of scratches and scrapes there along with worn-out carpeting. The driver’s seat has some tears to attend to, but the others look fine. The passenger’s side door panel has more scrapes than the rest, so it depends on how picky you are as to whether you would refresh those. The glass is original and looks pretty good. This is a regular Club Wagon; if it was the Chateau version, it would have a lot more goodies and creature comforts.

This looks like a great van to make some small corrections to on the insides and then start using. Most of these vans have been all used up by now and are out in junkyards somewhere. The few I’ve seen online that rival this one seem to be going for $20,000 or more. So if the bidding doesn’t go too high, someone might end up with a great transport at a nice price!


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  1. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TN Member

    Let’s say you have the occasional need to transport a group of people (soccer team, church group, etc.), but not often enough to justify a new van. Plus let’s say you like to frequent Cars & Coffee, enjoying the now-uncommon vehicles which sometimes appear. Well here’s your chance to do both, for not much money. Plus you get period-correct colors inside and out !!

    Like 9
  2. geomechs geomechs Member

    Now that’s a beast! I can remember a long-standing German Catholic family at home showing up for church in one of these back in the day. The van would stop, the doors would open and people didn’t stop coming out. Twelve kids. They could’ve started their own zip code. These actually worked out very well. One would’ve thought they would severely be lacking in power with that minuscule 302 when in reality they went just fine. A lot of them in the country eventially.

    Like 5
  3. Howard A Member

    Ford really turned a corner in vans with these, compared to the old “Falcon” Econolines, but make no mistake, these were still miserable vehicles. While they had a special purpose, like geomechs sez, church groups, boy scouts, city delivery and such, they are hard to work on, funky front seating, hot/cold, handle like a box, useless in the snow and still have that “cabover” feel, which I can take or leave. The next gen Econolines were much better, and I was glad to see these fade from the scene.

    Like 5
  4. Mr Dave

    I find it strange that it was supposedly a USAF vehicle, yet it isn’t blue. I was active duty from 76-97, and NEVER saw a USAF vehicle that wasn’t blue. Additionally, military vehicles were pretty sparse in the amenities. Also, they generally had a metal placard on the dash stating what the vehicle is, including a NSN (national stock number). Also, at the beginning of my career, this age of vehicle, 4 years, would STILL have been in service, for those folks saying color doesn’t matter.

    Like 13
    • Superdessucke

      Not sure what added value the seller gets by saying it’s a USAF vehicle but yes, I think you raise some good points. I wonder what the proof is?

      Like 2
    • Silas

      Also, military vehicles are usually sold at a government auction. Not stored.

      Like 3
    • David G

      Mr Dave, you are correct. This is no Air Force vehicle. They are radio delete, for starters, they would not pay extra for chrome bumpers and upgraded interior trim level, and yes, they all have nomenclature tags on the dash. Only Air Force connection possible here is that Someone stationed at Mc Chord AFB was PCS ing out, and didn’t sell the vehicle in time thus abandoning it on Base somewhere. At Kadena AB, even the fleet of ’73 AMC Matadors assigned to OSI still had the nomenclature plates on the dash, even though they had standard POV license plates to blend in and not be conspicuous.

      Like 7
      • Mr Dave

        I never thought of someone PCSing and leaving the vehicle behind. A stranger thought would be is it stolen? That could be a reason there is no title? Or did I get no title confused with another barn find?

        Like 1
      • Gerry Member

        Good points, Considering I work a few miles from Kadena next time I’m looking at old pics here I’ll have to check and see if I can spot one of the Matadors,

        The statement of Air Force owned and stored could mean it was abandoned in storage by someone who PCS’d and a lien was put on the title making the air force the owner similar to a mechanics lien (I know they do this in Hawaii with vehicles abandoned on base) then it was sold at NAF property sale
        If it was owned bay a NAF entity it could be any color and no nomenclature plates would be there as well

        Like 3
  5. Matt in L.A. Member

    Ooof! The valve guides on those 302’s were bad. Our 74 Econoline’s went out at 32, 000. At this point I bet they’ve already been replaced. If not, buyer beware. It does remind me of my teenage years!

  6. Leland

    Back around this time I was hiking down the road near a local small private college and this same type of van pulls up and asks directions. It was full of the most beautiful young college aged women I think I have ever seen. Let me tell you, I slept well that night with pleasant dreams. To this day, almost five decades later, I can still describe those women in fairly good detail. I tell you, made my day. Bless the Ford engineers that designed that van!

    Like 13
  7. Silas

    Also, military vehicles are usually sold at a government auction. Not stored.

    Like 1
  8. Gene

    I was wondering if anyone would notice, but, I will comment. Not saying this is the ACTUAL van, but, it looks exactly like the one used in the James Bond “Diamonds are Forever” movie.

    • DON

      I was thinking the same thing, but the one in the movie was all metallic green , not two tone .

  9. Bill Hall

    I recall the cargo version of these quite well. At the time my Dad was a U Haul dealer and they had loads of this that rented well. We came across one we hung onto for a longtime for our own use and renting. This was a short van with a 300 6 and three on the tree. Very quick and with no wieght great at burning rubber.

    Like 3
  10. John L.

    Sorry Mr. Seller, you need to come up with a better story on this van. This van never was an Air Force van, not blue in color, too many options, no NSN plates. If it had been stored on a Government facility, it would have been cannibalized for parts, till nothing but the body shell remained. I’m throwing the BS flag on this one.

    Like 5
    • Mr Dave

      Yup! What ^^^^^ he said!

    • David G

      Wondering now if the van had a Base access decal for McChord on the windshield or bumper. All active duty Air Force and civilian DOD employees had them on their vehicles. I have seen many vehicle sellers mistake these decals for prior Government ownership. Even still, it doesn’t account for the bs story about it being abandoned on Base for decades.

  11. Miguel

    The van is in Texas but has no inspection stickers on it anywhere.

    I wonder what the real story is with it.

  12. DON

    I was thinking the same thing, but the one in the movie was all metallic green , not two tone .

  13. edwoodjrjr

    Looks very similar to the van from Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

  14. Barry L Klotz

    Owned one of these from new until 1986. Only had the transmission rebuilt once. Engine was a302. Just got a tune-up a couple times. Used to carry 6 or 8 kids around everywhere. Loved it. Wish we had it now.

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