The Ford Econoline, or E-Series, debuted in 1961 and is one of the brand’s longest-running model lines, with Ford reaching the 60-year milestone in 2021. The only Ford with a longer history than the E-Series is the F-Series, the company’s line of massively popular pickup trucks.
The Ford Econoline initially debuted as a simple van meant to carry passengers or cargo. The company eventually expanded its line to include different trims, including an extended version measuring an impressive 236.7 inches, or almost 20 feet.
Although it’s easy to consider van life a product of the 21st century with all the YouTube videos and Instagram van life feeds, Ford Econoline camper vans actually became popular in the 1970s for conversions. Bug-out vans and camper van conversions became even more popular in the 1980s and 1990s.
Let’s learn more about the Ford E-Series and why so many adventurers choose to live their best van life in a Ford Econoline camper van.
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Is the Ford Econoline the Best for Van Conversions?
Between 1980 and 2014, the Ford Econoline van was the most popular full-sized van in the United States, so finding one of these versatile vans for a van conversion is easy. Ford has also manufactured the van in several different configurations over the years, giving future van lifers many options to personalize their Ford Econoline camper van.
From incognito low-roof vans to tricked-out off-road bug-out conversions, the Econoline represents one of the most versatile camper van conversion options. Additionally, reports suggest E-Series vans can last up to 500,000 miles or 15 to 18 years, which makes the van attractive to anyone converting a van on a tight budget.
The potential longevity and widespread availability of the Ford Econoline van make them an ideal target for van conversions. Interestingly, Ford is even aware of the popularity of consumers using the Econoline for a van conversion and has maintained production of the E-350 and E-450 in a stripped chassis and cutaway option for buyers interested in a van conversion.
The last year Ford manufactured its vans branded under the E-Series was 2014. In 2015, Ford started production on the Ford Transit, and the Econoline was only available as a cutaway chassis, with buyers having the option to add their own rear body or cab.
What are Some Drawbacks to the Ford Econoline Van Conversion?
As anyone who’s built a camper van knows, it’s not always a walk in the park getting every feature you want. Sometimes the front seat doesn’t swivel, and sometimes you can’t find the cool extended version you want to maximize your living space.
With Ford Econoline vans, the one area that tends to trip people up is what’s under the hood. Ford makes excellent vehicles, but the Econoline van needs regular attention paid to its mechanical parts. Just because the interior looks fantastic doesn’t mean what’s under the hood is the same.
Ford Econoline vans will leave you high and dry if you ignore maintenance like oil changes or try to get too many miles out of the spark plugs, wheel bearings, and brakes. When you buy your Econoline, it’s essential to make sure you know the vehicle’s history.
If you’re buying your Econoline used, does the previous owner have a record of the maintenance they’ve completed? What was recently replaced, and what might need work? Try to get all the details on the health of the vehicle’s mechanical systems before diving into your Econoline camper van conversion.
Real Life Econoline Camper Van Conversions
Now that you know a little about the Ford Econoline let’s explore some beast Econoline campervan conversions. You’ll see why the Ford E-Series is a superb choice for your future van conversion for full-time, part-time, or vacation-time adventures.
1. Van Tour Ford E-350 Cutaway Camper Van Conversion
Nate Brown isn’t new to van conversions, and his E-350 cutaway camper van conversion is the fourth camper van he’s built. He was initially going to buy a Sprinter van, but the seller backed out, so Nate found an alternative vehicle for sale. When he bought it, the van was just a big box with some graphics on the side.
So, he cleaned it up and went to town, outfitting the interior with an electrical box and heavy-duty insulation, meaning the camper is comfortable in a snowstorm.
Inside his Ford Econoline camper van build, he installed extensive cabinetry with a functional water line, lots of storage, ample counter space, and a stove. One of the ingenious features of the van is the removable countertop that allows you to move between the front of the truck and the back through a sliding door.
The interior even has multiple seats and a pull-out table that extends from underneath the van bed at the rear of the van. The table even converts into a bed, so more than one person can sleep in the van comfortably.
2. Stealth Van Life Tour
Ryan Bell has lived in his 2002 Ford Econoline camper van for the last four years and has outfitted his DIY camper van with a wood stove, television, battery, and more for just $8,000. The outside looks like a regular work van but, according to Ryan, it looks like a portable hotel room inside.
