Our pals over at OnAllBands invited us to the annual Dayton Hamvention near Dayton, Ohio last weekend. It’s billed as the largest gathering of Amateur Radio operators on the planet, so since radio communications is such a big part of the racing, off-roading, and overlanding scenes, we figured it was a good chance to learn some new stuff.

…What we didn’t expect, was to see a restored 1964 Ford Econoline packed with vintage radio gear and wearing retro Collins Radio* livery.

Obviously, we had to get the scoop on this classic van.

* Collins Radio was a highly-regarded manufacturer of Amateur Radio gear, as well as professional broadcast RF and recording equipment. Collins was purchased by Rockwell in the early 1970s and, as the company shifted its focus to the avionics industry, rebranded as Rockwell Collins. The company name endures now as Collins Aerospace.

1964 Ford Econoline Van fitted with vintage Collins Radio Gear, rear

Thankfully, we found Ted Craven, a former employee with Collins Radio, standing nearby to give us the details.

“I was the factory service rep for Ham gear,” Ted continues. “So I drove it.”

Better yet, Tom knew the van’s origin story, and was eager to tell us about it.

“Back in 1964, Collins bought the van directly from the Ford Motor Company,” Ted explains. “They took it to a cabinet shop in Texas, and had them completely re-do the inside. Then it went back to the Collins factory to put all the electronics in it.”

Once it was built, the Econoline toured America, racking up 40,000 miles between 1964 and 1966, were it served as both a product demo vehicle for Collins Radio equipment, and an emergency communications command center, when needed.

1964 Ford Econoline Van fitted with vintage Collins Radio Gear, furniture

After 1966, its service with Collins Radio ended and the van was sold to a gentleman named Ed Moory, an electronics dealer in Arkansas. It worked hard for several more decades, doing the sort of jobs that you’d expect an old van to be used for.

“He used it to deliver appliances,” Ted laments. “He gutted it, and beat it to death.”

Ted describes the van’s condition when it resurfaced years later as “rusted out and beat up.” Thankfully, the old Ford’s provenance and history were recognized by an Amateur Radio enthusiast named Jim Stitzinger, who summarily bought the Econoline van when it came up for sale in the early 1990s—though Ted jokes that the purchase wasn’t exactly serendipitous.

“The story goes,” he laughs, “that Ed Moory’s wife called Jim and said ‘Would you get this thing outta here!'”

vintage photo of ford econoline van in front of collins radio
The van as it appeared when new. (Image/Collins Amateur Radio Club)

With the help of a fellow Collins fan named Darrel Huth, the Econoline was lovingly returned to its original specs with a full restoration, including a complete driveline overhaul. The van now crisscrosses the country attending regional Ham Radio shows and other large events—including the 75th anniversary celebration of the founding of Collins Radio.

And if you’re wondering, yes, the vintage radio equipment still works, and the van itself occasionally operates as a special event radio station with the Collins Amateur Radio Club.

1964 Ford Econoline Van fitted with vintage Collins Radio Gear, cargo area

As we were talking with Ted, a long line of people began queuing up behind us—suffice it to say, Ted was a popular guy all weekend long, so we didn’t want to monopolize our time with him.

But as we shook his hand and said goodbye, Ted asked that we sign the van’s rear bulkhead. And a simple glance at all the callsigns, names, and dates across the back of that panel tells us that both Ted and the trusty old Ford have made a lot of friends along the way.


Man standing near a radio van
A heartfelt hat tip to Ted, Jim, Darrel and all the other members of the Collins Amateur Radio Club for bringing the 1964 Ford Econoline to the show. (Image/OnAllCylinders)
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Author: Paul Sakalas

Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he's not writing, you'll probably find him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or roof leaks in an old Corvette ragtop. Thanks to a penchant for vintage Honda motorcycles, he spends the rest of his time fiddling with carburetors and cleaning chain lube off his left pant leg.