Owning a camper van gives you the opportunity to set your stakes down in places where there are no hotels. But driving these things isn’t usually fun. Soon to roll across the auction block is a camper van that may be an antidote with its high ground clearance, four-wheel-drive and 444-horsepower turbodiesel V8.
I’ve been doing a lot of Mecum auctions lately, but the platform has been churning out some solid finds. This time around Mecum is producing a fun opportunity for fans of camper vans. The 2003 Ford E-350 custom camper van going up for auction in March can go almost anywhere and you won’t be clogging up highways getting there.
I’m not convinced that the Ford E-Series will ever truly die. What used to be a van sharing its powertrain with the F-Series can still be bought new today as a cutaway. That new cab chassis wears the same grille the E-Series got in 2008 and basic cab it’s had for 30 years. While many operators have moved on to the Transit, the E-Series is still there, offering an alternative with better capacities in some configurations.
Back when these were still sold as vans, you could get one with a high roof and decked out for camping. Others built their own campers out of them. That looks like what we’re seeing here.
It sits high off of the ground on its twin I-beam front suspension, semi-float axle out back and supported with Fox shocks. Completing the rugged look is a set of custom bumpers and meaty mud tires. The listing doesn’t mention that this van has four-wheel drive, but you can definitely see a front differential there and levers inside.
The outside still has a lot more going on from a ladder leading to roof storage and solar panels to the bike rack on top of the relocated spare tire. The front end has been updated to the 2008 facelift.
And who can forget huge light bars. This should be pretty capable off-road, so long as wherever you’re going isn’t limited by height or width.
The interior is equal parts amazing and disappointing. While the living space is modern, matching the exterior, the helm up front is stuck 20 years in the past.
You can’t miss that two-spoke steering wheel and 1990s dashboard. Things also look cluttered in there with the addition of all sorts of gauges and switches. At least the seats look comfy.
Sadly, Mecum does not note much about the living space. It has air-conditioning, a sink, a fridge, a cassette toilet and a connection for shore power, but there’s no real explanation of what’s going on. Still, it looks great.
The real selling point for this van is what’s under the hood. Pop it open and bask in the glow of the 7.3-liter Navistar turbodiesel V8, also known as the Power Stroke.
These engines are famous for their reliability and their classic diesel clatter. But this one is a little better than a regular Power Stroke. Stock power for this engine is 275 horsepower and 525 lb-ft torque. In its current configuration that power has been bumped to 444 HP.
Mecum doesn’t explain how it was done, but the power bump should be more than enough to haul this heavy van anywhere you want to take it. I bet it’ll even do a burnout or a few.
It goes up for auction at the Glendale, Arizona Mecum auction March 16 through 19. Hopefully it goes for a reasonable price and someone will take it for an off-road adventure.
Update: As a couple of readers have pointed out, the Mecum listing is incorrect on the suspension setup. This van, actually called the AlphaVan, has a Dana 60 up front and it rides on leaf springs. Sadly, one of its previous owners passed away. Here’s a video on the van: