This Outdated Conversion Van Was Turned Into an Epic 4×4 Tenting Rig


As summer approaches, many Americans will look to the great outdoors as a way to free themselves from work, viruses, and resorts. For folks looking for something other than a Sprinter with off-road tires, one salesman on Bring a Trailer has something pretty wild. As long as you could afford the gas, this 1971 Ford Econoline Sportsmobile camper conversion is an epic way to drive outside and sleep.

Whenever I hear the name Sportsmobile, my ears perk up. If you don’t know what Sportsmobile does, I’ll give a quick overview. Imagine that boring van your plumber drove up in to fix your broken toilet. Now imagine this van with an interior equipped for camping. It’s been the Sportsmobile formula since 1961. Some of the company’s most popular vans take it even further with 4×4 conversions and beefy tires; far removed from their humble beginnings.

Photo: Joe Arlo via Bring a Trailer

Joe Arlo has always dreamed of going on camping adventures in a van like his father. And while he already had a camper van, he desperately wanted something both vintage and four-wheel drive, something his modern Ford Econoline camper didn’t have. In March 2017 he found the old sports car.

Arlo rightly points out that even 10-year-old Sportsmobiles with some mileage still cost the better half in the six-figure range. But this 1971 Ford Econoline Sportmobil? He found it on eBay for $21,495 ($29,839), or best offer.

Before Arlo even got his hands on the 2017 Sportsmobile, it underwent a minor restoration. He says it was found in a barn in Minnesota. It was then shipped to Hawaii in 2015 and ended up in the hands of Dwayne Wemple. There Wemple overhauled the drive train.

Photo: Joe Arlo via Bring a Trailer

It started out as the Econoline E-200 and was then upgraded to the E-300 specification by Wemple. He overhauled the van’s 302-cubic-inch V8, added a Dana Spicer 20 twin-stick transfer case, Dana 44 front axle, and Dana 60 rear axle.

Since the van was from Minnesota, it was also covered in rust. Wemple took care of it and gave the transporter a fresh coat of paint.

The now 4×4 lifted beast was sent back to the mainland in 2016 when it came into the possession of a new person in Palm Springs, California. The owner reportedly left it for a year before Arlo finally got his hands on it.

The interior of the van before Arlo’s restoration. (Photo: eBay via Bring a Trailer)

While Arlo found it in good overall condition, he had to put his own spin on it. The 302 cubic inch V8 under the hood was thrown out in 2018 for a 306 cubic inch Ford crate engine V8 by BluePrint Engines.

Photo: Joe Arlo via Bring a Trailer

This unit is advertised as having 370 hp and 159 kg-ft of torque, more than healthy for this application. The listing lists other goodies that came with the engine:

Equipment includes aluminum cylinder heads, Edelbrock Pro-Flo 4 fuel injection system, 160 amp alternator, heavy duty radiator and Hedman “Shorty” headers.

Arlo then renovated the interior.

Photo: Joe Arlo via Bring a Trailer

Photo: Joe Arlo via Bring a Trailer

He named it 808Van after the Hawaii area code, where the van spent some of its time. His interior refresh kept the ’70s vibes that a van like this should have, while giving it modern conveniences. The floral patterns and bamboo floors also make for a great callback to where the van was refitted years ago.

Photo: Joe Arlo via Bring a Trailer

The living equipment is light and includes a sink, a bed, a refrigerator, an inverter and a 76 liter tank for water. This isn’t exactly the best off-grid camping gear, but it’s certainly a stylish way to go for a bike ride before camping under the stars.

Photo: Joe Arlo via Bring a Trailer

Of course, if this is Arlo’s dream van, why on earth would he ever want to sell it? Well, he wants to trade in a Hawaiian van for just living in Hawaii.

Hopefully this van has some great adventures to come. As of now, the bid is $26,000 ($36,093), three days before Bring a Trailer expires.