Instructables
Picture of Pulling the Engine from a 1960's Ford Econoline Van
Have you ever wanted to own a beautiful, classic 1960's van such as the Ford Econoline but thought that the gas would be way too expensive?   There's a reason they were named "Econoline". 

The very first models in 1961 had a small engine known as the 144 ci Inline 6 and it "theoretically" gets 30 to 32 miles per gallon.  This same engine was available in economy passenger cars such as the Falcon, on which the Econoline is based,  and some early Mustangs and can still be found in good working condition.  

The engine is not a powerhouse at 80 hp. If you have a need for speed you will absolutely hate it but if you want to get to the beach on a budget or pick up some plywood at the hardware store on the weekend this engine will get the job done. 

I'm going to explain, in a few instructable posts, how we pulled out the old broken engine and dropped in a rebuilt 144ci.  Luckily I am a member of TechShop so even though I live in an apartment I have a public place with amazing tools, resources and great people where I can park and work on my van for a few days...so definitely  "I made it at Tech Shop."  

Lets get started.
 
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I had a quick question.. I bought a 1962 Econoline recently and notice there is a fairly strong exhaust smell in the cabin. Is the doghouse supposed to have a seal on it..Either at the top access area or where it is bolted to the floor? I am curious... I just had the exhaust pipes replaced so I know its not that. Thanks for your info in advance.
Anna. My van had the same problem. There are a number of possible causes:
My van had a really old i6 170 motor that had a hole in the exhaust manifold. That's the part that is between the motor and the pipes. Also the donut seal/connector between the manifold and pipes can be bad but you or your mechanic probably replaced that with the pipes.
Another common cause can be the gasoline boiling up out of your carb after you stop. My new engine does that as well. Typically this happens because the motor get so hot inside the doghouse that when you stop whatever gas is still inside the carb gets vaporized by the heat. I've found it is difficult to seal the doghouse enough to keep these types of fumes out. They are powerful.
The best solution I've heard about is to install a good Electric Radiator Fan to augment or replace fan on your motor. If installed correctly, and it has this feature available, it will continue to run for a few minutes after the van shuts down and blow all the gas away so it doesn't smell so bad when you get back in.
After I install my motor I spent a day working on the doghouse. I hammered it back into good shape on an anvil, stripped and repainted it with Rust Reformer and Hi Heat Rustoleum paint. When I reinstalled it I used soft rolled plumbers putty or window putty weatherstripping on all the seams and I found a great spongy weatherstripping at home depot for the lid seal around the top. I also used bolts/nuts and metal plumbers tape to seal up any remaining "extra" bolt holes I found that were left over from previous owners and there were a lot of unused holes. Even after all this I still get the gas smell although it it much better while I am driving it and quieter as well.
Thanks for all the advice. I love my van. Its nice to find someone else who has one and has some experience with it. I know there are some old bolt holes in the floor of the van as it used to be a camper but is now outfitted with seats so I can haul my 5 kiddos around. My buddy is going to seal all those up hopefully in the near future but until he gets around to it I will try the metal plumbers tape. Here is a pic of my beauty... Just to share. Thank you again. I look forward to seeing all the things you do to yours. Do you follow or post on any other forums? Any good ones I should know about?
20121113_143720.jpg
Wow! Nice camper. Those are pretty rare and sought after by collectors. It was a very unique design. Don't lose that pop top.
I would suggest signing up for an old Yahoo Groups account. There are 2 mailing lists full of very helpful people and everyone identifies themselves by region of the country so you can know if someone nearby has parts for sale or needs help.   Two really great knowledgeable guys to look for are Jay who goes by Polecat and Vic in So Cal.
Here are the 2 mailing lists.
oldeconolines@yahoogroups.com
Econosrus@yahoogroups.com
  Some of these guys have been working on these vans and pickups since they were first made. I'm learning so much from them every day. ;) 
Another place to look might be anywhere in the bed of the van behind the motor or around the wheel wells. I spent an evening in the van with a roll of metal plumbers tape looking for light shining through small rust holes in the bed. The tape is a really great temp solution. It will stick and hold for a long time until you can find another solution, like welding the holes or plugging them with something else .
One more possibility: Rear windows and doors.  If your rear window or door seams are bad the exhaust has a way of getting pulled back into the van while you're driving.  Also be sure to shut the windows on the back of the van if they are the type that can be opened.  It seems like opening them would help get the exhaust out but it actually makes it worse. it comes in from the tail pipe.  Hope this helps.
farna2 years ago
I notice the same ting on the AMC/Rambler boards (I'm an AMC/Rambler enthusiast!) -- most of the people who post all the time are the racers and always suggest "bigger is better". In many cases I have to agree, but if you already have a good running small engine there's no problem with using it. In your case I'd have looked for a 200 or 250 as well, but if a great deal on a 144/170 came along first...

