How to Keep a $300 Van on the Road for 30,000 Miles and Counting

Work, adventures, friends and more with a $300 van.

Two years ago I bought a 1993 Ford E-250 for $300 and that was the asking price. All it needed was fresh gas and a fresh battery and I drove it home. As a band member, I needed a van to get the crew and gear around the country to be able to tour. The bulletproof 300 cubic inch 4.9 inline six only had 131,000 miles, and some say is one of the best work-horse engines Ford has ever made.

During the two years I have owned this van, I have never hit the road without tools, but it has never left me or my band stranded. The only time I had to stop a road trip was when I had a rear tire explode at 65mph in Georgia. Due to the heat of the road in July, I failed to adjust tire pressure accordingly, and the van was fully loaded since I was helping my parents move back up to Chicagoland from Florida. My failure to be its protective custodian was the cause of that.

Other issues were the throttle getting stuck wide open, the drivers door swinging open while making a right hand turn, having to rip off the front bumper because it was about to fall off and even a tie rod breaking while driving home. Odometer numbers still reliably tumble upward despite those issues.

So what do I do to keep it going? Tools, a 2-ton jack, 2 jack stands, spare tire, sledge-hammer, blow torch and a few spare parts are always with me on journeys. AAA is not even on the list of considerations if we hit the road and something happens. With a tight schedule for a band, we don’t have time to wait for someone else to perform work that we are capable of. Repairs on a van like this are fairly straight forward, and I’ll turn to my smart phone (it is a tool, after all) for video instructions if I don’t know offhand how to complete the repair.

This type of responsibility isn’t for everyone however, and it certainly isn’t for the impatient. It works for me though, and this eyesore of a van has always reached its destination. When we aren’t touring, I sometimes take road trips in it because I can sleep in the second row to save on hotel costs. Not to mention it’s perfect for my online purchase pickups. It’s become a living version of The Giving Tree, except you have to give back to it too.

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