The Carchive: The 1985 Ford Club Wagons



Yesterday it was revealed that we’re celebrating it being American Van Week at The Carchive, a festival that could well become an annual event. You heard it here first.

We got things started yesterday with the GMC Rally. Today we step forward 12 months while we drink in the considerable majesty of the ’83 Ford Club Wagon.

“Spacious. Comfortable. Versatile. There’s no better way to describe America’s favourite passenger van. Ford Club Wagon.”

Compare and contrast that to the opening statement of yesterday’s brochure. At least Ford have taken the trouble to define what it is they’re describing. And it sets the tone for the brochure. In theirs, GM had basically just said “It’s a great way of carrying stuff” whereas Ford had succinctly acknowledged that people could be not just carried, but in comfort, spaciousness and a high degree of versatility.

The Club Wagon being a commercial vehicle, this is a concise brochure dealing more with fact than nonsensical lifestyle mumbo-jumbo.

“Club wagon offers a wide range of gas-powered engines starting with the high-torque 4.9l I-6. The four-speed manual overdrive transmission, optional last year with the 4.9l Six and 5.0l V8, is now standard in the E150 series.”

The six-cylinder 4.9 was base,  then you could have V8’s of 5.0, 5.8 or 7.5 capacity with gasoline as the preferred brew, or a 6.9 litre diesel. Ford seemed to be rather more cagey than GM when it came to disclosing power outputs, perhaps believing them to be “adequate” in Rolls-Royce style. Being that we’re discussing American pushrod engines on the early ’80s we’d be rash to expect anything more.

That was quite a broad choice, though, meaning that any application from easy suburban people-haulage to more demanding load-lugging roles were well represented.

With reference to the mobilisation of folk, if only a handful of passengers required accommodation, ford could lay on something a bit special for them.

“Captain’s club wagon:- The Ultimate.”

The Captain’s Club package appears on paper, from where I’m looking, to trump the most lavish offering from General Motors.

“Standard are handsome quad captains chairs that recline and swivel- the best Club Wagon seating available for you and three passengers. Between the front and rear seats is a snack/game table with four recessed beverage holders”

A snack / game table; for those who play with their food. Of course, the Captain’s Club package was absolutely the top of the range, beyond even the woodgrain ‘n chrome XLT flavour. You could specify air-conditioning vents for the rear compartment, and the feeling of being sat inside what was, in essence, a delivery van with cushions was lessened somewhat.

Heading back down to Earth we found the basic club wagon, shorn of any of the glitziness of the others, charged with the simple task of moving people from place A to place B, with no luxury even hinted at.

“Here’s a truly fine value in today’s field of roomy passenger vans. It’s practical and nicely equipped. Standard are power steering and brakes, high illumination halogen headlamps, P-metric steel-belted radial tyres.”

And that’s all you get, pretty much. If it were a Porsche it would be a Club Sport; stripped down to the bone with any superficial weight lipo’d out. The basic model would be the perfect choice for people-trafficking or the en masse movement of family relatives you really don’t get on with.

“Club wagon is the natural choice for van-pooling as well. Available is a special Van Pooling package which includes 5.8L V-8 (7.5L gas and 6.9L Diesel optional), Auxiliary fuel tank (18 gal.), rear door latch and lock, four dual beam /dome map lights, colour keyed vinyl headliner, black stepwell pads for front and sliding side doors”

Van pooling. More determined than car pooling and not really something that’s ever caught on in the UK. Sounds like fun, though, like a school-bus for grown-ups. Never done it, personally. Opting for the Van Pooling package brought you the the XL trim level, with an upgrade to XLT available, even if your inevitable destination was a place of work at least the journey there wouldn’t necessarily be the most miserable bit of the day.

Of course; my entire knowledge of the Econoline-based Club Wagons is based on the contents of this brochure. If there’s more that we should know, I urge you to drop it in the comments bit below. Somebody must have an hilarious Captain’s Club related story, surely? (Ideally involving vans).

(Disclaimer: All images are of original manufacturer publicity material, photographed by me. When I was a kid I never got to travel in a “Club Wagon”, the rusty old Ford I was ferried about in was a mere Transit minibus. No V8s, either.)

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