David Hall’s 1966 Ford Econoline Supervan has been many things: a paint van, a dollhouse, a way to get to the beach for vacation, a motorcycle hauler. It has been in the Hall family since it was new, but it didn’t become David’s as soon as he would have liked.
When Hall’s Uncle Ray, the original owner of the van, died in 1972, David went to his uncle’s widow, Aunt Laura, and told her he wanted to buy it. “Tom,” Aunt Laura said, calling Hall by his brother’s name, “if I decide to sell it, I sure would like to keep it in the family.”
A little while later, Hall returned from a visit to Myrtle Beach and discovered that Aunt Laura had sold the van to his brother, Tom. Still, his interest in the vehicle didn’t wane. He waited. He watched as his brother hauled motorcycles in the back of the van, year after year, to the races in Daytona.
By 1979, Tom had parked the van, and his daughters were using it as a dollhouse. At that time, David remodeled his brother’s bathroom. When Tom asked David what he owed him, David responded: “The van.” Tom agreed and turned the van over to David. “My nieces didn’t like me much right then,” David recalls.
For most of the 1980s, it was David Hall’s regular work vehicle, taking him to tile-setting jobs around the New River Valley. He and his wife, Jerdy, even took it down to Myrtle Beach on vacation, carrying their kids in the back.
In the 1960s, Ford introduced three compact Econoline vehicles to compete with imported smaller cars: a pickup, a passenger van (or “station bus,” also known as the Club Wagon) and a utility van.
It was his own Uncle Ray, a painting contractor, who bought this utility van new for his work vehicle. The van has a cab over design with the two front seats atop the front axle. “You’re sitting right on top of the wheels,” Hall points out. The engine is positioned between and slightly behind the two front seats. It has an insulated cover to muffle engine and road noise.
In its day, the van was popular among deliverymen and contractors who appreciated the open rear space and flat floor from front to back, perfect for storing packages, tools and equipment. Hall’s van is the Supervan version with an 18-inch rear extension. That extra space allowed Hall’s uncle to store his ladders inside the van.
Because the vehicle is front heavy, when you ride without a load in the back you run the risk of easily losing rear-wheel traction under the right – or wrong – conditions. The van’s design is a straightforward box with a few choice alterations: a front with a blunt nose and a broad windshield, and a back end with a slight forward slant.
“It’s an eye catcher,” Hall believes. The van has 161,000 miles on it. The engine is Ford’s famous workhorse 300 inline 6-cylinder out of a Ford pickup. With the forward cab close to the windshield, the driver and passenger command a clear view of the road ahead. But riding so far forward is not something many people are used to.
“When I first got it,” Hall relates, “I took my dad out to lunch at Tom’s Drive In. When we pulled up to the car in front of us – well, I guess it was just too close for him. He never rode in it again.” Hall’s father was T. Adair Hall, a building contractor in Pulaski. Hall worked with his dad for 17 years before going out on his own as a tile contractor. He worked as a subcontractor for many NRV builders, specializing in, among other things, handicap bathrooms. Hall’s grandfather, J. Foy Hall, was also a building contractor in Pulaski, making Hall a third-generation builder.
In 1988, Hall got a new van and stopped driving the 1966 Supervan every day. In 2002, he restored it, complete with a new paint job. Since then, he has just run it every now and then, being sure to keep it in good condition. He recently replaced the fuel pump.
Hall retired in 2015 when the onset of Parkinson’s prevented him from continuing his trade and craft. “I miss working,” says this man used to working 12 hours a day, six days a week. Today the van is a monument to Hall’s career, but more than just that – it’s also a testament to the life he spent in Pulaski’s Robinson Tract area.
Text by Karl H. Kazaks
Photos by Tom Wallace