The van features a propane stove, a sink that doubles as a makeshift shower, and an entire media wall with speakers, a television, and a gaming setup.
On the roof, the van build features 300 watts of solar panels and a MaxxAir fan in the ceiling for ventilation. Ryan also installed an air purifier to keep the inside of the van feeling fresh. The walls of the van are covered in pleasing wood panels, and the side with the appliances and entertainment devices features lots of storage space and batteries.
Several recessed lights are installed along the ceiling, and the van even has lights installed along the perimeter that flash like you’re in a dance club.
3. Ford E350 Econoline Van Stealth Campervan Conversion
This 2008 Ford E350 van build looks like a regular passenger van from the outside, but it’s filled with more than its fair share of excellent features inside. Outside, the vehicle features a light bar in the front and large tires capable of conquering some serious off-road trails.
The van features 300 watts of solar panels and a vent fan on the roof. The batteries are fully charged daily by noon, so power is always available when needed.
When you open the side doors to this Econoline campervan, the first thing that greets you is a minibar with some alcoholic beverages, a flip-out table, and a small functional sink for the ultimate in suave van life. The floor features vinyl flooring and an aluminum-edge trim.
The front passenger side seat is a captain’s chair capable of swiveling around to take advantage of the table. Inside, the van has an electric system with loads of functionality for lighting, USB ports, and an inverter. The interior also has an incredible amount of creatively designed storage space for everything from small appliances to food to clothing and supplies.
4. Heavy Duty 4×4 Adventure Van Walk Through | Sportsmobile 4×4
This heavy-duty vehicle is one of the most capable camper vans on this list, with a V10 motor under the hood of the Ford Econoline cutaway Sportsmobile. The van has a massive 4×4 system with features like Fox performance shocks, locking differentials, Ford F550 brake upgrades, and more that will help you conquer just about any terrain.
The exterior of the van is loaded with features like a gray water overflow vent, a power plug, and a small lockable storage space in the bumper.
Inside the Ford Econoline camper are hookups for an outdoor shower, more outlets, and secret storage compartments below the floor. The top of the van pops up for extra headroom, and the galley kitchen features all the small appliances you might want, as well as more storage space.
The Sportsmobile branded van is made by a company that specializes in van conversions, and you’ll often see Sportsmobile Econoline vans on the road for decades before they’re retired.
5. Van Build from Start to Finish 1.5 Years Self Build (under £10k)
This van was built in England from the Ford Transit van, which was available for years in Europe but only recently became available in the United States when Ford replaced the Econoline with the Transit. The van cost less than £10k to build, which is around $12,000 and a reasonable budget for a complete conversion.
The entire van was gutted, and the owner replaced everything from the ceiling and flooring to the windows.
One of the interesting parts of the conversion was the increase in the size of the side window for more visibility from the interior. The van was also outfitted with insulation to make sure it would remain comfortable in any weather.
The builder also spent an incredible amount of time constructing the wooden interior to feature a shower, extensive gray and black water lines, and a diesel tank for the heater.
Although the van was quite rough at the start, the end result looks incredible.
6. Van Build – Econoline Campervan Tour
This van is a 2001 E150 Ford Econoline that was built by a small business that does custom camper van builds for clients. The van is very much a stealth campervan in that it doesn’t look like it has anything interesting inside when you’re standing outside of it. However, if you take a look at the back bumper, you’ll see a shore power hookup and a solar power hookup.
The van doesn’t have solar panels on the top, but you can set up solar panels next to the van when you’re parked and plug them into the solar outlet.
The interior of this Ford Econoline camper van was completely gutted, and several panels were repaired and upgraded for functionality and looks. The rear of the van features a cargo area for storage and some plugs for convenience. At the front of the van, some updates include a screen for Android Auto or Apple CarPlay hookups and a push-button start.
The living area features all the comforts with lots of storage, a bar sink, a refrigerator, and a comfortable bed.
7. The Dove – Camper Van Conversion – Ford Econoline E-150
Nicknamed “The Dove,” this Ford Econoline E-150 campervan conversion came from the minds of an architectural designer and an engineer. The couple who built the van lived in a previous van for several years before building a new van with all the cool upgrades they wanted.
