Introduction: Pulling the Engine From a 1960's Ford Econoline Van

About: I'm a game programmer, character designer and musician. I love working on my van, Noistar and other projects at the Tech Shop. I have a Rat Terrier name Pochan.

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 definitely  "I made it at Tech Shop."  

Lets get started.

Step 1: Workspace

This will be a general overview of one way that it can be done.  The finer points of swapping and repairing these engines can and do fill several books.  I'll also cover other ways to restore and spruce up these great vans... before they all meet the crusher.    

First you need space and a place where you can leave the van for a couple days.  It's possible to do it all in one day if everything goes perfectly, nothing breaks, you have all the parts that you will need to be replaced and you've done it all many times before  but it will still be a challenge.  You will need to have space on the passenger side of the van where you can roll the engine hoist into position.  We took the engine out through the top of the engine bay and out the side doors.  There are other ways such as dropping it out the bottom that I hear are just as good, especially if you have a rare van with no side doors.

Step 2: Help

Another great thing to have is someone to help you, preferably someone strong who knows what they're doing. Luckily I have a brother who has done this stuff literally his whole life who made this project possible.   You can probably manage to pull the engine alone but dropping a new one back in would be crazy difficult.  Be sure whoever helps will not get hurt because it is hard work.  It is also super filthy work.  Wear some coveralls or old clothes that will be ruined.  Also get nitrile gloves if possible and have plenty of handcleaner, papertowels and a 5 gallon bucket full of water around to dunk your hands in.  Your hands will get greasy and its hard to hold tools.  You will also probably cut and nick your hands fairly often when not wearing gloves so you might want to clean the cuts out.  

Step 3: Tools and Resources

Tools you will need:
An Engine Hoist with a fairly long extendable arm because you will extend it to the limit.
If you don't have one you can usually rent a hoist where they rent construction tools.  I had to do this when I picked up my new engine.  They are disassembled and lock together with pins.  Cost around $35 - $40 at the time
A long thick chain that is tested for at least 1200lbs to be safe.  You can find these at hardware stores cut to the length you want.
(Tech Shop's engine hoist is pictured lifting the 144ci using 1000lb twisted nylon rope -- not braided.)
A good Fractional Socket Set and Fractional Wrenches
a lot of the bolts and nuts will be in the 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch range so if there are 2 or more people working it is good to have multiple instances of these sockets and wrenches if possible
Vise Grips, Channel Locks, Adjustable Crescent wrenches
An Air Ratchet or other powered ratchet is almost required.  You can get it done without but it will be slow going.
Sources of power such as air compressor and electrical outlet.
Various lengths  of Screwdrivers.
WD-40 or other penetrating oil to break rusted bolts free.
Pans or buckets to catch draining fluids such as oil and radiator fluid.
Creeper (or something to help you slide around on the ground under your van like cardboard or a smooth tile or polished concrete floor.)

I'm not going to go into detail for removing every nut and bolt but you will most likely find need for all these tools.

Step 4: Remove the Seats and Doghouse

First thing to do is remove the seats and the lid, back and sidewall of the Doghouse.  You can remove the entire Doghouse if you like but we found it easier to leave 2 sides up.  

NOTE:  The nuts that hold your doghouse together are specialized clip on sheet metal nuts and may be rusted out.  They may drop out or break while you're working.  Save them where you can but you may need to run to a big auto parts or hardware store where they sell replacements for these.  Bring an example with you as there are many different types that look very similar.  They can be replaced by regular nuts but they will be difficult to reattach.  The sheet metal nuts are design to catch the metal or clip over the edge and not need a wrench on both sides of the bolt to prevent it from spinning free.

If you have carpet and you can remove it you probably should. Otherwise cover it up with cardboard or plastic.

Step 5: Take a Picture

Take some pictures of your engine so if you need to put it back together it will help you to know what goes where

Step 6: Drain Fluids

Drain the Engine Oil and Radiator Fluid.  While you're at it you may as well change the gear oil in your manual transmission and the rear differential.

Step 7: Radiator Frame

Remove your battery so that no power is going to the engine or components.
Unbolt the radiator frame from the doghouse. 
Remove the radiator hoses from the engine and remove the radiator.
Unbolt the fan blade and belt pulley and remove it. 
Unbolt the alternator and remove it. ( it's heavy and may require 2 people, one to twist bolts and the other to hold it up)
Unbolt the starter and lift it out. (also heavy)
Detach all the hoses especially those connecting back to the van such as the heater hoses and fuel lines.  Fluid is going to come out when you do this.
BTW: Be careful what you do with the fuel line.  Be sure to drain it or clamp it closed so you don't have a pool of gasoline under your van.
Detach the push rod that runs from the gas pedal to the carb.
Unbolt the exhaust pipe from the exhaust manifold but leave the exhaust manifold attached to the engine.
Detach the black ground wire that runs from the battery to the engine.

