One of the camper conversion shops that saw Econoline’s potential was Sportsmobile, a well-known maker of rugged campers. They were successful too, and looking at this 1971 Ford Econoline Sportsmobile 4x4 camper conversion, you can see why. In fact, if you go to their website, you’ll find that Sportsmobile still has a similar offering based on the Ford E-Series chassis called Sportsmobile Classic 4×4.
The example we’ve found on Bring a Trailer was equipped with a Sportsmobile pop-top camper and converted as a go-anywhere 4x4 vehicle. The work included replacing the engine with a proper 306-ci Ford V8 crate mated to an AOD four-speed automatic transmission. A Dana 20 twin-stick transfer case and the Warn locking front hubs were also thrown in for good measure. And note things cannot go wrong when you rely on a 12,000-lb winch to get you out of difficult situations.
As you can see, this is the ideal vehicle to survive the apocalypse and will be at home both on-road and beyond, thanks to its extensive modifications. The 30-gallon custom fuel tank will take you far away, while the 160-watt solar panel will provide the needed power during off-grid adventures. This one is paired with two six-volt batteries totaling 320 Ah, which should suffice for camping outside the beaten track.
The military green and white exterior paint has a correspondent in the cabin upholstery, although the floral pattern might not suit everyone’s taste. The van comes with modern features like a digital odometer or the Edelbrock E-Tuner tablet integrated into the center console. It will probably have no problem sleeping three or even four people, thanks to the loft bed and the folding bench seat. Additional amenities include cabinets, an Isotherm refrigerator, a 20-gallon freshwater tank, and a power inverter.
Not everything is golden, as the seller reports the horn ring is broken and the fuel gauge is inoperative. This probably come due to the fact that the van has a custom fuel tank, but it should not be hard to retrofit a functional fuel gauge. More worrying are the rust patches that you can see on the doors and other areas, which is expected considering this van’s vintage.
The camper van attracted a lot of interest on Bring a Trailer and the bidders already pledged $20,000, with five days remaining. We don’t know what the reserve is on this one, but the seller attached modifications invoices to the tune of more than $30,000. Anyway, we believe this remains a solid camper van for those that want to match good off-road capabilities with the classic flair of a second-generation Econoline.