Curbside Capsule: 1965 Ford Econoline Heavy Duty SuperVan – True Colors


(first posted 12/9/2016)     I spotted this Econonline in the transitional, mixed-income neighborhood of Chicago known as Uptown, several years back.  I had seen it street-parked in different locations over the course of a year, so it appeared to be fully mobile and operational.  It seemed prone to one flat tire (front, passenger’s side, if I recall correctly), so I wondered if it had a bent rim up there.  Over the span of about a year, I came to see this van almost as if it was an old relative who had seen it all.


This generation of Econoline has been written up here by Paul N., and there’s really nothing factual to be added to that comprehensive piece.  The model itself is a fascinating automotive artifact compared to cargo transporters of today, with its solid front and rear axles, bus-driver steering position, the “doghouse” in the front part of the passenger compartment through which the engine was serviced, and its tricky, front-heavy handling.


The Heavy Duty version of the Econoline was introduced for ’64, featuring heavier springs, 14-inch wheels, and a stronger rear axle.  The SuperVan, with its 18-inch rear body extension, was introduced for ’65, along with a optional, larger, 150-horse, 240-c.i. inline-six.  This particular example looks to have led the life of a true workhorse.  It’s a panel van with no rear side windows, for starters, and it clearly has not been pampered all of its life.  My favorite thing about this van, besides all of its chrome bits and trim pieces, is that its rattle-canned overcoat of rust-colored primer had started to peel off in places and reveal a lovely, very 1960’s shade of what I think of as “Sears aqua”.


If only this Econoline could speak, I could have sat there and listened for an hour.  It has been predicted in comments on posts from several months ago (probably accurately, in my opinion) how cars of today will have shorter lifespans than those from, say, thirty-plus years ago that had much simpler mechanicals.  It is exactly this sense of simplicity that had endeared this Econoline to me.  Its authenticity is what makes it cool.  And I like that it’s not just a van…it’s a “SuperVan”, here to the rescue for all your cargo transporting needs!


This Econoline’s flaking paint also calls to mind something more personal.  Toward the end of my father’s life in his late 70’s, his “filter” had worn off considerably from roughly fifteen years prior when I had left home for college.  My (then) high school-aged, younger brother was the primary beneficiary of Dad’s newfound frankness, getting to hear tales of Dad’s adventures of his younger days that I had never been told (or, admittedly, perhaps hadn’t recalled).  I didn’t see this as Dad – himself, a thoughtful, intense, studious, former college professor – having withheld information from me so much as I saw it as him becoming someone who was only reflecting more of himself as he couldn’t help but do at that stage of his life.


Like this van, Dad’s “paint” was then peeling off, revealing more of what was underneath – and I liked it.  Though I try to live as authentically and as real a life as I am given the power to do, I can only hope I will be as fortunate to live long enough to see huge chunks of my own paint flake off, hopefully to no one’s chagrin.  As with my dad and this van, may folks around me in those days appreciate my hard-earned patina.

Uptown, Chicago, Illinois.
As photographed between July 2013 through February 2014.

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