Step 8: Transmission

Put a floor jack underneath your transmission and pump it up slightly.
Crawl underneath the van.  If there's not enough space for you to fit comfortable and work you will need to put it up on jackstands and block it very securely.  Don't mess around on this point because you will be shaking the van pretty severely to bust the engine loose.  My van is stock and rides pretty high on the leaf springs and 14 inch rims so we could slide underneath as is.
Remove the adjustable push rod that comes from the clutch pedal back to the clutch arm
You may want to remove the shifter linkages and replace the bushings while you're at it.
Remove the bolts that attach the bell housing to the engine. 
NOTE: Alternately some folks may want to remove the transmission with it attached to the engine but we didn't do that here. 

Step 9: Attach the Chain and Detach Everything Else.

Move the hoist into position and attach the chain to your engine.   If you plan to dispose of a broken engine as we were, you may not care how the chain is attached or what it damages.  We looped ours beneath the exhaust manifold and around the back, which isn't the best method.  In the second image you can see the correct way to do it. 

Second image is the 144ci that we later dropped into the van.  On this we attached the chain to 2 points on the engine block using hardened steel #8 bolts.  Do not use anything less than this as they will break and your 500-700lb engine will fall to the ground crushing anything in its way.  If you're lucky they will break before you lift it and prove this point.  Go to the auto parts store and ask for hardened bolts and bring an example of the size and thread you need.  Test out any bolts you can find on the spots where you want to attach the chain and make sure you can get depth and a good amount of threads into a solid part of the engine block.

I also made a spacer bar, using the tools at TechShop,  by cutting 2 feet of angle iron and then notching the ends to accept the chain link.  A simple angle grinder could easily be used to make this bar in a few minutes.  This bar keeps the chain pressure from smashing delicate stuff like the head cover and also helps to adjust the angle of the engine.  You can buy an adjustable bar at the auto parts store fairly cheaply that is designed for just this purpose.

Step 10: Pump It Up.

Pump up the engine hoist to put tension on the chain and make sure it is going to lift the engine and the chain isn't slipping. 
Make sure the chain is as tight as possible and as close to the engine as possible to get the clearance you need to lift it over the floor.
When you know the chain is going to support the engine, crawl underneath and unbolt the motor mounts from the cross member.  There should be 2 bolts on either side. 
In these 2 images I show you where the motor mounts are, circled in the first image, and what the cross member looks like and also what the bell housing will look like when the engine is out.

Make sure all the bolts are removed and all hoses and wires and connectors that will get in the way are removed
You might even remove the spark plug wires just to be safe. 

You might consider putting a strong wire, rope or chain around the transmission to prevent it from dropping down after the engine is out.  Otherwise make sure the jack underneath the transmission is secure.

Pump up the hoist again and rock the unbolted engine back and forth gently until it breaks free from the motor mounts and transmission.  Pump it up while pushing the engine forward to clear the transmission bellhousing.

Once it is free carefully pump up the hoist until the engine is lifted clear of the bed of the van.  If it doesn't clear you may need to drop it down, tighten up the chain and try again.

Step 11: Congratulations! You Pulled an Engine.

If the engine will clear the floor of your van slowly roll the hoist back away from your van and out the door. 
Congrats! You have just successfully pulled the engine.  
You may want to continue to drain the oil and other fluids into a container to prepare it for transport. Don't leave it hanging around too long in case something breaks.
If the engine will be discarded, drop it to the ground on an old tire or engine rack and  pull off any good parts you may need later or may want to trade with other van owners. 

Step 12: Transporting the Engine

If you need to drive the old engine away somewhere there are a few good ways to do it.

One way that most people use is to drop it on top of an old tire.  This will mostly protect the engine and whatever you are transporting it in but it is not guaranteed.  If you don't have an old tire call around and stop by a shop where they change tires and ask them if they have a discard that you can have.  Most of them will give it to you for free.  Get a good sized tire.

For my replacement engine I built this wooden rack (pictured) that was pretty study and lasted long enough for me to drive around a few weeks with the engine in my van but only because it was strapped down really tight to the walls.  I'll do another instructable on how to build that rack.

Professional engine racks are available for purchase as well but most seem to be specialized for V8 cylinder engines.  For the Inline 6 cylinders it seems like most engine rebuilders fabricate their own from steel or wood.  You could mount it on an actual rotating engine stand but good luck taking a corner with that in the back of a van.

Ways to get rid of your old engine:
Give it away or sell it online for whatever it may be worth.
Call around and see if any junkyards want it.
Donate it to a metal recycling scrapyard if they will take it.
Find an old classic car auto shop that might want it.
Dismantle it to see how it works (that's what I did) and then donate for scrap.

Step 13: Curiosity - Knowledge - Innards

Since I was throwing it away I had some fun taking the engine apart to see the innards.

Be sure to read up more in the shop manuals for the Model Year of your van.  

You can often find used copies of the manuals online and there are companies who produce perfect reprints of various auto manuals.  

Also there are often auto swap meets in various cities and county fairgrounds that occur on the weekends of car shows.   Manuals and classic auto repair books and many parts and trim can often be found at these events.

Step 14: Good Luck.

Hope this helps you get some idea of what it takes to pull an Inline 6 engine from a 1960's era van such as the Ford Econoline.

Next I will show how to drop a new engine back in.
Good luck and I hope to see your van on the road.

Here's my '65 Econoline being restored in the auto bay at Tech Shop.


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