Curbside Classic Lite: 1970 Ford Club Wagon Camper Van – Here’s What I Really Wanted in 1971

I’ve written the story of how my life might have been had I absconded with a 1971 Econoline from my employer, Towson Ford. That was a bare-bones work van. But this new addition to the neighborhood, which I ran into when I changed up the morning dog walk a couple of days ago, is what I would have much preferred. It’s a long wheelbase Club Wagon with a well-done camper kit inside and a 302 V8 and automatic. If you’re going to steal a van, why take a stripper?

This is a Club Wagon 123, which designates its wheelbase. That was very long in 1968 when this generation appeared, the second one in the long line of Econolines. It was a radical departure from the engine-between-the front seats style of the first generation vans by all of the Big Three. Ford really took leadership with this new van, and they kept it ever since.

The big change was that now the engine was in a dog house that connected to the front of the van, and there was even a minute little hood, useful for only checking its vital bodily fluids. Jobe, the owner of this fine van, came out of his house when he saw me taking pictures and invited me into the van. Having lived with a similarly-configured Dodge van/Chinook, I was surprised at how narrow the Ford dog house was compared the very wide one in the Dodge. Well, it makes sense when you consider thta the biggest engine to find its way under it was the very compact 302 V8, whereas Dodge made its big enough to house the big-block 440. There’s actually better leg room for the por passenger in this Ford than in the Dodge.

The dog house is offset to the right side, which explains why the passenger seat is further back, to compensate somewhat.

Here’s the driver’s seat.

These seats also had a curious taper to the seat bottom cushion in the front, to improve access to the rear of the van. A bit like sitting in a saddle. But that was a big breakthrough, not having to hop over the engine compartment anymore.

The automatic shifter quadrant is a bit odd.

But let’s move on to the important part of any van, the whole reason for their being. In the far back are a set of boxes over the wheel wells, whose cushions have been removed at this time. A center table with a removable post turns it into a dinette. The Table is in three sections, which are also used to bridge the gap and turn the whole thing into a big bed. The Econoline was also significantly wider than the gen1 vans, which meant that sleeping cross-wise in the back now meant one could actually stretch out.

That was not the case in my Dodge A100 van, which also had a transverse bed in the back, but I had to sleep in a semi-fetal position. That probably explains why I’m stretching out here in the morning sun.

This van is obviously in very nice shape considering its age, which is of course why Jobe bought it. He’s a musician, and uses it for out of town gigs.

In the front is a home-made cabinet housing a sink, propane catalytic heater, and a large storage cabinet.

The sink was recently re-purposed as a flower pot; it’s not just very dirty. I didn’t get a shot, but the heater swings open and behind it is room to store some fresh water jugs. The sink outlet runs down through the floor, as did pretty much all gray water until more recent years. It’s still legal to do that, but oddly, it’s not legal to empty a gray water tank in nature, even though it’s the same stuff. It’s one of those quirks…if you have a gray water tank, you have to not be caught discharging it in anything but a proper facility. But that’s widely abused. Black water is a whole different matter…

There’s a lot of storage in the cabinet. I wonder if it once contained an ice box.

Underneath it is storage for odds and ends. I’m in the middle of my vast write-up of my Promaster van build, so this si a nice diversion. it’s a lot simpler, but well done, as was typically the case back then.

It’s time to resume our walk. But this has been a pleasant diversion. I always am happy to see a new CC show up in the ‘hood, especially if it’s an old van like this.