Putting an OD trans behind it would do no good. Most people don't realize that OD transmissions use a lower rear axle than a standard three speed or old style four speed (top gear is 1:1). Doesn't matter if either the old or OD trans is manual or auto. OD is just a cheap way to add another gear. The more gears the easier it is to keep an engine in it's best power rpm range. OD means the ratio is less than 1:1, most are 0.75:1. 1:1 means for every one revolution of the crankshaft the driveshaft turns once also, so 0.75:1 means that the engine makes 3/4 (0.75) turns for every turn of the driveshaft. The rear axle for a 1:1 auto car might be 3.08 (which means 3.08:1), whereas an OD car is typically 3.50. So you're losing some of the rpm gained. If you don't do this the engine won't turn fast enough to produce good power cruising. You need about 2000 rpm to easily hold a steady cruising speed. Some of the newer engines are being cammed so they produce a lot of torque at lower speeds (especially larger V-6s -- 3.5L or more -- and most V-8s) and can cruise effectively as low as 1600 rpm. Smaller motors have to turn faster to produce power though. The most effective cruise speed for most American in-line sixes is the 2000-2500 rpm range. Foreign I-6s (BMW, Mercedes, Nissan, etc.) "want" to run in the 2500-3000 because they have much shorter strokes than the workhorse US I-6s.
OrbitalMindControl (author)  farna2 years ago
Farna
I'm very curious about this topic since thinking about gear ratios, and actually having those options, is new to me again. When I was a teenager I bought a street racer '64 Nova with a slip-posi rear and 4/11 gears. I knew that sounded cool but didn't really knew what it meant till I looked it up. My brother and I were talking about gears ratio options when we were pumping the black pudding that was formerly 40 year old 80/90 gear oil from the rear differential. We were afraid that level of dis repair might have led to damage and require a new pumpkin. So far it has been good. I drained the trans oil on Friday and it ran clear and had very little metal in it. On first drain it too ran black and the magnetic drain plug was furry with metal shards. This week I'll pump out the differential and see what I get after 6 months on clean oil.
4.11 gears are good for drag racing, but without an OD that's it! You don't look that old (I'm 50!), so "was a teenager" might not have been that long ago. I don't remember buying gas for under $0.65 a gallon as a teen, but do recall it was still a major expense for me! Things haven't changed that much... we make more, things cost more... proportionally they aren't much different!

Sounds like you did a good job on the gear oil change. You never get it all out. Transmissions (manual and auto) will have a few wear particles in the oil no matter what after a few years, nothing to worry about there. there probably won't be much change in the diff oil, not much to wear in it.
mwistrom2 years ago
Hey, for some strange reason, I'm drawn to these Ford vans. I think the neighbors had one and we used to drive around in it. It was a while ago. Rumor has it that there is a converted camper ready for me to ask for it and drive/tow it away. I'm wondering if I should really bother with it. After seeing your procedure, I am certainly jealous.

Anyway, I am interested in the mileage you are getting. As I get older, I find myself driving in the far right lane, and that is fine with me. I suppose the real question I have is the total cost / mile, but the cost of gas is probably the simplest metric to get right now.

