Classic Cars A to Z

Ford Econoline Pickup (1961-1967)

Article by Mark Trotta

The original Ford Econoline series were offered as vans and pickups, and both were based on the compact Ford Falcon model. Unibody construction allowed the truck to be light, as the body also functioned as the frame, to which the running gear was attached.

Ford Econoline pickup history and information

Up front an I-Beam axle was used, suspended by leaf springs. With a curb-weight of about 2,500 pounds, power-steering wasn't really needed and never offered.

The cab-over design required the motor to sit over the front axle, which made the truck front-heavy. To offset this, a 165-pound weight was mounted underneath the truck over the rear wheels.

Ford Econoline pickup history

Cab-Over Design

When Ford debuted their new line of light-duty Econoline vans and pickups in 1961, they were an immediate success. But the idea of placing seats above the front wheels (allowing the cab to be shorter and the bed to be longer) was not new.

In 1950, Volkswagen introduced the forward control, rear-engine Transporter, which arrived in America in 1954. In 1957, the Willys-Overland company offered the 4-wheel-drive FC-150 and FC-170 cab-over pickups (the FC designation stood for forward control).



Inside the cab, the driver and passenger sat above the front wheels. The steering column stood up nearly vertical from the floor. Between the seats was the engine "doghouse", which had a hinged insulated cover to access the motor.

early Econoline history

Falcon Thriftmaster Six

For the first year of production, Ford Econoline models were powered by the Falcon's "Thriftmaster" six-cylinder, 85-horsepower engine. Weighing just 385 pounds, the short-stroke inline six displaced 144 cubic-inches. The intake manifold and cylinder head were cast integrally. A Thriftmaster six-cylinder engine can be identified by the three core plugs on each side of the block.

Ford Econoline pickup history

Starting in 1962, an optional 170ci six-cylinder motor was available.

In 1963, payload capacity was increased, and an optional custom cab was offered. A heavy-duty package included a reinforced frame, stiffer springs, 14-inch wheels and tires, and a stronger rear axle. 1963 was the Econoline pickup's highest output, with over 11,000 sold.

All early Econolines had a column-mounted three-speed manual transmission, which helped the light truck achieve 25-30 miles per gallon. The two-speed "Fordomatic" automatic transmission became available in 1964.



For the 1965 model year, Ford Econoline models received larger and stronger bumpers. Upgrades for 1967 included a dual-brake master cylinder, padded sun visors, two-speed wipers, and back-up lamps.

With a diminishing demand for light-duty pickups, along with competition from Chevy and Dodge, sales fell to under 3,000 units for two consecutive years. Ford Econoline pickup production ended in 1967.

Econoline pickup project truck

The original Econoline design has a lot of positives, but safety wasn't one of them. Some will argue that the cab-forward design, however unsafe, did offer great visibility and allowed for a small turning radius.

1961 Ford Econoline pickup

Early Econoline VIN

The VIN number is found on several spots on the vehicle. The factory service manual reads, "The official serial number, for title and registration purposes, is stamped on the right rear quarter body reinforcement gusset near the spare wheel retaining bracket." It is also found on the horizontal bracket behind the right tail light (sometimes on the left tail light).

The VIN can also be found stamped into the floor hump behind the engine dog house (it may be necessary to remove the dog house to find it).



Customizers and motorheads have always loved Econoline pickups. Sadly, many of them had rust issues, making the ones that did survive rare and collectable.

Ford Econoline pickup project

Early Econoline Motor Swap

The 144ci inline-six was designed to be economical, and more than a few early Econoline owners fondly referred to the engine as the "Suffering 6", because of its lack of power, especially when loaded down. Another issue with these engines is the cast-iron exhaust manifolds are cast integrally with the cylinder heads, and it is difficult to find good replacements.

Both the 144ci and 170ci engines can be replaced with a later 200ci Ford six-cylinder engine, which will bolt right in and give a bit more torque. To use a Ford 250ci six-cylinder engine, the bell-housing would need to be changed, but everything else appears to be the same.

Tire and Wheel Swaps

The original 13" x 4.5" rims are hard to find and available tire sizes are very limited. The later 14" x 5.50" (5 lug) rims are also hard to find, but since most Ford passenger cars from 1957 thru 1979 share the 4.50" bolt pattern, other wheels will fit. You would need to check backspacing, offset, and tire height.


This one-of-a-kind Econoline pickup is (over)powered by a Chevy Small-Block V8, backed with a Chevy automatic transmission and Ford 9" rear end. The builder also added electric door poppers, new glass and rubber trim seals.

SBC powered Econoline pickup

For several years, this truck was a rolling advertisement for a tavern in Ontario, Canada.

Ford Econoline pickup powered by small block Chevy

Here's another great example of a rolling advertisement from Garner, North Carolina.

Ford Econoline pickup truck


Related Articles:

Ford Trucks History 1948-1952
Ford Trucks History 1953-1956