As summer approaches, many Americans will find themselves looking at the great outdoors as a way to break free from work, viruses and resorts. For people looking for something a bit different than a Sprinter with all-terrain tires, a seller on Bring a Trailer has something pretty wild. So long as you could afford the gas, this 1971 Ford Econoline Sportsmobile camper conversion is an Epic way to wheel and sleep outside.
Hearing the name Sportsmobile immediately makes my ears perk up. If you don’t know what Sportsmobile does, I’ll give a quick rundown. Imagine the boring van that your plumber drove up in to fix your broken toilet. Now imagine that van with an interior kitted out for camping. It’s been the Sportsmobile formula since 1961. Some of the company’s most popular vans go even further with 4×4 conversions and meaty tires; a far cry from their humble beginnings.
Joe Arlo had long had a dream of going on camping adventures in a van just like his father did. And while he had a camper van already, he really wanted something both vintage and with four-wheel-drive, something that his modern Ford Econoline camper did not have. That’s when he found the old Sportsmobile in March 2017.
Arlo correctly points out that even 10-year-old Sportsmobiles with some mileage will still set you back the better half of six figures. But this 1971 Ford Econoline Sportsmobile? He found it on eBay for $US21,495 ($29,839) or best offer.
Before Arlo even got its hands on the Sportsmobile in 2017 it had undergone a bit of a restoration. He says that it was found in a barn in Minnesota. Then in 2015, it was shipped out to Hawaii and landed into the hands of Dwayne Wemple. Out there, Wemple overhauled the powertrain.
It started life as an Econoline E-200, then Wemple upgraded it to E-300 specification. He overhauled the van’s 302 cubic-inch V8, added a Dana Spicer 20 twin-stick transfer case, a Dana 44 front axle and a Dana 60 rear axle.
Since the van came from Minnesota, it was also peppered in rust. Wemple took care of that and gave the van a fresh coat of paint.
The now 4×4 lifted beast was sent back to the mainland in 2016 when it ended up in the ownership of a new person in Palm Springs, California. The owner reportedly let it sit for a year before Arlo finally got it in his possession.
While Arlo found it to be in good overall condition, he had to put his own spin on it. The 302 cubic-inch V8 under the hood was tossed out for a 306 cubic-inch Ford crate engine V8 from BluePrint Engines in 2018.
This unit is advertised as making 370 HP and 159 kg-ft torque, more than healthy for this application. The listing lists other goodies that came with the engine:
Equipment includes aluminium cylinder heads, an Edelbrock Pro-Flo 4 fuel injection system, a 160-amp alternator, a heavy-duty radiator, and Hedman “shorty” headers.
Arlo then refurbished the interior.
He named it the 808Van after the Hawaii area code that the van spent some of its time in. His refreshing of the interior kept the ‘70s vibes that a van like this should have while also giving it modern amenities. The floral patterns and bamboo floors also make for a great callback to where the van was overhauled those years ago.
Living equipment is light and includes a sink, bed, refrigerator, power inverter and a 76 l tank for water. This isn’t exactly the best off-grid camping material, but it’s certainly a stylish way to go wheeling before camping under the stars.
Of course, if this is Arlo’s dream van you may wonder why in the world would he ever sell it? Well, he wants to trade a Hawaii van for just living in Hawaii.
Hopefully this van goes on to see some great adventures. As of now bidding is at $US26,000 ($36,093) with three days to go on Bring a Trailer.