The Ultimate Truck-Van: UltruVan

Custom Van Pickup

This page is part of the background story of Steve Divnick that led to the inventions and product lines of this company. (Click here to go back to the "About" page.)

While a school teacher, I designed and built the first prototype Pickup-Van combination, which was later adapted in the RV industry as 5th-wheel tow vehicles. It was featured in a number of magazines in the mid of 1970's. It has always attracted lots of attention whenever I have taken it out for a spin. On a trip from California to Michigan, I got out of a speeding ticket because the highway patrolman became intrigued with the conversion.

With a young family, I wanted a pick up to haul things, but also wanted for additional seating. Since there wasn't any vehicle like that on the market, I decided to build one.

Cadillac Pickup The idea that I could do such a thing was in my DNA. As a child, I helped my Dad turn a Cadillac into a pickup. This picture is when I was 6 years old, standing next to my Dad's "Caddy-Pickup" in 1957.

By the time I started this project, I knew how to weld. I had built off-road vehicles, trailers, and other projects. But this was the most ambitious mechanical endeavor in my young life. It took many hours over a two-year period after school and on weekends. What I learned about body-work and fiberglass from that project was later applied to the development of the Spiral Wishing Wells which have raised over $1 billion for charities and organizations around the world. So building the van-pickup was time very well spent!!!

If you imagine a hood on this vehicle (red line), it is about the same length as a regular full-size pickup. It has a full-size 8' box. Wiithout the wasted space for a hood. the inside is much larger than a normal crew-cab design, and much more versatile. As a bonus, the box has a side door which was originally one of the side doors on the van I used to make the pickup box! Custom Van Pickup

The following pictures will take you through the process of the building phase. The "click to enlarge" pictures open in a separate browser window.

The primary vehicle was a 1970 1-Ton Ford Econoline Club Wagon. It was in fairly decent running condition...but had a lot of road-salt rust which made it affordable for my school teacher budget!

The first cut was just in front of the back corners. That section was re-used as the rear of the soon-to-be shorter cab portion.

The next cut was just behind the rear side-door...all the way through the floor and unibody frame.

Custom Van Pickup
The new pick-up box was made from another van that had been a roll-over total loss. Fortunately, the heavily damaged top portion was not used.
Custom Van Pickup
The top was cut off of this section, leaving a full-size 8' long box.
Custom Van Pickup

This picture shows the two sections being prepared to connect. The frame was butt-welded with overplates and an 8-foot section of u-channel frame welded underneath the mainframe. The body-panel sides were welded together using an overlapping brazing process.

Custom Van Pickup

Now drivable, this picture shows the rear door-section that was cut off the primary van, now moved forward and welded to the rear of the shortened cab.

Notice the small side-door on the front of the box. That is very handy for access to various loads.

The driveline, brake lines, and all of the other mechanical systems were lengthened to fit the new 166 inch wheel base. The bumper-to-bumper length is 228 inches

Pictured is my daughter (and constant body-work assistant!) and her mother.

Custom Van Pickup

Blending the roof from the rear door-section into the roof of the front section required a series of wedge-cuts and shaping to match the varying contours.

You can see the sheet metal screws that were used to hold the overlapping metal together while it was brazed. The screws were later removed or ground off.

Body filler was used to blend in the joints and fill the dents that were in the two original vans.

Unlike normal pickups, the Ultruvan box is not separate from the cab. It is one flowing body on the side shown in this picture, while the other side has the small half-door.

Custom Van Pickup
The rear doors of the cab can be opened or easily removed which can be very handy for extra long loads. I planned to build a slide-in camper with a "walk-through" between the van and camper, but other projects and a move across the country got in the way of finishing that phase.

The interior has a fold-down couch and two captains chairs that can rotate around, and a dinette table that fits in the middle.

You can tell this was done in the 1970's from the upholstery style!!!


When the couch is laid down and the captain chairs turned around, the table fits between the chairs, and with a cushion on the table, the combined surface is a king-size bed!

Custom Van Pickup
This picture shows me beside the UltruVan with a Slick-50 dry-demo engine (about 1981).
Custom Van Pickup
I chose the Ford Econoline Van because the body lines allowed for a natural top-line for the box, and the hinges and lights are just below that line. The top-hinge on other makes and models was too high.
Custom Van Pickup
Custom Van Pickup
Custom Van Pickup

About the company...