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Studio On Wheels: 1966 Cinemobile

1966 Cinemobile

Barn Finds reader Jim S. flagged this interesting piece of American movie history when he sent in what is known as a 1966 Cinemobile, a converted Econoline van designed to allow production companies to film anywhere with far less hassle and lower costs. Listed here on eBay with a Buy-it-Now of $6,900, I find this one hard to peg value-wise, but I can appreciate the ingenuity that went into its creation.  

1966 Cinemobile Doors

The idea behind the van was pretty simple; the actual execution was far more intricate. In short, the developer of the van, a Californian named Fouad Said, recognized that transporting equipment to production sites was a tedious process involving a healthy amount of manpower and coordination of equipment. It also was difficult to move from site to site, limiting how much filming crews could get done in a day.

1966 Cinemobile on set

That’s when Fouad’s idea really began to take shape. The custom conversion van enabled the easy transportation of all vital set equipment, reducing the manpower needed to transport the necessary production components while also reducing the complexity of filming overseas: just load the van up with cameras, booms and whatever else a producer needs, then have it flown to the production site. The platform on the roof could be raised up to 26 feet, truly giving film consultants all the conveniences of a traditional studio in a self-contained, mobile package.

The Cinemobile

As far as the historical significance of this Cinemobile, I am not sure where it stands. There’s certainly a limited audience that will want this, and it was merely the manifestation of one man’s imagination, not a rare factory-backed conversion vehicle. While the history is interesting and the seller claims a mechanical restoration has already been completed, it still begs a question as to why you’d spend any amount of money to own this – unless you’re some sort of a Hollywood memorabilia collector. In which case, the ultimate centerpiece to your collection has arrived!


  1. Avatar photo RayT

    The “audience” for this is so limited that I’m not among ’em. It was a clever piece of work, but only a hard-core movie buff would step up for this. The seller not including decent photos of the actual unit, and/or any description of condition, what’s there, what’s missing, and what would need to be done, doesn’t help.

    A curiosity, but one the current seller is likely to be stuck with.

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  2. Avatar photo AMC STEVE


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    • Avatar photo ydnar

      Hmmmmm, why?

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  3. Avatar photo Scotty G

    As an architectural photographer I could use it for the platform that raises up to get a better angle and to get above parking lots, etc. (no, drones don’t work, you can’t do a multi-second exposure with a drone) (thought I’d try to head that one off at the pass).. Although, since I drive 40,000+ miles a year to all corners of the US for photos, I don’t know if this vehicle would work as far as being a trustworthy, road trip vehicle.

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  4. Avatar photo angliagt

    Wouldn’t this make a great tow rig/spectator van
    to go to the races in?

    – Doug

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  5. Avatar photo K. Felton

    In the 1970’s I ran a documentary film company, and our “CineMobile” was a 43-foot former school bus, designed to do what Fouad Said’s famous machine could do. I would have killed to have this truck at my company’s disposal! And being so much more compact than my rig would have made parking much, much easier. This didn’t keep us from going up and down the California coast, filming at UCLA, and many other ventures. These machines were NOT oddities–they were wonderful filming assists!

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  6. Avatar photo James

    There is really no value to this unit from a collectors standpoint and is probably not worth restoring

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  7. Avatar photo Rancho Bella

    I wonder if anyone would change their minds if they found out this was used to film LeMans or Grand Prix

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  8. Avatar photo Kenn

    As a moblie DJ, this thing could kick ass, wish i had time to build it with all the speaker bins i own! I hope someone else builds it as one!

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  9. Avatar photo booya

    Overpriced by half, but interesting. Restored would make a great addition to a broadcast or film museum’s collection.

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  10. Avatar photo John

    This vehicle would make a great work truck I would use if I needed one. I have 82 Chevy C30

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  11. Avatar photo joel ewing

    Sure looks like a nasty old thing. Probably 6cyl, bolt-action (3-on-the-tree) and Armstrong (no pwr. steering)…..and way overpriced. But something about it cries out to me that it’d be a shame if it were crushed. If this old blister were mine, I’d put a photo ad in a cinematic trade paper…seeking any info and history on it. This may be a little diamond in the rough. Honestly, I would love any updates on this critter as to what was discovered about it and how it fared from this point. You guys brought up some great ideas for it, such as a race-spectators vehicle (26ft. lift) or as a mobile DJ unit. I would hope some movie studio would buy it for a museum piece.

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  12. Avatar photo Alan Jacobsen

    Came here from a cinematography group, where these vehicles are beloved and nostalgically missed!
    If anyone sees these available again, let me know!
    FYI here’s some info: https://www.nytimes.com/1971/08/27/archives/cinemobiles-cutting-costs-on-location-filming.html


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    • Avatar photo PJ Crowley

      Thanks for those links! I watched the old video of a Cinemobile bus being unloaded by a film crew, and I’m wondering if it was shot on the set of “American Graffiti” in 1972. There’s a scene at the end of that film where the main cast gathers behind a low fence at an airport, just like the fence we see in the video, to watch Richard Dreyfuss’ character board a plane. If that’s the case, then this video offers a glimpse into the filming of that classic movie — a rare, behind-the-scenes view of the early days of George Lucas’ career.

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