Decommissioned ambulances make good platforms for RV conversions or tow vehicles. The secret is out, and you can blame Bradley Brownell for that. OK, not really, because the secret was out before Bradley bought a 2008 Ford E-350 for track towing. Retired ambulances also work well for budget overland builds, like this 1998 Ford E-350 listed for sale on the Overland Classifieds forum.
This Ford E-350 is powered by a 7.3-liter V8 diesel engine, specifically the Power Stroke motor. The owner says that the E-350's odometer reads 102,000 miles, which isn’t very much for these turbodiesel engines. It’s also relatively cheap considering its engine and modifications. The owner wants $65,000 for it.
On top of that sought-after engine, the ambulance’s modifications actually make it trail worthy, as Expedition Journal notes:
This Ford E-350 has been extensively modified for overland travel...
- Ujoint Offroad 4×4 conversion
- 2004 F-350 axles (Dana 60 front and Sterling 10.5 rear), completely rebuilt with new 4.10 gears, bearings, seals, U-joints, ball joints, and more
- Fox 2.0 shocks
- Reman NV271 transfer case
- NV271 transfer case
- Warn locking hubs
- Custom specification Atlas leaf springs
- Custom Tom Wood’s front and rear drive shafts-they are versatile enough to be an overland platform with mods
The E-350's off-road kit raises it six inches, giving it enough space for 35" tires. A custom aluminum bumper with a winch completes the off-road look, which actually isn’t just for looks on this machine.
Also, the box isn’t a custom camper. It’s the ambulance’s old box body, which the owner expanded with a stepped roof for living space. From the owner:
The next thing you might notice is the roof raise and the fact that it no longer has any ambulance lights. I raised the roof using 2x2 aluminum tubing and 1/8 thick aluminum sheet. I tried to use the same sized materials and stitch welding technique originally used on the ambulance box so it wouldn’t compromise the structural integrity. I also removed and patched a couple dozen light holes to eliminate the possibility of leaks and achieve a cleaner look.
The owner also made both bumpers and the roof rack atop the cab, and paid time and attention to the E-350's critical components. The owner claims to have already done much of the work that buyers should be wary of. The transmission was rebuilt, and the suspension was refreshed according to Expedition Portal.
There’s a catch in all this, though, because there’s some rust on the E-350. The owner claims to have sorted much of it out, but it’s still something to consider:
The rocker panels are starting to bubble and will need to be replaced at some point I’d say in the next couple years. Also, the frame is a work in progress. It had lots of surface rust and I spent a solid week under there with a grinder and needle scaler removing it. I used epoxy primer and POR15 to refinish. Most of it still looks pretty good after a year of salt, but it should be re-touched and never got to the rear 2-3 feet of the frame behind the rear spring perches. Fortunately the box is all aluminum so it wont ever rust.
I’m unsure if that’s a dealbreaker or not.
As Expedition Portal noted, the price of overland vehicles can be intimidating. I’m happy that budget builds are getting some of the spotlight, and even happier when these vehicles are made by enthusiasts. The answer to obscene overlander prices is to go the DIY route, or to buy used. In this case, you can do both.