This year Ford Econoline celebrates it’s 40th anniversary. It was originally introduced in the fall of 1960 as a 1961 model. Since then, more than six million E-Series vehicles have been built, and it has set a segment standard with product innovations, customer loyalty and sales leadership (since 1979). Here’s a quick recap of what the last four decades were like and how Econoline has progressed throughout the years.
John F. Kennedy becomes president and the world witnesses his assassination on television. The Berlin Wall is built. Martin Luther King, Jr. leads the civil rights movement and is also assassinated. The Vietnam War begins. Man walks on the moon for the first time. Woodstock occurs. Sesame Street debuts.
The sixties were an era of continual change. And Ford was changing with the times as the Econoline van and truck were introduced in 1960 as a 1961 model. Ford’s new compact truck line was an immediate success due to its rapid adoption by the Bell Telephone System for customer service and installation fleets. Originally available in cargo van, eight-passenger wagon and pickup models, E-Series offered two six-cylinder engines (170 CID and 240 CID) through the 1967 model year. It’s first major change occurred in 1968, when the body was freshened, the Twin I-beam front suspension was introduced, the engine was moved forward and air conditioning and a V-8 engine were added as options.
The First New York marathon occurs. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is created by Congress. Roe v. Wade. Nixon resigns office. Discos reign over the dancing scene. Apple Computer and Microsoft are founded. First test-tube baby is born. Sony introduces the walkman radio. Star Wars hits the big screen.
The seventies were an era of environmental, social and technological change; Ford incorporated all of those elements into the E-Series vehicles of the era – especially the completely remodeled 1975 version. In the early seventies, all Econoline engines came equipped with automatic choke and exhaust emission control systems and the fuel evaporative control system became available as an option in 49 states and required in California and the cutaway model was introduced. The 1975 Econoline introduced a number of new features, including body-on-frame construction, higher GVWs, improved packages and a wider engine selection.
American hostages in Iran are released. CNN and MTV launch on cable television. Cell phones make their first appearance in the U.S. The space shuttle Challenger explodes. Electronic games from Nintendo debut. The Iran-Iraq war comes to a close. The cold war ends and The Berlin Wall begins to be dismantled, piece-by-piece.
Another decade creates a more in-touch world as Ford brings more and more technological advancements to E-Series’ vehicles. Halogen headlamps and power steering become standard, to name just a few enhancements that were made possible in the eighties (see timeline for full listing of changes).
Nelson Mandela is release form a South African prison. East and West Germany are united as one country for the first time since World War II. The Dow Jones tops 3000 for the first time. The Internet Society is charted and people begin “surfing the net.” Beijing, China opens its first McDonalds. Figure skating wars: Tonya Harding vs. Nancy Kerrigan. Tiger Woods turns pro at age 20. Princess Di and Mother Teresa die. Y2K.
As the century comes to an end, the Ford Econoline vehicle line seems to find a renaissance. The all-new 1992 E-Series Chateau wagon is named Motor Trend magazine’s “Truck of the Year.” Ergonomics are improved, CFC-free air conditioning becomes available, and the 7.3L Power Stroke turbo diesel and the full-line of Triton™ engines are introduced.
The New Millennium:
As we enter the new millennium, we learned that Y2K wasn’t really worth getting all excited about, and we have a whole new century to look forward to. And Ford Econoline has a new century of growth ahead.
For the 2001 model year, Ford Econoline introduces the new E-150 Traveler package. Designed for capability and comfort, as well as entertainment and convenience, the E-150 Traveler is targeted primarily at families with children ages 10-17, and provides the convenience and space of seven-passenger seating. The standard 4.6L Triton™ engine and class II/III/IV Trailer Towing Package combine to provide the towing capacity needed by these active families to tow their boats, campers, or anything else they’ll need for a weekend adventure. The E-150 Traveler provides these consumers with a comfortable, well-appointed interior, a rear entertainment package to keep the whole family entertained and a large rear cargo area that has plenty of room for luggage and gear.
What else is to yet come in the new millennium? We’ll see.