The build features a 100 Ah AGM sealed maintenance-free deep cycle battery, a 100W solar panel, and a 30A charge controller. When the van is in motion, the alternator also charges the house battery.
Throughout the Ford Econoline camper van, you’ll find loads of storage, as well as conveniences like a gray water jug, a water pump for the sink, a portable toilet drawer, and a refrigerator. The plumbing system features two 6-gallon water jugs, and cooking is handled with a Eureka Ignite double burner stove.
The full-size bed converts to a couch for added versatility while living in the van, and there’s a skylight and ceiling fan for comfort.
8. Ford E150 Overland Camper Tour – Van Conversion
Nicknamed “Jabba the Hutt,” this Ford Econoline camper is an off-grid camper and took this family around South America for the better part of a year. The van features a kitchen along the side with a stove, sink, a comfy bed, and lots of storage. There’s an RV fan in the ceiling, and the side windows are also open for venting.
Interestingly, the sink is removable from the counter, which means they can use the sink as a bowl outside the van.
When all the tanks inside the van are filled with water, the travelers can survive for up to four days off-grid. For added comfort while out of range of civilization, the van also features 200W of solar panels on the roof and a 150 Ah battery that powers all sorts of appliances like the fridge, blender, and water pump.
The van even features dimmable lights and an informative panel that delivers data on all the systems in the van, as well as what’s using power and how much power remains in the battery.
9. Budget Van Conversion Ford Econoline $3,000
This 2004 Ford Econoline E350 was purchased for $3,000, and the owners put an additional $3,000 into the build, making the overall investment $6,000. The van had 185,00 miles on it when it was purchased, so it wasn’t a low mileage van. The rig was used as a work van before it was bought for the campervan conversion.
The van was quite dirty at the start, but the conversion included time spent cleaning everything, from the interior to all the mechanical parts around the vehicle.
The flooring, cabinets, storage, and various systems were all added individually, including a hand-built sink, panels along the walls, a water system, and a bed. Rather than using expensive, complex systems to outfit this Ford Econoline camper, everything was accomplished very affordably.
For example, the windows feature simple Velcro covers, and a curtain on one of the side windows is held up with a string.
10. Camper Van Conversion Build for Under 4K: Living in a Ford Econoline
Not only was this campervan built out in just three weeks, but this van lifer completed his project for less than $4K. The rig is a 2009 Econoline E-150, which has about 150,000 miles on it.
Unfortunately, the owner needed to handle some mechanical work on the van shortly after he bought it, but once the work was finished, he was able to start outfitting the van to live in it full-time. The van features a few exterior scratches and scrapes, but those cosmetic imperfections don’t impact the functionality of the van as a camper.
Inside the van, the owner took out the seats since the van started out as a passenger van and then went to work installing a beautiful wooden ceiling, some laminate flooring, a fully functional water system that boasts a six-gallon water jug, and a functional sink. The interior also features lots of storage in beautiful wood cabinets and drawers, a battery, a ceiling vent, and a clean, comfortable bed.
11. E350 Camper Van Tour – 2″ Lift & All The Essentials
A couple named Barrett and Ashton wanted to spend some time touring the country in a camper van and had a plan to eventually complete a camper van conversion, but they decided to hit the road early with a 2002 E350 Ford Econoline camper.
The van was previously owned by someone who completed some of the conversion work, but Barrett and Ashton completed the van’s transformation.
The layout of this Ford Econoline camper is simple yet offers all the necessities like storage, running water, and a comfortable bed. The couple travels with their two dogs and seems to have enough room for the whole crew when they travel.
Interestingly, the couple started out their travels in an RV but decided to adopt the van life to make things easier. Their van is light, airy, and designed beautifully for full-time living.
Are You Ready for Van Life?
For some travelers, van life begins the moment they buy their vehicle and head to the store for wood, electrical supplies, insulation, and all the things that will create a happy, homey van.
Whether traveling the highways and byways in a Winnebago or a Ford Econoline camper van, seeing the world from behind the wheel of traveling home on wheels is like no other adventure on earth.
Are you ready to pick up your hammer, saw, and nails and start your new camper van build? Let these awesome Ford Econoline vans help you choose your path.