All of my vehicles have nicknames. You’re likely very intimately acquainted with Damnit — MotoIQ’s Project SC300. Well, ladies and gentlemen and non-binary folks who may or may not even identify as people, this is Van Diesel.
OK, I’ll wait for you to stop chuckling.
This might just look like a crappy, unassuming Ford van to you. You might think free candy is involved. But notice that this is Project Ford E350. For those who know a bit about trucks, and especially about Fords, that 350 designation is special. Much like the Ford trucks, the Econoline (E) vans carry the same numerical designations which correspond to the same chassis ratings, making this a 1-ton van.
The other awesome thing about it is the diesel. The fourth generation of the Econoline vans started in 1992 and was available with a diesel from its inception. However, in 1994 the diesel vans started to get the venerable 7.3L Powerstroke. This is a 1998.
A long time ago a guy showed up to a drift event with one of these. When we asked about it, it turned out that his kid was a go-kart racer and they used to pack the entire racing program into an E350 diesel van. That’s the really cool thing about a van. It’s completely enclosed, so you can put all of your stuff inside it. You can practically stand up straight in it, and you can even put a high-top on it if you really want to stand up straight.
If there’s any real drawback to the vans, it’s that they’re loud. L-O-U-D. Granted, the 7.3L Powerstroke is not exactly a quiet diesel engine. But, in the van, you are basically sitting on top of the motor. The trucks have a longer engine compartment and more… well… truck… around the engine. In the van you basically have this big plastic cover that’s next to your right leg and underneath that is the back of the motor and the front of the trans. The up-pipe runs up over the engine through that area. The downpipe runs down that area on the other side. With the big downpipe and the bigger exhaust and the vact that it’s a giant tin can, it’s downright awful on the highway. In fact I am seriously contemplating doing something highly illegal and installing an aircraft/military-style noise-canceling headphone intercom system for long tows. LOUD.
This particular van seems to have maybe started life as a church or airport van. It’s sized like a 12-passenger van. When I bought it from a guy in Evansville, IN it had been converted into a camper-ish van that he also towed a 35′ camper with. Yes, that’s right, a thirty-five-foot-camper. This is basically an F350 with a box on it, so the towing capacity is massive.
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t quite a lot of room for improvement. The E350 with the 7.3 is stout, but could we make it a better, safer tow-rig? It was time to get…
Yes, yes, I hear you groaning.