Fifth wheel travel trailers are great, but hauling them with a 1970s-era pickup could be a grind. Modern trucks are filled with luxury amenities, but 1970s pickups were workhorses, not known for their creature comforts. Steve Divnick got that, and wanted to opt for a van instead of a pickup. Only in the early 1970s, nobody built a van-based fifth wheel hauler that would allow him to pull a trailer, plus enjoy the luxury of the van accessories that were flooding the market at that time. He came up with the UltruVan, and it’s the coolest.
Divnick had experience with other types of vehicles melded with pickup bodies. Like a high-class El Camino, Divnick’s father built a pickup bed for a 1956 Cadillac when Divnick was a boy.
The UltruVan — not to be confused with the Corvair-based Ultravan RV — started life as a 1970 Ford E-350 Econoline Club Wagon. Divnick removed the entire back half of the van, cutting straight through the frame in the process. He salvaged parts of the van body for re-use in the shorter body.
Divnick found a second Econoline that had been involved in a rollover accident and used the lower half of that body to build the pickup box. With the top half of the parts body removed, it left him with a full, eight-foot long box.
The two halves met and Divnick butt-welded the frame, using reinforcing structural gussets. He welded the sides using an overlapping brazing process.
Divnick took the entire rear door section and moved it forward, modifying the doors so that they allowed access from the passenger cabin into the pickup box. The design allowed for the addition of a slide-in camper, which would allow free access between the camper portion and the van itself.
Because the van now had a longer wheelbase, Divnick had to lengthen the driveshaft, brake lines, fuel lines, etc.
Think of the UltruVan the way you might a unibody Ford pickup, or an Econoline pickup: The van body and box are both blended together, rather than being individual units. The passenger side had barn doors to allow access to the passenger area.
The interior featured a fold-down couch and swivel captain’s chairs, plus a table, and some groovy quilted vinyl on the walls and shag carpet from Venus Flytrap’s swingin’ bachelor pad.
The table moved between the two captain’s chairs, and with the couch folded out, you got the equivalent of a king-size mattress.
Divnick chose the Econoline — rather than a Dodge or a Chevrolet van — because the top door hinge was lower than the pickup body’s natural bodyline. Other vans mounted the high too high. Instead of a fold-down tailgate, Divnick modified the original van doors into Dutch doors that swung open.
The UltruVan was featured in a 1979 issue of Van, Pickup & Off-Road World magazine.
Interestingly, Divnick credits the fabrication work he did on the UltruVan as a kind of training session for the thing that he’d eventually become known for, and you’ve probably seen a hundred times in your life: The Spiral Wishing Well, which he invented and markets on his website.
Image Source: Divnick.com