And what forums/boards were you posting on? I can't seem to find a good one to discuss the old fords.

Thanks,
Mark
OrbitalMindControl (author)  mwistrom2 years ago
mwistrom
I still haven't checked my mileage since there's fixes that need to be done to make everything run properly. If you really enjoy tinkering with old cars then these old Econoline might be fun. It takes a lot of work to bring them back to life and tons of searching , patience & connection to online communities for trading.

If mileage is your primary concern then it's proven to be a very debatable topic. I just love the Mid Century design, have always wanted an early Econoline, need a van for various hobbies, want to go camping in it and really enjoy the process of restoration.

Finding an engine that even comes close to modern fuel efficiency and isn't in the 8 to 15 mpg range of some classic V8's, is a definite plus.

If I were you I'd happily grab that camper but be prepared to put a lot of work and cash into it and endless tinkering to keep it running. They are very primitive machines.

Check out oldeconolines@yahoogroups and econosrus@yahoogroups . Fantastic groups with some serious enthusiasts and mechanics who will help you out.
crgintx2 years ago
I'd swap in a 200 or 250 cid I6 from later model Ford along with an overdrive transmission of some sort. Those 144-170 Falcon engines barely made 22 mpg in a Falcon, much less lugging around an Econoline. The freeway cruise rpm for those things was well out of the economy cruise rpm. Ideally you'd want a 250cid I-6 with an overdrive transmission of some sort. It would give you better around town gas mileage because you won't have to jam the throttle to the floor to get the thing to move. I owned a 64 Falcon with a 170 with a 3speed transmission. It was much lighter than an Econoline and it would get 21-22 mpg on the highway, 19-20 city. The Econoline was a brick aerodynamically speaking and anything above 60mph requires more horsepower than any stock 144 could muster.
OrbitalMindControl (author)  crgintx2 years ago
You may be right about that Crgintx. I have yet to do a really solid test of the actual mileage. There was a debate on the Econline forums as to weather I should install the 144 or buy a seven main bearing 200 ci. Half the commenters hated the 144 calling it a dog. The mitigating factor to believing these respondents was that most of them run V8's in their vans. There are some folks who absolutely must have speed and power no matter what the cost.

The other half , some incredibly experienced, level headed Econoline owners, said things like "The 144 is a good little engine. It should be fine and you won't notice that much difference from the 170."

This engine was recently rebuilt by a serious Econoline enthusiast for a show car. It is spotless and sparked up on the 3rd try. Maybe the health of the engine has an influence fuel efficiency? Also my van is empty and has the rear under gas tank weight removed. It weighs only a few hundred pounds more than a Mazda Miata being almost the same length and width.

I have noticed that it revs a bit high which worried me at first. There are a lot of factors that go in to fuel efficiency and perhaps I may be stretching a bit to sell my motor swap based on fuel numbers claimed by the manufacturer.

http://youtu.be/7e7B5xuRKOw

But it is already a good deal better than I expected from a 50 year old engine and much better than a 1970's V8.

