Full Disclosure: Ford wanted me to drive this vehicle so badly that they sent subliminal messages to a Hotwheels collector who bought it from Bell Canada knowing that it would one day find it’s way into my father’s hands so I could drive it now and again.
Also, actually having the build sheet really helps when you’re bragging about the vehicle, I made a few mistakes while bragging about the van in the past.
It’s not every day you see an old full size van of any kind running around still, so the impact this 1989 E250 makes is that much greater. What makes this van so special you ask? The Dana 44 and Warner transfer case set this tin can apart from the rest.
Why the 4 wheel drive you ask? Well, back in the day Bell Canada needed work vehicles to get technicians to remote power lines in the bush in Northern Canada. So they got in touch with a company in Manchester Pennsylvania called Quigley who still does 4x4 conversions on all kinds of vans to this day. They added the T case front axle and build the front suspension.
After a long hard stint with Bell being over loaded and badly beated this example and a twin with independent front suspension showed up in a used car lot in Sudbury Ontario and this is where the Hotwheels collector comes into the picture.
According to him, he bought the van in the early ninties, still wearing its original paint, just with all the Bell decals poorly painted over. a little TLC and a 6 inch drop trailer hitch later and it was his weekend towing and hauling mule. He even built a set of racks that would slide in and out of the back of the van and hold all his Hotwheels when he went to swap meets and flea markets to sell them.
After a while the van began to sit around and Hotwheels guy bought an enclosed trailer and a Lincoln Mark LT, so the van went up for sale. After telling the guys trying to trade a pair of snowmobiles for it to go stick their heads in a door, he called up my father who shelled over 3500 Canadian pesos for this striped wonder.
Now onto the juicy details
Even though it is just an old work van with some pretty paint, it sure does draw the eye in traffic. The very seveties stripes combined with the immense height, big wheels and tires and the old Warn winch on the front give it a presence that simply can’t be ignored.
The badges from a Ford Lightning and the other assorted SVT badges are there just for the hell of it. If you’re going to build a giant Hotwheels, might as well go for broke.
It can be a bit of a polarizing vehicle though. Young mothers driving Priuses call me a pedophile and a killer of mother Gaia, but dudes and people who aren’t stuck up sticks in the mud love the thing. And I have nothing against young mothers driving Priuses. Saves more gas for me.
Because of the nasty reactions and deteriorating state of the 20 year old paint job, she only scores an 8 here.
Even a 4 might be a bit generous here. Its a work van, you have everything you need and nothing you don’t. Even the carpet was later addition done by Hotwheels Guy. The front buckets are surprisingly comfortable, and the rear bench is almost sofa like with its low back and lap belts.
However, with the barn doors on the back and right side, access is very good as long as you don’t mind lifting what ever you want to load up into the van. It also has the ability to take a third row bench seat, but I don’t have another seat, and I think I’d need a bus licence to carry that many people in Ontario. Could be wrong.
Best thing about the inside of this? Flip out quarter windows!
It’s not as heavy as I first thought, but even still the 302 small block topped by an old electronic fuel injection system will not make this a race car. 120 kph is about all it has in it, but it’ll move out fast enough if you stuff your foot in it from a dead stop. I thought that this thing weighed 9800 pounds, but I must have misread the door sticker from Quigley but according to the scales at my local steel yard, who were kind enough to weigh the van for me, it only weighs 5340 pounds empty.
The 3.73:1 gears in the Dana 44 that’s up front and the original Ford 10.25” that’s out back help with that. This is where that build sheet came in handy. Not a Dana 60 or a GM dually axle. D’oh.
Even still, old Alexander Henry here could probably thrash the old Brusier in a drag race.
You’d expect a big ‘ole tank like this to have trouble with the stopping. But, it’s not all that bad. Massive rotors and single piston calipers on the Dana 44 up front and positively huge drums live on the full floating 10.25" rear end haul it down in a hurry when you jump on the whoa pedal. That being said, there is no anti lock brakes, so you do have to be careful on slippery pavement. On dry pavement however, it only locks up under extremely heavy panic stops.
This used to be a work van. It rides like one.
Up front there is a custom made 4 link with coil springs and a sway bar taken from a 1 ton Ford truck and out back just some simple leaf springs set up in a spring over axle configuration. Because it was a work van the springs are VERY heavy, and with no load in the back it rides like an ox cart. Even at 50 kph there’s hardly any suspension travel.
If you need to ask, you’ll never drive it.
Your up as high as a city bus, on 30" off road tires, with super stiff springs and REALLY slow hydraulic assist steering. Don’t attempt highway off ramps at anything over 50 kph. Just don’t.
Off road is another story however. The lack of suspension travel makes the ride quite rough, and limits articulation, but there is fantastic ground clearance and the short front overhang makes it easy to climb over things. Being so close to the front wheels makes it easy to put the front wheels where you need them. I’m no off roader so take this with a grain of salt, but hey, if Andrew Collins wants to come up to Canada to do it properly, he’s more than welcome.
Gearbox: 4/10 (And Axles)
The transmission behind that old 302 is a C6 Ford unit, with a different tail shaft to bolt on a Warner 1345 2 speed transfer case. The transmission still shifts well, but at higher speeds it hunts for 3rd gear which can be a little irritating. The T case is just a manual case with manual locking hubs. It works or it doesn’t.
The front axle, to the best of my knowledge is a Dana 44. The build sheet tells me its definitely a Dana but I cant figure out the Model number, and even calling Dana or Spicer only dug up an incomplete bill of materials. Here;s the model number if any of you guys know Dana axles. 044BA526-8.
The rear axle is the factory Ford 10.25" full floater with the same 3.73:1 gears as the Dana up front, and a limited slip of some kind.
I suppose this depends on wether you’re an off road person or not, because while it doesn’t have GPS or heated seats, it has some clever little details and extras that are really cool.
The most obvious example is the Warn winch on the front bumper. It’s an old unit, but it’s still good enough to yank this beast out of a gnarly, soupy mud pit. The coolest part is that the winch is mounted to a plate that slots into a trailer hitch receiver so it can be taken off the front with the removal of one pin and a couple of wires, and stuck on the back if you need it.
Can I count the two sets of double doors as toys?
It’s still packing a factory stereo, but with the addition of a couple extra speakers making it no worse than any normal car. The engine is a little noisy due to a leaky manifold, and its breathing through a tiny little exhaust with a pathetic 2" tail pipe. It needs a Lightning style side exit exhaust. Other than that, nothing to write home about.
This bucket of magnificence set my father back $3500, not bad. After a bit of metal work and some rear brakes, it was on the road for around 4k. Maintenance can be a bit pricey because of the proprietary parts in the front end, and it kills gas like I kill Pepsi.
But, if you were going to try and build a vehicle like this, I think you’d have a hard time building it for that price, especially when you take into account the winch and paint. It does need a new winch.
Engine: 302 cubic inch/ 5 litre fuel injected V8
Transmission: C6 automatic with warner 1345 Hi/Lo transfer case
Axles: Rear, Ford 10.25" with 3.73 gears and a limited slip.
Front, Dana 44 (probably) with 3.73 gears.
0-60: It’s a van. Use your imagination.
Top Speed: Again, its a van. Fastest I’ve had it was 120 kph and that was scary enough.
Drivetrain: 4 wheel drive with manual 2 speed transfer case
Curb Weight: 5340 pounds
Seating: 5 passengers. 8 with third row.
MPG: About 12.5 MPG
MSRP: Payed $3500 CAD