We learned today about this unfortunate development:
This week Ford Motor Co. said it is ramping up development and production of its Transit commercial van to make it into a truly global vehicle. The plan includes building the van in the U.S. by 2013, for which the company is revamping the Kansas City assembly plant where it currently builds the F-150 pickup truck.
While the Transit has been a top seller in Europe for years, the company's latest move marks its commitment to lighter, more fuel-efficient commercial haulers here. It also marks the end of the line for the Econoline series of large vans that Ford has been building here for decades.
You probably are thinking, "Why the hell does anyone care about this? It's just a van." Just a van? Ok, maybe it is, but that "just a van" has been the touring vehicle of choice for bands for decades. It is practically an industry standard and completely different from the Volkswagon van popularized by hippies and the Chevy van that lured the ladies in the '70s -- just ask Sammy Johns. No doubt some extra curricular activity took place in many an Econoline, but this was a van for people who worked for a living, musicians.
"If you don't have a back seat, you can bolt a love seat couch to the floor," one commenter told us on Facebook. "A Marshall JCM 800 head will dent the inside of an Econline."
The reason this van has been so popular is because it is roomy. Most bands took out the last bench seat and, if they were smart about it, could fit the musicians and the gear inside without needing an additional trailer. For many bands that couldn't afford buses or, saints preserve us, airplanes for travel, the Econoline was home.
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Another of our friends told us his story, "I was staring out the window of the van just watching the miles go by, not thinking about anything, no expression, no real emotion, just watching the miles go by when my bass players nudged me and asked, 'Are you OK?' Without hesitation, I put my finger up to make lips and said, 'Shhhh, I'm pretending that I'm in a Bon Jovi video.'"
The point is, the Econoline, for many musicians, was a symbol of life on the road. It reminds anyone who has traveled in one of the countless stories that occurred either in it or as the result of it. That van is likely responsible for more artists getting to shows than any other single vehicle in the history of automobiles.
We salute you, Ford Econoline. Rest in peace, old friend.