Walt Knoch’s 1,800 Mile Custom Van Project

1978 Ford E-100 Van

This 1978 Ford van may not look like much, but there is an interesting story behind it. Apparently, it was owned by Walt Knoch and only has 1,800 miles on the odometer. Walt was known for his crazy dragsters and it’s claimed that he purchased this van to customize. That would explain the sanded areas. He was going to shave everything, but lost interest and the van got stored in a warehouse until just recently. The current owner has done a good job of describing what all is wrong with the van in their listing here on eBay. Bidding starts at $800, so this might be a great buy for someone wanting to finish what Walt started.

351 V8

Unfortunately, the heads pulled off the 351 V8 a long time ago. So, the mileage count isn’t as big a bonus as it could have been and you can now count on doing some engine work. This was a well-optioned van with air conditioning, tilt, and front disc brakes. It looks like everything was stripped though in anticipation of the custom work to be done, but other than the sunroof and some sanding, not much else was done. It’s hard to imagine that the van was just allowed to sit with such low mileage, but the more I look at the photos of the underside, the more I believe.

Van Interior

The inside is in good shape except for some rust starting to form where some boxes were left inside. This van takes me back because my dad used similar ones for his work vehicles. I have fond memories of working on his in the evening. We had a one car garage and he would stoke the wood burning stove and turn on the eight track player before we would repair a ding out back or change the oil. Anyway, this van is going to need some work before it can be customized, but it might be a better place to start than a rusted out wreck or high mileage work van would be.

Custom Van Project

The whole custom van scene may not be for everyone, but the fad has been catching on again recently. Vans like this were popular in the seventies and people loved to added crazy interior and other custom touches to make them their own. Even if you are not really into them, it might be fun to take a look around online and think about what you’d like to do with this one. Perhaps a porthole window in the back? Maybe some wild stripes with velvet and shag carpet inside? Or something more subtle on the outside with a pirate ship interior? The skies the limit here. Let us know what you would like seen done with this one!


  1. Danger Dan

    Lost interest because of an engine Knoch-

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  2. Luke Fitzgerald

    1800 – bollocks

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    • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

      I thought that too at first, but take a look at the suspension and underside.

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      • Dan Brooks

        Thanks Jesse. I can assure those skeptics that the mileage on this van is the correct mileage ( not 101800 but 1800 actual ). For Walt , money was no object and I think the reason he never finished this was that he decided to customize a long wheel base version of the same model (which he still has).

        The van ‘s current condition is from neglected indoor storage for more than 35 years.

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  3. JW454

    This truck was new right in the middle of the “Customized Van” craze that swept the nation back then. He was probably planning an outstanding entry into that world but may have lost his inspiration.

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  4. Luke Fitzgerald

    OK J – sound advice – if so, who does crazy stuff like that? Money does.

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  5. boxdin

    Crazy for sure, rarely did a custom nut get a long wheel base.

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  6. George

    More room for the water bed in a long wheel base… Lots of work here, including the bits and pieces and an engine. Even in a warehouse, sitting without heads is likely to cause problems. The rust free, except for minor surface rust, and clean frame make this a good starting point.

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  7. Chebby

    Who would approach a project in such a haphazard fashion, least of all a pro customizer. Sand and fill some of the body, take half the engine apart, then put Hooker decals on the fenders? There’s light damage to the left front, primer on random parts of the body, and why is the factory paint so faded if it sat indoors? There’s surely a story to this van…but it doesn’t seem too interesting.

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  8. Dan Brooks

    For those that don’t think paint jobs will fade (more like oxidize ) in an indoor environment, my 14,000 actual mile 1940 LaSalle series 50 as it emerged last year from a 65 year storage on a Michigan farm – “faded” original paint and all.

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    • Fast Fred Member

      Excellent LaSalle, are you leaving original with paint and is it running? Now this is a barn find !

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      • Dan Brooks

        Fast Fred ,
        Yes, this car runs beautifully. Everything is original to the car including its paint, top and original exhaust system. Sadly the original leather interior was deteriorated to a point where I felt it necessary to have it reproduced (in process to OEM spec).
        I have gone through the car mechanically, making sure everything has been properly serviced and or repaired. Currently I am partially disassembling it, going through it top to bottom, conserving all surfaces using museum level techniques, cleaners and polishes. Have replaced the original factory installed U.S. Royal white walls with proper Firestone reproductions, but have retained the Royals for history’s sake.

        When complete this car will have been conserved (not restored) preserving all the factory details that are sometimes lost during an overt restoration.


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  9. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    Given the right temperatures and poor insulation, any painted metal surface will gas out and oxidize. This van has too many question marks for me. And the narrative for Barn Finds could have given a background of Walt Kotch for those who don’t know who he is/was!

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