You Can Buy This Rare Ford Presidential Motorcade “Roadrunner” Command Van

This former Secret Service vehicle features an abundance of on board electrical power that used to run satellite communications, radios, and more.

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You Can Buy This Rare Ford Presidential Motorcade “Roadrunner” Command Van © You Can Buy This Rare Ford Presidential Motorcade “Roadrunner” Command Van

A relatively rare and heavily customized Ford Econoline van, which previously served as a command and control vehicle for U.S. presidential motorcades, a topic you can read about more in detail in this past War Zone feature, has emerged for sale online. If you're in the market to buy your own mobile command center, or a heavy-duty vehicle with lots of extra electrical power for some other purpose, this may be exactly what you're looking for.

A seller in Estes Park, Colorado, situated some 50 miles northwest of Denver first listed the van, which is based specifically on the Ford E350 model, on Craigslist on Mar. 7, 2020. From the pictures provided, the vehicle, which has 31,000 miles on it, is very clearly one of a number of these vans that the White House Communications Agency acquired in the early 1990s to act as "Roadrunners." This the term the U.S. Secret Service uses to describe vehicles that provide essential command, control, and communications support when the President of the United States and their entourage is on the move

The seller does not say how or where they acquired the van, but they say they are the first civilian owner. The present asking price is $31,000 and they're only accepting cash offers. 

A front via of the former E350 Roadrunner up for sale now on Craigslist., via Craigslist

Here is how the seller describes the features of the vehicle, which they say "cost in excess of $100,000 to build":

The White House Communications Agency, which is a U.S. military unit within the White House, and U.S. Secret Service first began fielding mobile command posts to support the President back in the 1970s. However, these were limited in a number and many were primarily intended to provide additional communications support during overseas trips rather than provided dedicated support to motorcades. Many of the vehicles were leased or rented, as well.

A Chevy van the White House Communications Agency rented for use as command vehicle in 1978., via
A leased Ford motorhome dubbed the Coyote that the White House Communications Agency used in the early 1980s., via
A RevCon Coach converted into a mobile command post for the White House Communications Agency in the 1980s., via

The White House Communications Agency and the U.S. Secret Service only introduced dedicated, permanent Roadrunners in 1986. The first of these were based on 4x4, four-door Chevy Suburban sport utility vehicles, a make and model that continued to be the basis for most these vehicles until just two years ago. 

A Chevy Suburban-based Roadrunner., Paul Carter

A new 4x4, six-door design based on the Ford F350 Super Duty emerged at that time, something The War Zone was among the first to report on, and these trucks have seen increasingly regular use since then. The White House Communications Agency has retired at least some of the older Suburbans-based vehicles, transferring six of them to the U.S. military's Special Operations Command North (SOCNORTH) to support crisis response operations.

The six-door Ford F350-based platform that the White House Communications Agency is now using as a mobile command post., The Armored Group

While there is significant information publicly available about the Suburban-based designs, and a number of details have already emerged about the new modified Ford Super Dutys, the history of the E350 Roadrunners is much more obscure. The White House Communications Agency got the first examples in 1992.

The data plate for the one on sale in Colorado says that Wolf Coach of Auburn, Massachusetts completed the base conversion of this van in 1994. Wolf Coach is now a subsidiary of L3Harris and still specializes in building custom mobile communications vehicles.

One of the original 1992 E350 Roadrunners., via
A 1994 model., via
The Wolf Coach data plate from the example now listed for sale on Craigslist., via Craigslist

As the Craigslist seller says, these E350s were extended cab models with V8 engines and various interior modifications. The White House Communications Agency's own internal shops were responsible for completing the conversion and installing all of the equipment.

A look inside the de-modified E350 roadrunner now up for sale., via Craigslist
Another interior view., via Craigslist
Various switches and controls for communications systems that are no longer installed., via Craigslist

Though the Cragistlist post only mentions one generator, an Onan Marquis 7000, under the hood, the original design is said to have had two generators under the hood, as well as a third in the rear, all running off the van's main fuel tank. This was all in addition to the four batteries in an external compartment behind the driver's door, which are also apparently still there on the vehicle for sale in Colorado. 

The Onan Marquis 7000 generator on the former E350 Roadrunner for sale on Craigslist., via Craigslist
Other components of the on board power system., via Craigslist
Bar-coded-tags for various power supplies on the former E350 Roadrunner now up for sale, with the official nickname for this type of vehicle clearly shown., via Craigslist
A "Roadrunner" label on components inside the van., via Craigslist

All of this power was necessary to run an array of FM radios and satellite communications systems. During their service with the White House Communications Agency, these E350s had a satellite communications antenna dome and a number of whip antennas on top. 

External antenna connections, phone and computer cable jacks, and power outlets behind a panel on the right rear side of the van enable it to serve as a semi-fixed command post, if required. Work lights mounted on the right side of the roof and at the rear of the vehicle would have helped with operations at night at more austere locations without other major light sources.

A look inside the external panel on the right side of the van., via Craigslist

All of these on board capabilities supported the Roadrunner's core function of making sure that the President of the United States would be in constant contact with the rest of the U.S. government, especially the National Command Authority, in case of the need to order a nuclear strike.

It's not clear when the White House Communications Agency retired these vans or what happened to the rest of the fleet. Pictures show at least one of them still in service in 2004. At least one of them has now clearly been de-modified and stripped of any useful or sensitive equipment and sold off.

Personnel unload an E350 Roadrunner from a semi-trailer in 2004., via

Whatever the case, the next owner of this van will be on possession of an interesting piece of history and a vehicle that can generate a ton of juice while on the move or while parked. You just have to make your way to Estes Park with the right amount of cash to make your mobile command center dreams come true. 

Contact the author: [email protected]

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