High Top 1989 Ford Club Wagon XL: Are You Harvey?

Courtesy of carpictures.com
Courtesy of carpictures.com  Not Peggy, but looks just like her!

The name “Harvey” keeps knocking around in my noggin when I think of my future campervan.  You see, I’m one of those people who loves to anthropomorphize their cars.  I get in there and drive and after a while (sometimes only minutes) I start to see personality in the way they accelerate or take a turn and they become more than just a hunk of metal and rubber.  Naming them satisfies the intuitive side of me but I also find it logical — simply because it is easier to say “Peggy”  that “1985 Chevrolet Sprint” or “my first car.”

So, I’ve been hunting for Harvey every time I look at vans online or drive past one with a “For Sale” sign in the window.  And I think I might have finally found him.  My soon-to-be Dad-in-Law (who I just call “dad”) noticed a forlorn looking faded blue 1989 Ford Club Wagon XL van with a high top in the back of the parking lot where he works and decided to ask about it.  Turns out the institution is going to be selling it sometime soon because no one wants to drive the ugly old behemoth.

After some talking, dad got me convinced to come see it and got the guy in charge of selling it so excited at the prospect of netting a decent price that he gladly let me come up and check it out.

1989 Ford Club Wagon XL instrument panel
1989 Ford Club Wagon XL instrument panel

As I came across the parking lot that old Ford van kept getting bigger and uglier and bluer.  At first it looked grey, the faded paint was so ashy.  But up close it is clear it used to be dark blue and might still be, with some aggressive exfoliation.  Then I got inside, and oh boy!  It is like the TARDIS — blue and bigger on the inside and so much better than you could imagine!  The blue cloth seats are just about mint condition, the cloth ceiling has no tears or sags, and other than a little dust and dirt and the obvious odometer reading, the instrument panel looks as new as the day it rolled off the assembly line!

With dad’s help I carefully measured every bit of it I could think to measure and it is as big as I had been hoping for when I draw my campervan floor plans:  the cargo area is 11 ft from the back of the front seats to the rear door and 5’11” wide  at the floor.  This gives me enough space to fit a queen size bed, some side storage, and a kitchen/bathroom box with a sink and tub.

Plus, if I widen my stance a little I can stand upright in the back.  It is 5’6″ tall back there!

Looking forward from the 3rd row seat
Looking forward from the 3rd row seat

It has an old broken wheelchair lift installed in the side sliding door.  It looks pretty heavy and dad says I might get lucky and get $100 if I recycle the metal.

When the institution added the wheelchair lift they took out two rows of rear seats, but there are still two left.  The guy selling it says they might still have the missing seats, if I want them. Before I saw it I didn’t think I would, but with how pristine the installed seats are, I’m wondering if I might be able to take all of them out and sell them as a set.  The two front seats are comfortable, but have the the original mid-back design that just aren’t that safe when whiplash is taken into account.  I want to add new, high back bucket seats with locking swivel bases so we can use them as part of our living area.  Besides, the old guy doesn’t have enough space between the driver’s seat and the steering wheel for my fiance to be able to drive it comfortably.

1989 Ford Club Wagon XL passenger and driver's seats.
1989 Ford Club Wagon XL passenger and driver’s seats.

Aside from all this awesomeness, there are two main reasons I’m considering a van this old:  they are asking a price I can actually afford and the level of care and maintenance this particular vehicle has gotten.  They have all the maintenance and repair records that show regular oil and filter changes.  My van, Harvey The van (*cough cough*) even had a newer transmission and rebuilt engine put in a couple thousand miles back.

1989 Ford Club Wagon XL rear doors.
1989 Ford Club Wagon XL rear doors.

Now for the bad:

There is some surface rust on a few spots outside.  Around the rear licence plate holder is the worst one, but careful inspection makes me think I can sand it out and repair it pretty easily.  It doesn’t seem to penetrate into the metal very far.

The hood latch is broken, so I’ll have to fiddle with it and possibly run a new cable to act as a release, and although it is time consuming and can make you speak in tongues, I’ve done it before.

The fiberglass high top is showing its age.  I’ll have to get up there and give it a careful inspection because I noticed some tiny hair-line cracks, but couldn’t tell if it was the paint (do they paint those things??) or the actual fiberglass.

And worst of all, it gets abysmal gas mileage.  Something like 7 in town and 9 on the highway.  As much as I like the roominess and the price and all that, I don’t know if I can stand driving such a guzzler, let alone afford going anywhere in it.

So yeah, there it is:  my possible Harvey, TARDIS and ecological disaster in one.

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