I always said that I like any brand of car as long as it's cool, and now I get a chance to prove it...
I'm sitting at home minding my own business when I suddenly get a phone call from my father-in-law. He asks what I'm doing, and then he asks me if I could provide a good home for his Ranchero. Mind you, this thing was his baby. His toy. His beloved Ranchero that he's owned, modified, and worked on for 30 years! This is the car he once said he was going to be buried in. (And I'm not entirely sure if he was joking or not...) And now he's asking me to provide it a good home as if I might refuse. Is he nuts? Heck yeah, I'll give it a good home! I feel honored he's handing over the keys to his pride and joy to me. That he trusts me with it and that he thinks I'll take good care of it. Let's just say that his daughter (my wife) only got to drive it once or twice while she was living at home. And now it's in my driveway. Wow. I can't wait to start hot-rodding it. :-)
As individual parts of this page get too long, I move them off to separate pages to keep things more manageable. Here's the current list of the separate pages.
Some basic info on the truck would be a good start. It's done in classic hot-rod style black primer (update: It's actually very faded black paint) with a white vinyl top. Some very '70s purple window tinting, a nice custom bed cover, and basic bucket seats all help set the tone. Under the hood is a 302 V8 of unknown vintage other than "I had it built fresh before I put it in the truck a ways back" that can really get this thing to scoot. He even added cruise control and it works perfectly! It's also got an early C4 transmission in it circa '63 to '65 - I know because it has the early style shift pattern of "P R N D2 D1" where what folks today consider "drive" is the D1 detent where most of us expect "1" or "L" to be. D2 restricts the trans to 2nd and 3rd gear only. (This has the weird side effect of not being to downshift to engine brake. At least changing it is likely as simple as swapping the valve body to a later one, should I decide to keep this trans for a while...) Oh, did I mention that my father-in-law was a Ford dealership mechanic for 20+ years? And that he's good. I have the mechanic's favorite toy in my driveway just begging for more upgrades. I'm practically drooling with the possibilities. My wife thinks I'm going mad. I love it.
(Dig that full-width rubber mud flap. Groovy. I told you it was very '70s...)
I even have some photos of the hallowed key transfer. Dad is looking very nonchalant as usual, but it was a big deal. We even got photos of his new truck. I can't believe he gave up the Ranchero for an '85 Nissan Extended cab Pickup - but the Nissan does have power steering, power brakes, and air conditioning. And since Dad keeps trying to give me all his tools, he doesn't have much left to work on the Ranchero with anymore anyway. Poor me, getting Dad's Ranchero and his tools. What's a guy to do? :-) From one mechanic to another, I do feel kinda humbled. Like someone has entrusted me with something I need to take care of, preserve, and hot-rod for future generations to enjoy!
What's next? Well, I'm learning more about Ford's in a hurry. I also need to replace a leaking rear axle seal (Dad got rid of it at the right time. He always was a smart one. :-), ditch the vinyl top, and get some more/better photos. I need gauges in the dash, a new 4-bbl carb and manifold (Dad put a 2-bbl on for "gas mileage" (?) back in the '70s), and seat belts with a shoulder harness - lap belts just don't cut it for me. Maybe some disc brakes up front, a rack and pinion steering conversion - heck maybe even adding AC to it. Who knows. It's cool, emissions exempt, and mine. I'm gonna drive it until the tires fall off and love every minute of it. Thanks, Dad!
For those of you not familiar with the '60s Ford cars, a Ranchero is a Ford Falcon with a pickup bed in the back. And a '64 Falcon is the base car Ford used to create the original '64 1/2 Mustang. And we all know what kind of go-fast, make it cool goodies that exist for Mustangs. Most of it is a direct bolt-on to the Falcon of which the Ranchero is a sub-model. You do the math.
Since the truck leaks a good bit due to a bad windshield seal/gasket, it gets wet inside - and then grows mold - if it's stored outside. Since I broke the zipper on the bed cover, it's hard to put a regular cover on it - it would to tend sag and collect water over the bed of the truck. I scored this tent/canopy/garage for $80 used. It's got all metal poles and a good vinyl-type top, along with two sides and one end that are not currently installed. It makes a nice home for the truck and keeps the rain off of it when it's stored "outside". It was too bad it blew over and got destroyed in a windstorm the first winter it was up. It was nice while it lasted. The moral of this little tale? These things are a virtual parachute in high winds - make sure that each leg has a weight on it and/or it is firmly attached to the ground. Once it starts to lift off - even if it's just at on one corner - it's all over.
Along those same lines, I'm working on the bed cover that Dad made for it to get the busted zipper fixed. To make it easier, I detached the section of the cover that was attached to the truck just below the rear window so I could take the whole thing and work on it at once. I broke the zipper trying to zip it closed on a cold morning (the cover shrinks - and I found out that it's a bad idea to try and muscle it into place) and now I've found out that zippers are sold as a complete piece that you sew into place - it's next to impossible to get a repair kit. Also, the cover has been repaired in the past, and whoever did it made it the piece attached to the truck slightly smaller side to side than it should have been - the result being that the snaps don't reach out far enough so there is a small leak in this area. I'm hoping to correct that when I get the new zipper. I may even try to make a new bed cover for it outright - we'll see how it goes and how expensive the material is.
