The first of the small vans that sold really well in postwar America (not counting sedan deliveries, of course) was the Volkswagen Type 2 Transporter, which was a rear-engined, forward-control steel box that couldn’t haul heavy loads but drove in somewhat un-truck-like fashion. Then Ford came out with the original Econoline for 1961, and suddenly Americans could buy a mid-engined, forward-control steel box that could haul heavy loads but drove like a dumpster sitting on a couple of skateboards. The Econoline sold like crazy, and so GM and Chrysler followed in 1964 with the Chevy-Van/Handi-Van and A100, respectively.
As the former owner of a 1966 A100 project (which I have since sold to my former colleague, Andy Stoy), I feel that the A100 was the best of the ill-handling-but-sturdy mid-engine Detroit FC vans (sorry, Corvair fanatics, your vans go in a different category). In honor, here’s a beautifully illustrated magazine advertisement for the first-year A100 van, pickup and station wagon.
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