Curbside Classic: 1963 Ford Falcon Station Bus: A “Compact” Minivan

Before I set us off on this adventure, I must comment on the superb quality of the offerings here on Curbside Classic. That piece on the CC Caddy with the three on the tree, as well as those cool Volvo Doodlebug wannabes, just take the cake. It seems every submittal out does the previous. Thanks to our benefactor for continuing to set the mark of excellence all of we contributors strive to meet. Send your stories this way, I am confident you have some great ones! (Paul, don’t edit this out!)

In the late 1950’s, the Detroit Big Three were watching their sedan delivery market start to dry up as many of their former purchasers were moving to pick up trucks or, gasp, Volkswagon Type 2 transporters for their delivery fleets. As a result, all three of them, in the early 60’s, came out with “compact vans.” The first ones to hit the market were the rather unconventional Corvair Sportvans and the Ford Econoline, also offered as a Ford Falcon Station Bus. Later the similarly FR set up Chevy Handivan and the Dodge A100 hit the market.

The Ford vans were a huge hit with the Bell Telephone Company and they bought thousands of them. Apparently the Florida Highway Patrol liked them as well. While the Econoline version was the utility van, the Falcon version of this van was offered as the passenger edition. At the time, Ford was considering spinning Falcon off as its own brand ala Mercury, but after the Edsel fiasco they decided that probably wasn’t the best and brightest idea. They did, however, keep the Falcon van around for the first generation series of the Econoline.

Now I am fairly certain my fellow Curbdwellers are wondering what more information this longrooffan can provide you about this first gen E-series. Well, not a lot, but as Mr. Wayman suggested in his post about a buddy’s 1937 Packard Super Eight that we share our own Curbside Classic owning experiences, this longrooffan thought I would share my experiences with owning a 1963 Ford Falcon Station Bus.

But you’ll have to make the jump to read about it.

It was the Summer of 2008. My Mom had passed in April and before she did so, she told the family powers that be up in the Ozark Mountains of southwest Missouri to have her remains interned when her Florida based children and grandchildren could attend the service. Yeah, that’s Mom, the mother of 10 kids, 15 grandkids and 7 great grandkids, she’s always been the pragmatist.

Well as my, also Florida based, brother and his family always visit the Ozarks over the 4th of July, it was decided to schedule her service around that date. At that time I was sporting a Volvo 850 and an old OJ front Ford F-150, as well as a wrecked E-30 convertible. I decided to take that 850 and spend a leisurely drive through the southeastern part of the United States and arrive for a couple week visit with family I hadn’t seen in person since Dad had passed in 2003. It took this longrooffan four and a half days to make the 1,200 mile trip, one that takes my brother and his family just under 19 hours to complete. But man, did I see some countryside and sights that I have a whole series of blogposts about.  I mean the location of the fatal crash of Patsy Cline?  The huge statue of Minnie Pearl in her hometown square?  The Eiffel Tower replica in Paris, Tennessee?  That Volkswagen restoration shop in, appropriately, Dresden, Tennessee? Bill Clinton’s ’68 Mustang convertible in that museum in central Arkansas?  Yeah, stuff like that.

Anyway, to make a long story even longer, when I did arrive in the Ozarks, I was exposed to all of the super cool stuff my two older brothers and one of my nephews have.  Between those three there were two first gen Ford Broncos, a ’46 Willys CJ2A, a Dodge M880 army pickup, a whole damn bunch of tractors and impliments, a couple vintage Chevy Suburbans, more automotive diecasts than you can shake a stick at, a bunch of F-250s and 350s, a 53 Chevy 1 ton short school bus, a 54 Chevy 2 ton dump truck, a classic Airstream trailer (that will make these pages) and I don’t know what all.  I can’t even remember all of the cool stuff I saw during that visit! Luckily I have images of it, I just need to find the time to look through all of them! And that was three years ago!

Anyway, after all the proceedings had been accomplished and Mom was settled in next to Dad, as this longrooffan was driving back to my humble abode in coastal east central Florida, I came to the conclusion I was going to get a classic just for the fun of it.

So upon my return, I decided to hit all things that are bay with an e and stumbled upon this sweet old non-conventional longroof.

As is always the case, I have to get every vehicle I purchase approved by my local, and younger, brother who runs a nationally known tire and service repair shop (think those tires seen on NASCAR racecars and you got it). Otherwise I would come home with a Peugeot wagon, or even better, a Yugo convertible.

