In 1961, the Ford Motor Company launched the first Ford E-Series Passenger van - a full-sized van based on the then popular Ford Falcon design. Its size put it into a market that competed with the Volkswagen Type 2 and the Chevrolet Corvair Sportvan. Before it took off as the standard for company and governmental fleets, it was an acceptable trademark in the hippie world - displaying custom paint jobs that symbolized and peace, love, harmony and freedom.
It was the Bell Telephone Company that helped to establish the Ford E-Series van as the standard for corporate transportation requirements. In fact, still today, the Ford E-Series full-sized passenger van dominates roughly 79.6% of all sales of full-sized vans in the US. There were over 168,000 units sold in the United States in 2007 alone. Further, the E-Series passenger van by Ford has been the top-selling van in its class for 29 years straight.
The earliest flat-nosed E-vans from Ford had 144 cid 6-cylinder engines mated to a 3-speed transmission. The engine was seated in between the two front seats - you know, the kind that bulged up painfully to crowd the front occupants. In fact, early models were fitted with a 165-pound weight added to the rear to balance its otherwise too-heavy front end.
With the massive and instant success of the Ford E-Series vans well-established, 1968 saw the second generation emerge. The van world was rocked as Ford took an innovative approach and relocated the engine all the way forward under a new short hood (instead of the flat nose design). C-Class motor homes based their designs on this short-hooded new standard from Ford as well - and continue to do so today. The E-Series for 1968 also was the first ever to incorporate a double-I-beam suspension system - a feature that has never been changed in E-vans. It also was offered for the first time by Ford, and as a class first, as a more powerful V8.
In 1971, the E-Series vans from Ford received a redesigned grille as well as an elongated and more box-like design. In 1972, optional sliding rear doors were added as well as an optional stripped chassis that was normally reserved for off-road vehicles. In 1975, the Navistar Diesel V8 was introduced and the E-Series was again lengthened and made boxier. It was also made available for the first time as a 4WD vehicle - optional of course.
With an almost-standard hood and a body style that stuck around until 1991, the 1975 E-Series vans were probably the most different than all other generations. In 1983, the Ford blue ovular logo was added to the grille. In 1992, the Ford E-Series passenger vans received their next generational makeover.
The box-like design was shoved aside and a new curvy and aerodynamically-inclined version was released. A Triton 6.8L V10 engine was incorporated and the seating capacity was increased to optionally accommodate up to 15 passengers. Motor Trend magazine also named the E-Series Chateau Club Wagon the truck of the year. Leaving well enough alone, nothing much changed again until 2007 when the new E-Series was revealed at the New York Auto Show.
It featured an upgraded 7.3L Power Stroke diesel, a chromed-out frontal grille, bigger headlights and a nose that was considerably more streamlined. In 2009, dash-mounted navigational systems were added as optional features and cargo space was increased. Other new features include a rear backing camera, a glove box for passengers and available gas-saving 4.6L or 5.4L E-85 engines - the same that are used on the F-150 pickups.
As 2010 approaches, there are unconfirmed rumors that Ford will only be producing the E-Series for commercial fleet purchases and not for public consumption. However, for the time being at least, the Ford E-Series passenger vans still dominate the market - working on 30 years straight now.