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1976 Ford Econoline Van - Pirates Of The Caravan

A Rolling Tribute

Bob Ryder
Apr 1, 2010
Photographers: Tom Strongman, Photosports USA
The year was 1975 and after graduating high school, Don and Becky Noone from Kansas City, Kansas, converted their '71 Chevy van into a show van called "Knights In White Satin." From then on their lives were dedicated to the vanning lifestyle. Over the years, "Knights In White Satin" took them on adventures throughout the United States and Canada.
Photo 2/12   |   1976 Ford Econoline Van left Front Angle
Flash-forward to 2007, Don and Becky got the vanning itch again and bought a '76 Ford Econoline van from a buddy, Mel Slaybaugh from Des Moines, Iowa. Mel called his van "The Jolly Roger," and he had spent 3,800 hours turning its interior into a wooden nautical pirate theme.
The van enjoyed a hibernation inside a garage for 18 years until Don loaded and trailered it to its new home. After it received four new tires, it was taken over to a local mechanic where it underwent some minor repairs. Once in roadworthy condition, it was driven home where the body moldings, emblems, and wood were removed.
Delivered to Phalen Motors in Kansas, Scott Willis and his crew stripped and soda-blasted the crusty paint and frame down to bare metal. After the framerails received several coats of paint, a set of Hankook 255/70R16 tires were mounted on 16x10-inch AGI chrome wheels. The van's Ford 460ci engine had only 35,000 original miles and only needed a pair of white ceramic-coated Hooker headers and a K&N air filter to run like new. A dual battery system was installed and were painted to look like wooden boxes.
Photo 3/12   |   1976 Ford Econoline Van right Side Angle
Wanting to keep the van's pirate-themed roots but add their own touch to the van, Don and Becky agreed that the new Pirates of the Caribbean movies would serve as their inspiration. To pull off such a transformation, the 'ol Ford needed to have a perfectly straight body so the van was driven to Atchison Motors, in Atchison, Kansas, where all of the dings and rough spots were filled and fixed. The entire body was primered and block-sanded straight and smooth, and then rolled into the paint booth where it was given a blue basecoat. KC Customs, a motorcycle shop that specializes in custom airbrushing and mural was the next stop for Don. Discussing the theme with the crew, Scott Thomas handled much of the airbrush work, but Jason Chennault, John Nichols and Kimo Russell also painted individual airbrushed Pirates of the Caribbean murals on the van.
All of the original pirate ship wooden interior from the previous "Jolly Roger" version were brought back to life by applying many coats of linseed oil. The wood on the captain chairs was reconditioned and then covered in blue velvet. The back love seat was covered in tuck 'n roll blue velvet and the carpet was replaced with blue cut-pile carpet. The dash received wooden treatments and the tilt steering column was painted to resemble wood and capped with a smaller 14-inch wooden steering wheel. An all-walnut headliner was installed to obtain that pirate ship decor. A color TV was mounted in the cabinet so Don could watch his old I Love Lucy and Honeymooners reruns. A one-off Dakota Digital gauge cluster was built and installed in the original location, along with a Dakota Digital clock and temperature gauge that were mounted in the overhead console. Air conditioning was installed to make the captain and first mate's cabin comfortable during the hot summer days. Many LED lights were installed in the ceiling to show off the interior décor. Loud and Clear, in Kansas City, installed the Jensen head unit with a seven-inch flipdown DVD touch screen. An MTX 300-watt mono amp and a MTX Thunder 500-watt amp powers a 12-inch subwoofer to provide cinema-like audio.
Don and Becky took the new "Pirates of the Caravan" to the Van Nationals and World of Wheels and won Best of Show and People's Choice. Without question, this van is a rolling tribute to the new era in van customizing.



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