1972 Ford Econoline Camper Van Gets First Wash in 36 Years, Reveals Multiple Paint Layers

Van Life is making a comeback, all thanks to the idyllic photos of adventurers crossing borders and witnessing the raw form of nature in their revamped classic vans on social media. The therapeutic dreamy sunset and sunrise photos have kickstarted some new enthusiasm about experiencing the great outdoors in the comfort of a motorhome or off-road van/truck.
1972 Ford Econoline 12 photos
Photo: YouTube Screenshot/Budget Buildz
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This renewed enthusiasm has brought a new demand for classic vans among vintage car collectors. Car restorers like Michael Wagner of Budget Buildz YouTube channel couldn't be happier to get these old relics running. In a recent upload on the platform, he took possession of a classic 1972 Ford Econoline that had been sitting in the woods in Georgia for 36 years.

Forget the shaggy carpeting and the old stories your uncle tells you about the golden summer of 69; the E-Series was a solid, adventurer, body-on-frame, truck-based van for all ages.

Its years in production (more than half a decade) say a lot about its prevalence in its niche. Still available as cutaways, its predecessor, the Ford Transit, took over from it, and as such, is a much better and more modern version of the automobile, according to classic van diehards.

The second-generation Econolines didn't get a lot of love when they came out; therefore, it's not unexpected that this unit was left rotting in the woods for that long. Most owners dumped these vans a little over ten years after use. They still haven't been valuable in the last decade, but with Van Life catching on amongst millennials, they are slowly earning a collectible van status.

1972 Ford Econoline was blue when it was last parked

1972 Ford Econoline
Photo: YouTube Screenshot/Budget Buildz
The truck has quite an exciting story. The gentleman who sold it to Michael said it last ran in 1987 and was blue in color. However, what they retrieved from the woods was close to white with blue accents on one side. Mother Nature had done a number on this classic van, and they suspected there could be some rust spots underneath.

If you are new to car rescues, getting an old washed-up 51-year-old van out of the woods is the first step of revival, and only if the elements haven't gotten the best of it. Michael was lucky none of the sunken wheels remained behind after tagging it out of its hibernation spot.

If you thought old timers who keep on saying 'they don't build them as they used to no more' were suffering from nostalgia, then this classic van's enthusiasm to fire back up again after 36 years is a testament to classic car hardiness.

Michael's 1972 Ford Econoline came with a 302 cubic-inch 4.9 -liter small block V8 paired with a three-speed manual transmission (three-speed automatic Cruise-O-Matic option available), sending all the power to the rear wheels.

Stood the test of time despite being abandoned for 36 years

1972 Ford Econoline
Photo: YouTube Screenshot/Budget Buildz
Michael suspects the van could have been a camper when it was last abandoned in 1987. It still had its old carpeting, which was a good sign that it wasn't a complete goner. It also had some fishing gear, a reminder of its escapades during its active years.

It was surprisingly solid underneath with zero soft spots once all the rotting camping gear and 36-year-old worth of stored stuff were removed.

"Maybe it was a camper, but it was probably a work van because there's nothing back here other than on the sides where you see the stuff was bolted. But it's a really cool blank canvas," Michael said after getting rid of all the junk in the van.

The 1972 Ford Econoline had been through a couple of lousy paint jobs; each panel on the vehicle had its shade of paint. But according to Michael, its original color was white and then blue at some point. His next line of action was blasting it to a relatively consistent color.

Blasting revealed a white tannish shade

1972 Ford Econoline
Photo: YouTube Screenshot/Budget Buildz
It looked much better after blasting; it was close to one consistent color, a whitish, tannish shade.

Like the 1976 Chrysler Town & Country that he rescued on a recent upload on the platform, this 1972 Ford Econoline's brakes were shot and needed a complete brake line service. Even though the van's wheels had been buried in the ground (stuck stiff) for more than three decades, Michael was surprised they only needed a little cleaning and repair.

"Motor sounded pretty good, the lifter's still a little clattery, let's get a little temperature in it and see if it even moves," Michael said before driving the 51-year-old truck for the first time in 36 years.

The classic Ford Econoline in the video has much potential as a restored camper, modern living space, or work van. As pictured in the video, there's a lot of blank canvas to work with, depending on the direction he's looking to steer the project.

Are you curious how well this 1972 Ford Econoline runs? We recommend checking out the video below for some of that action. Van Life enthusiasts looking to convert classic vans into modern living spaces on wheels will learn a lot from his experience.

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About the author: Humphrey Bwayo
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Humphrey is a car enthusiast whose love and passion for automobiles extended into collecting, writing, driving, and working on cars. He got his passion for cars from his Dad, who spent thousands of hours working on his old junky 1970 E20 Toyota Corolla. Years later, he would end up doing the same with a series of lemons he’s owned throughout his adult life.
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