Want to live in a van down by the river? Ford has a new vehicle for that


Ford says Transit Trail owners will have access to the Ford Pro network of upfitters and interior installers to create the interior space they desire. (Preproduction model shown with aftermarket equipment.)


DETROIT — Ford Motor wants to make “living in a van down by the river” a bit more comfortable than late comedian Chris Farley — a cousin of the automaker’s CEO — made it out to be in a well-known “Saturday Night Live” sketch from the early 1990s.

The Detroit automaker on Thursday revealed the 2023 Ford Transit Trail Van, a new lifted model of its full-size van equipped with all-wheel-drive and more durable, off-road parts for outdoor enthusiasts. It also comes ready for customization, also known as “upfitting,” to turn the vehicle into a living or sleeping space.

Ford is attempting to cash in on the boom in sales of recreational trailers and vehicles, or RVs, during the coronavirus pandemic. Ford already is one of the main companies that provides trucks and vans to upfitters to make them into RVs. It also has launched a slew of off-road vehicles in recent years such as the Ford Bronco SUVs and F-150 Tremor pickup.

“We will have more demand than supply, based on all the numbers we see,” Ted Cannis, CEO of the automaker’s Ford Pro commercial vehicle business, told CNBC.

2023 Ford Transit Trail


Ford is touting the Transit Trail Van as a gateway into “van life,” a community of travelers who fully or partially live in their vehicles. Photos released Thursday by the automaker show the vehicle immersed in a scenic setting, including a couple who appear to be living by a river.

The phrase “living in a van down by the river” was made famous by Chris Farley during a 1993 “Saturday Night Live” sketch where he played Matt Foley, a divorced motivational speaker who lives in a van down by the river. He tries to use his situation to motivate two children — played by David Spade and Christina Applegate — to say no to smoking marijuana.

For a time, Ford CEO Jim Farley had a reference to the bit — and his late cousin — in his Twitter profile: “Mustang and racing fan. Happen to love white vans …  preferably down by the river.” The auto executive has paid other tributes to his cousin on the social media platform through the use of memes and other media.

Cannis said there’s no connection between the vehicle and “SNL” sketch. However, he said Jim Farley asked about getting into this segment after a trip to California in 2020.

“He’s very enamored with the space, but it’s really just coincidence in this case,” Cannis said.

The 2023 Ford Transit Trail Van will go on sale in the spring, starting at $65,975. That’s about $15,000 more than a base passenger Transit van. The vehicle will be available in three cargo van configurations, including medium- and high-roof models and a high-roof, extended-length version.

The van will be produced at Ford’s Kansas City Assembly Plant in Missouri. The vehicle does not come standard with a living or sleeping space, but Transit Trail owners will have access to Ford Pro’s network of upfitters and interior installers.

The vehicle will be sold to consumers as well as commercial upfitters, which Cannis says can spend tens of thousands of dollars customizing such vehicles.

The 2023 Transit Trail comes standard with front swivel seats, according to Ford. (Preproduction model shown with aftermarket equipment.)


Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC and NBC, which airs “Saturday Night Live.”