1987 Ford E-150 STD Econoline Review
Almost A Classic — This Ford, a 1987 E-150 Cargo Van with a customized conversion by an unknown company never made it into the magazine I worked for 15 years ago; the publisher was short of cash and shelved it before its time, in my humble opinion. Still, I think the truck is worth a closer look because it WAS a good vehicle to drive around with and the pictures should not be left unseen in my photo archives. This Ford deserves better. The history of Econoline vans goes back to 1961 when Ford introduced its VW Bus counterpart based on the compact Falcon sedan. Chevy did likewise with its Corvan, a compact van/wagon based on the Corvair sedan platform. As time progressed, the Econoline unsurprisingly got bigger and heavier. The first growth boost took place in 1968, resulting in a much more substantial vehicle for the 1969 model year. The next generation depicted here debuted in 1975 and remained in production more or less unchanged through the 1991 model year. Apart from its bulkier appearance, the new line of Ford vans featured body-on-frame construction as its most significant change from the previous generation. Available in the usual 1/2-, 3/4-, and 1-ton load classes, Econolines rode on 124- and 138-inch wheelbases. Overall length was 186.8 and 206.8 inches, respectively. Series were designated E-100, E-150, E-250, and E-350. There were so-called Cargo Vans, Display Vans, Window Vans in all series plus Cutaway and Parcel Delivery Vans for custom body and walk-in applications in E-250 and -350 versions. E-100s, -150s, and -250s were also offered as so-called Club Wagons. As the name implies, they were aimed squarely at companies offering passenger transport like airport shuttle Services and were designed to carry five or eight travelers, respectively. Unlike the utilitarian Vans, Club Wagons were more or less lavishly appointed and came in Standard, Custom, and Chateau trim. Engine-wise, all Econolines started out with either a 300 CID inline Six (Ford's robust Big Six) with a rather puny 101 net horsepower or a more muscular 351 CID V8 with 156 net horsepower. For those who needed more power, there was an optional 460 CID V8 (with 202 net horsepower, I believe). Those figures apply to the 1975 model year. In 1987, the year "my" E-150 was built, the Six made 115 horsepower, a 302 CID V8 (added to the lineup in 1979) produced 190 horsepower, and the 351 churned out 210 horsepower. E-350s could also be ordered with a 420 CID diesel V8 (170 horsepower) and the familiar 460 V8 (214 horsepower). Plenty of engine options to suit anybody's fancy. "My" Econoline was propelled by the 351 Windsor (named after the Canadian town and Ford plant where this engine originated), an unexciting but solid and dependable V8. Transferring power to the rear wheels was the job of FoMoCo's omnipresent Automatic Overdrive Transmission with 4 forward speeds, and it sure did that job nicely, smooth and unobtrusive. Obviously, the big E-150 was not the kind of vehicle one likes to subject to the rigors of repeated acceleration and top speed runs. As a rule of thumb, 0-60 times were in the vicinity of 13-14 seconds, top speed was approx. 105 mph, more than enough for a bulky van with a suspension designed for carrying loads, not roadholding. Incidentally, there was quite a bit of swinging and swaying on anything but jet-smooth roads; maybe a handful of passengers occupying that sumptuous interior would have improved ride quality. Unfortunately, no handful of nice girls (my personal preference) was available, so my photographer and his faithful dog, a beautiful and extemely friendly Husky named Tara (may God rest her soul), and myself were the only occupants of the Econoline during the test. As one can see from the pictures, the Ford's custom interior was sumptuous, indeed, outfitted in a bright red color that reminded me of a fin-de-siècle Paris brothel and which I therefore designated Bordello Red. I didn't care too much for the color, but the captain's chairs were supremely comfortable, I must admit. Needless to say, there were all the usual creature comforts one takes for granted in a customized vehicle like this E-150, like separate air conditioning for the rear seat passengers, a third-row bench seat/couch, hi-fi stereo, refrigerator etc. Everything looked and felt like a high-quality effort and all electrical goodies worked flawlessly. What more can one ask for? The Ford's exterior styling was not ugly, in my opinion, but no standout, either. Personally, I like the Econolines better after their extensive facelift for the 1992 model year. This is quite unusual because I normally prefer old over new when it comes to automotive design, but not in this case. Still, the E-150 was nice to look at and had that sharp-edged 1970s/1980s appearance we like to consider classic nowadays. If I had been the original buyer of an E-150, I probably would have skipped the customization and chosen a fully-optioned, factory-equipped wagon in the first place. Alternatively, I would have opted for a different interior color, something a little more subdued. That, however, is a matter of taste. Other than that, the 1987 E-150 was fine.
Primary Use: Utility (towing boats, transporting cargo, etc.)
Pros: Space, comfort, roominess
Cons: So-so styling, fuel economy
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