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What is the V-Drive 4x4 Van?

Not a joke, this 4x4 Van is real!

What is the V-Drive 4x4 Van? Vehicle Engineering and Manufacturing Company (VEMCO) was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where the company began converting Ford and Chevy vans into 4x4 vans in the late '70s with V-Drive. The four-wheel drive vans had the plush suspension setup that was previously only afforded to passenger cars, and the 4x4 capability reserved for rugged off-roaders.

V-Drive 4x4 vans exist! They're real! These 4WD-converted Ford and Chevy vans are running around and rusting away in some cases.

 

The V-Drive 4x4 van system was built using a Twin I-Beam front suspension as a model, adding the equivalent of a Dana 30 differential to each beam. Each pumpkin got its power from an output shaft, extending diagonally from a gearbox directly behind the van's transmission. Bevel gears within the gearbox split the power between the rear driveshaft and the two forward output shafts, allowing these 4x4 vans to pull with all four wheels.

 

Underside of 4x4 van with the V-Drive conversion—Those aren't lower control arms!

 

V-Drive and VX4 4x4 vans and other vehicles would accomplish the goal of maintaining a low ride height. From the sketches, it looked as if there would be no outward difference between 2WD and 4WD vehicles—at least until you peeked underneath and noticed the extra differentials. There was also the benefit to auto manufacturers of being able to offer 2WD and 4WD versions of the same rig, since the V-Drive system could use the same frame, engine, steering, and suspension as its 2WD counterparts.

People of the '60s were excited about the possibility of 4x4 vans with capabilities extending outside the confines of trucks and Jeeps. With this advance in technology, not only could the family station wagon haul the kids and the dog to the drive-in theater, but also survive a trek to the ski slopes when the mountain passes weren't perfectly plowed.

 

We've since heard from a handful of readers, itching to share their experiences with the lesser-known method of four-wheel driving.

 

"Today I saw your article about this system. I own a '79 Chevy G30 Beauville with V-Drive, 400ci V-8, and TH350. I have also a second V-Drive set for spare parts out of a '79 Chevy G30 Cobra RV; this one had a 350ci V-8 and a TH400.

By searching the web over the years, I found the patent of the system and also some of its older versions, which were not full-time 4x4 and had to be switched on.

I would like to learn more about the system. Especially about differences between TH350, TH400, and Ford versions."

Philipp Neunh userer
Italy
Via email