Thanks for the detailed info
There's a lot you can do for better mileage and driveabilty to the 144cid but the fact is your still got a very smallish engine for a heavier vehicle. These vans weren't designed for the speeds we drive at these days. They were designed as a light urban deliver vehicle and basically slower speeds. Once you start driving the vehicle, you'll definitely notice that the mpg is much lower than claimed. I drive an '83 Mustang with a 140cid four-cylinder/4spd manual and 23-24/27-28 city/hwy mpg is what I get with a much more aerodynamic vehicle. Probably get better with and OD transmission but not much over 30mpg on the highway. The 200 cid I-6 is more common than the 250 cid. but with any larger vehicle I'd always go with the biggest engine I could swap without modification. 21-22 mpg is doable in these vans with a larger engine/with and OD and taller rear end gears. If you haven't switched to an electronic ignition yet do so. Pertronix is what I used on my 55 Mercury but you have the option of using Ford's superbly reliable Duraspark ignition system from the 70's-80's as a bolt-in. Ditch the steel wheels for some aluminum alloy that are slotted, your brakes will run cooler and they worth about .5mpg increase. Get some modern fuel saver tires as well. They'll out last those old bias plys by at least twice and give better wet handling and braking,too. The ultimate upgrade for any little Ford I-6 is to obtain the Ford of Australia cross flow head with a 2 barrel carb intake, Probably a 25-30 hp increase on the 200 cid more on the 250. The Aussie Ford Falcon 6 had morphed into a 200+hp beast before they switched over to OHC cylinder heads in the '80's. http://fordsix.com/forum/
OrbitalMindControl (author)  crgintx2 years ago
That's all great info Crgintx, thanks. I will most likely step up to a 200 some time in the future and I've read a bit about the Aussie motors but didn't know they had increased the HP so much. Currently this is my daily driver but, because I work at home, that means weekly driver. I don't mind the lack of freeway speed since I mostly just putt around town with short jogs on the 101 at 65 to get to Tech Shop or The City. I'd imagine after my first long road trip to go camping, or if I try to climb up the hills into the Redwoods nearby, I may want to have more than 80 HP. I'm hoping to get the electronic ignition thing hooked up soon. My distributor doesn't match the vacuum advance on my carb so my freeway fuel economy is probably worse than it should be. Lots to do before then just to get it reliable. New 3 core aluminum radiator is coming next week to fix overheat issues. Appreciate the helpful feedback.
Yes. But with a stick shift there is a shifter linkage and a clutch involved between you and the transmission... that may be where your problem is. Sometimes a simple adjustment of these may fix it. Manual / Stick transmission are usually very sturdy and difficult to break where automatic transmissions are complex and have many moving parts prone to failure. You might be able to find some diagnostic info/videos online for your car.
pfred22 years ago
Funny stuff! I love how not once do you even come close to doing this right.

For anyone curious the right way to do this is to bolt the chain to the top of the motor. There are many threaded holes in the top of a motor suitable for lifting from.

1 star, for the entertainment value. This was featured? Whoever did that either knows squat about pulling motors, or has a twisted sense of humor.
OrbitalMindControl (author)  pfred22 years ago
Well there's a right way and then there's someone who always thinks there is only one right way. ;)

One of the issues with these engines is the cast iron exhaust manifolds on the 144 are cast integrally with the cylinder heads. They are very brittle and incredibly difficult to find good replacements. If you bolt into "the top of the motor" which, unless you mean the top of the block which would require removing the heads, we felt we might run the risk of mangling these parts and ruining a great, rebuilt engine.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Straight-6_engine

The reason we pulled the 170 is the exhaust manifold was thrashed and full of holes which is why we just looped the chain around the top and yanked it out.

But anyway, thanks for trolling and being rude.
Try not to feel so right all the time Fred.
Sure no problem. Keep the laughs coming.
nthom62 years ago
My first new "car" was a 1961 Econoline with the 144 motor. It was the pickup model and I had to fork over $1635 for it, tax and delivery included.

I drove it across the country more than once. On one such trip I actually logged over 1000 miles in one day of slow, but sure, driving.

One way to divert the time on such a trip was to open up the engine cover sitting right beside you and see how she was running.

Who needs 300, or 200, or even 100 HP? (My present rig has 116 HP and even carries my "home" on its back).

OrbitalMindControl (author)  nthom62 years ago
Nice! That's less than I paid for my van 50 years later. ;)

I do enjoy being so close to the engine and having direct access. It's a lot like a motorcycle in that sense. Sometimes I need to open up the doghouse to help cool it down on a hot day. Soon I will need to get a larger radiator and do a power engine flush.
nthom62 years ago
I have a 1961 Econoline Ford Factory Manual for sale to anyone who can use it. The price is $20 plus postage.

If interested, contact me at nthom5@yahoo.com
l8nite2 years ago
My first job was delivering auto parts in a van just like yours and Ive done a couple swaps in both early ford and chevy vans.. nice ible.. thanks for the memories