Vintage Ford Econoline Collins Radio Van Spotted at Dayton Hamvention®

Story by Paul Sakalas, KJ8EEP

As anyone who’s ever been will tell you:

You’ll see a lot of awesome stuff at the annual Dayton Hamvention.

And if you need proof, check out this stunningly restored 1964 Ford Econoline van wearing vintage Collins Radio livery and crammed with period-correct Collins S-Line Ham equipment.

ham radio antennas on a vintage ford van
With the antennas deployed, this incredible van served as both a product demo tool for Collins Radio equipment and an EMCOMM station. (Image/OnAllBands)

The van was part of the Collins Amateur Radio Club display and better yet, we were able to talk with Ted Craven W0TCW, a former employee with Collins Radio, to get all the details behind the Econoline’s history.

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

And more importantly, Ted knew the van’s origin story.

“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.”

radio equipment inside a vintage van
Avid Collins fans will easily spot the array of popular S-Line radios laid out neatly inside. (Image/OnAllBands)

Once it was ready to go, the Ford crisscrossed the country showing off the S-Line and, when needed, it operated on the air for demo (and sometimes emergency) purposes. It attended the 1964 World’s Fair in New York—and, yes, it was at the 1966 Dayton Hamvention too.

All told, the Econoline racked up 40,000 miles between 1964 and 1966.

The van carries its own DC power, yet can also be plugged into “shore power” AC for supplemental power needs. In addition to those that are permanently attached, the van carries along extra masts and antennas in the small rear cargo area and in lockers on the roof. Out back you’ll also find the DC power distribution system and the RF amplifiers.

rear view of ford econoline van in colins radio livery

Collins Radio used the van up to about 1966, when it was sold into private ownership. Interestingly, the Econoline was bought by another Ham, Ed Moory W5DBR, who used it in his electronics wholesale business.

Yet since it was just an ordinary used van at the time, Moory pressed the Econoline into service 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.”

inside view of collins radio van with ham equipment
Keen eyes will spot a 75S-3B receiver, 32S-3 transmitter, 62S-1 VHF transverter, and an SM-2 mic included in this impressive mix of vintage Collins Radio gear. (Image/OnAllBands)

Thankfully, the trusty Ford’s story doesn’t end there.

The van resurfaced decades later in a condition that Ted describes as “rusted out and beat up.” Recognizing the van’s history and provenance, it was quickly snapped up by Collins Radio enthusiast Jim Stitzinger WA3CEX in the early 1990s. And as Ted tells it, the purchase wasn’t a coincidence.

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

drivers seat inside cab of collins radio van
A Collins KWM-2 transceiver was positioned up front for operating on 80 to 10 meters as well. (Image/OnAllBands)

With the help of fellow Ham Darrel Huth WB6VHK, the Econoline was returned to its original specs both mechanically and cosmetically, with great lengths taken to ensure that its period-correct Collins Radio equipment functioned flawlessly.

Together with representatives from the Collins Amateur Radio Club, the van now travels nationwide attending regional Hamfests and other large events—including the 75th anniversary celebration of the founding of Collins Radio.

It’s even served as Special Event station W0CCX.

rear view of vintage collins radio van cargo area

But our favorite part of this rig is out back, where in addition to the amplifiers, cables, and antenna storage, we’re greeted by a bulkhead crammed with signatures, callsigns, dates, and locations—each one a testament to this van’s place in history and the adventures it’s had.

As we shook his hand and said goodbye, Ted asked that we sign the van’s rear bulkhead.

It’s an honor we wouldn’t miss.


man standing next to a ham 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/OnAllBands)
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