Ford just unveiled the Transit Trail as a van with overlanding in mind, including standard features like all-wheel drive, a lifted ride height, and all-terrain tyres. While this model is new, the idea is not. The 1970 Econoline Kilimanjaro concept was a kitschy interpretation of a rig for off-road adventures.
We asked the Ford Archives for more details about the Kilimanjaro van, and it was able to get us an original press release (see gallery below). Dated November 11, 1969, the document describes the vehicle as "a rugged and spacious four-wheel-drive vehicle designed to manoeuvre through swampy jungles or desert sands carrying hunters, rifles, ammunition and a two-way radio."
Gallery: 1970 Ford Kilimanjaro Van Concept
Oddly, the release makes no mention of the van's coolest feature. Large panels at the rear open to expose a portion of the sides and roof. While this seems perfect for getting a good look at nature, the reference to carrying hunters, rifles, and ammunition makes us wonder if the actual intention is as a shooting platform.
At least the driver's side has a ladder integrated into the body. A person could use it to climb up the vehicle to access the full-sized spare tyre on the roof.
The release describes the van's colour as "bush jacket beige." Plus, a wide Leopard-print stripe wraps around the whole body. Whether or not this combination looks good is subjective, but it certainly makes a statement.
A modified bumper holds a pair of gas cans, which doesn't seem like the safest location for them in a front-end collision. There are also two spotlights.
The van rides on Firestone-branded tyres with a very chunky tread pattern.
Unfortunately, we don't know any more about the Kilimanjaro concept. A Chicago Auto Show page indicates the van was on display there, possibly in 1970.
The Ford Archives also sent us a scanned article from the January-February 1974 issue of Ford Dealer Magazine (above). Jerome-Duncan Ford in Sterling Heights, Michigan, held a special event to spur motorhome sales in September 1973. As part of the promotion, the Kilimanjaro concept was on display in the showroom. A Baja Bronco was there, too.
Unfortunately, the article didn't specify whether Jerome-Duncan Ford owned the Kilimanjaro concept, borrowed it from Ford, or got the van from a third party. The story is at least a confirmation of the vehicle surviving until 1973.