Like so many of us, Gary Larkin of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, always wanted one particular custom ride. His all-time favorite wasn't a '53-'56 F100 or a '55-'57 Chevy, no his number one custom ride was a mid-`60s Ford Econoline van. Unique right off the assembly line, the Econoline is an icon in the vanning community and it isn't hard to see why. Ford's popular van takes a generation back to the simple days of surfing, endless summers, and for Gary, the longtime love for vans.
Surfing eBay one day, Gary came across what appeared to be a clean and restorable Econoline van located in Southern California. Knowing now was the time to finally achieve his dream of having one, he went ahead and purchased the Ford, sight unseen. Receiving the Ford in the promised condition, Gary got to work making the Econoline a ride to remember. Up front, a relocated leaf spring kit brought the nose down 3 inches and in the rear, Beatty Welding went a little wild with a race-ready four-link. John Beatty welded in the S&W Racecars four-link to the frame and Ford 9-inch rearend and then mounted the coilovers for an adjustable ride. The narrowed Ford 9-inch was fitted with 4.10 gears and Strange axles to survive the proposed powerplant. Each corner received Weld Racing 15-inch wheels wrapped in Mickey Thompson Sportsman tires. There is a little tire size discrepancy out back, with meaty 15-inch wide slicks for optimum traction securely bolted in place. Traction is necessary because of the small-block Ford engine that is small only in name.
Dynamics Service Center, also in Pittsburgh, tore into a '69 Ford 302ci V-8 and after they were finished, the small-block was bored and stroked to 347 cubic inches and equipped with a Crane cam, Demon carb sitting atop a polished intake manifold, and MSD ignition. Additional go-fast goodies bolted to the engine include ceramic-coated headers that were custom-built by Eugene Phillips and send exhaust gases through Magnaflow mufflers. Tuned to a streetable 400 horses, the Ford small-block sends the power to the ground via a '67 Ford three-speed. Because of the 2,800 lb curb weight of the van, custom wheelie bars were bolted in place and keep the Econoline from doing any kind of gravity-defying stunts. With the engine in order, Gary placed his focus on making the Ford look great too.
Paul Damico, of Graceland Automotive, in Pittsburgh, stepped in and stretched the rear wheel openings a full three inches and recessed the license plate into the body. After getting the body straight as an arrow, Greg Felix applied the House of Kolor white and then created the cool blue mountain graphics on the side panels. Gary kept the look original by bolting on the stock grille, keeping the chrome door handles, and chrome plating the factory bumpers. Adding some variety to the project, aftermarket headlights with blue bulbs were installed, clear lenses replaced the red taillights, and a Mopar gas cap was used in the factory location. Inside the Econoline, there isn't much that was left alone.