Ford Econoline Pickup (1961-1967)
Shorter, lighter, and easier to maneuver, the Ford Econoline pickup was also less expensive than a conventional pickup. With a cargo box measuring over seven feet, it was a perfect choice for running local deliveries, errands around the farm, or weekend swap-meets.
When Ford debuted their new line of cab-over light-duty 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 their 4-wheel-drive FC-150 and FC-170 cab-over pickups (the FC designation stood for forward control).
The original Ford Econoline series was based on the compact 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. 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. 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.
Falcon Thriftmaster Six
For the first year of production, all 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. Early models came with a three-speed manual transmission and yielded 25-30 miles per gallon. An optional 170-cid six-cylinder motor was available starting in 1962.
Inside, the driver and passenger sat above the front wheels, sharing the interior with the engine, which sat in a "doghouse" between the seats underneath an insulated cover. The steering column stood up nearly vertical from the floor, and held the three-speed manual shifter.
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.
The two-speed "Fordomatic" automatic transmission became available in 1964. In 1965, Econoline models received larger and stronger bumpers. For 1967, upgrades included a dual-brake master cylinder, padded sun visors, two-speed wipers, and back-up lamps.
With a diminishing demand for light-duty pickups, competition from Chevy and Dodge, and sales falling under 3,000 units for two consecutive years, 1967 was the last year for the Ford Econoline pickup.