So, anyway, I found this Falcon Station Bus out in San Antonio and asked him if I could get this for two grand can I get it? Please? Please? Well, he concurs and I actually won it! I contacted the seller about pick up arrangements as I was rather anxious to get it. I told him I could book a cheap flight and arrive out there on Wednesday. Well, that French transplanted aerospace engineer suggested I should wait a few days as a thunderstorm was headed his way. It turns out that thunderstorm was one of the many hurricanes to hit Texas that summer.

Ultimately, I caught an el cheapo flight out of MickeyMouseLand International Airport to San Antonio and got my olestationbus. My luggage on that flight, by the way, consisted of a whole bunch of tools, a blow up air mattress and two changes of clothing.

So Pierre met me at the airport and we headed over to a smaller airport where he keeps the vehicles he gets when he purchases aviation estates. Yeah, the cars he gets are by-products of his true interest, aircraft.

So I climb into the cockpit of the Station Bus and one of the first things I realize is that

my legs are the crumple zone in my new just over 14′ long van! The second thing I realize is that I am sitting above the front tires, something I have not experienced in over 20 years, the last time I drove my old Volkswagen Type 2, the same one Detroit had created this station bus to combat!

But all is well, attached to that three on the tree transmission, and located under the doghouse between the seats

is the bulletproof inline six that Ford had in their offerings starting, I believe in the late forties and continuing through 1974. Yeah, reliablity questions about that engine were not in my vocabulary. Plus parts are available just about everywhere!

I did, however, do a super rare stop at a WallyWorld out there in central Texas and picked up a quintet of 13″ tires, manufactured in China, for forty bucks a piece. Installation was almost the price of those tires though.

But I have to say this about that. That olestationbus was a blast to own! There was never a trip out and about that someone didn’t give me a Shout Out about it. Whether it is a retired Bell worker relating his experiences, and there were plenty, or an old hippie relating his experiences.

Not only did that 170 cubic inch motor survive the torture I gave it while trying to get out of that stuck sand,

while trying catch some sun down on my beach,

that olestationbus did not blow away during any of the the many hurricanes we experienced here in central Florida during the Summer of 2008.

And, it was not the motor that required my nephew, in his classic CJ5, to come to my rescue on this occassion. It was an obscure fuel intake problem that was subsequently repaired by a great shop down in New Symrna Beach. It was so obscure that shop charged me a minimal cost as they had not seen that problem in over 20 years!

All in all, that olestationbus provided many great pleasures, whether it was hanging out with my nephew fishing under the Granada bridge or down at Bellair Plaza during one of the many impromptu car shows that seem to happen there every fall and winter.

Hell that olestationbus even let me hang some lug nutz I acquired from Dale Jr.’s pit stall on the rear of it during a rebelious moment when the Florida legislature thought the outlawing of Truck Nutz was more important than the Everglades that were burning out of control!

But, alas, living a leisurely life just two short blocks from the Atlantic Ocean was taking its toll on my old van. Rust was becoming more prevelant and that saddened this old van loving owner.

So, as much as I like to keep my stuff as original as possible because, after all, it is only original once, I decided to suck it up and have a shiny new coat of paint applied to my olestationbus.

That coat of paint, along with some junkyard and swap meet acquired chrome hubcaps drew even more attention to my, as it was referred to by my brother, Toad.

So much attention that I was getting several offers for it at every event we attended together.  Whether it was the Legends of Motorsports gathering down on the World’s Most Famous Beach the Tuesday before the Daytona 500, at low tide, of course.

I even received an offer for it from a sports car nut when I was out at the Grassroots Motorsports corral during a running of the Rolex24 one year.

However, the embarrassment of getting stuck while chasing those chickadees got to me and I ultimately decided to let my olestationbus go to a guy who expressed an interest in it when I had it listed on the infamous Craigslist. He sounded like someone who would appreciate my olestationbus and give it the love it had received from this longrooffan.

So my brother and I delivered my Toad to Nick down in Melbourne, Florida. We had a great trip down, Nick and his lovely wife love the old bus and it continues to provide great pleasure to yet another proud care taker of this symbol of Detroit’s effort to win over another segment of the utility buying public.

Up for future review is my take on its replacement. A first year AMC Jeep Comanche. I’m just sorry I missed CC’s AMC week with that installment.