Fuel Line and Brake Hose Replacement
I finally had to dig into the truck and do some work on it - turns out the rubber fuel line from the hard line on the frame to the fuel pump was leaking pretty badly - it's probably 20 years old, so it was due for replacement anyway.
When I started poking around the engine compartment to work on the fuel line, I found some other things that needed fixing. The first one was the air filter - rodents had gotten to it and literally eaten away the paper from a section of the air filter so you could see right through the inner metal mesh that holds it up. The filter was a 6 1/2" diameter by 1 1/2" high unit - Mr. Gasket makes several air cleaners in this size, and most parts stores will stock the replacement air filter for it - Mr. Gasket #1486A. A tad small for my liking, but the $7 air filter was cheaper than a new $30 14" air cleaner assembly. No picture on this one - sorry - but it was pretty entertaining looking.
I had to take off the left front tire and jack up the truck to get to the fuel line, and when I took the tire off, I found the second thing that needed replacing - the left front tire had been rubbing on the brake hose - and that must be corrected before the truck is driven again. I went with the simple hose swap - the full on disc brake swap will have to wait for a while. Also, the replacement hose was shorter than the one on there, so it won't rub anymore. Yay.
The third thing I found was that the rubber fuel line went right next to the exhaust manifold - it was within 1/2" of the exhaust manifold! Even worse, the rubber hose was long and tended to flop around a bit, possibly coming into contact with the exhaust manifold at times - very not good! Something was wrong here, and some research along with a memory of something I read in an old Mustang magazine turned up the problem. The truck originally had an inline 6-cylinder engine, and when Dad with the V8-swap he had never changed out the hard line to the V8 style one. It's a bit tough to visualize, but bear with me for a minute here. An inline 6 cylinder is long and thin - so there is lots of room between the engine and the frame rails. A V8 is shorter and much wider - it fills virtually all of the space between the frame rails. On a Ford inline 6-cyl, the fuel pump is about halfway down the drivers side of the block, and the hard line comes up along the inside of the drivers side frame rail and stops at a point roughly where the fuel pump is. The V8 has the fuel pump at the front drivers side of the engine, and the hard line comes up along the outside of the drivers side frame rail, tucks underneath the rail at about the rear of the sway bar mount, and stops roughly where the fuel pump is. In both cases, the length of rubber hose is very short, and not close to the exhaust. Because the truck had a V8 engine installed but the inline 6-cyl fuel line left in place, the rubber hose had to be quite long and it ran right next to the exhaust manifold. The result was a severe fire hazard - hot exhaust manifolds and fuel lines don't mix well and should be kept as far apart as possible. Frankly, I'm surprised this thing never went up in flames - maybe Dad always drove it very gently and got lucky. I'm glad he did get lucky - and not just because the truck survived long enough for me to get it...
The fix was conceptually simple, but a royal pain to actual do. Mainly it's a pain to install new hard lines, but it's a heck of a lot better than going up in flames. :-) First, I ordered a reproduction V8 style fuel line and installed it - the Mustang and Falcon were similar enough so that they reproduce the lines, so I got real lucky here. The line was only $60 - but the shipping was $50 because it's so odd sized. Blech. It came in a box approx 14" x 14" x 6' long, and the line had a two 90 degree bends in the middle (that had to be removed by hand) to make it fit into the box. To do the actual install, I had to remove the drivers side exhaust pipes, and amazingly enough it came out without incident - typically you snap off at least one nut or bolt when removing an old exhaust system... After that, I had to pry the line out of all of it's clips and disconnect the short rubber hose connecting the hard line to the fuel tank above the rear axle. Then I found out that the line they shipped me wasn't quite right - either the fuel tank isn't the right one for this truck, or the pattern they have is about 6" too long. I solved it by gently forming the line into a large U-shaped bend in the piece that is up above the rear axle to take up the extra length in the line. I would/should have just cut it to the right length, but I didn't have the right tool to put a "bump" on the line so it would seal properly to the rubber hose. While doing this, I found out the rear section of the line was not going to fit to the floor pan anyway, so I'm leaning more towards "incorrect pattern" in my diagnosis. Annoying, but easily solvable with a little thought and creativity. I had some related problems at the front section where the new line went a different route than the original 6-cylinder line, and had no clips to hold it in place, and I had to move one of the original clips to a new mounting hole in the frame rail. Again, annoying but solvable. After getting the line back in, I found out that the tank was completely dry - I thought some gas had siphoned out and drained on the driveway, turns out it was all 10+ gallons I had in there. It was old and stale anyway, but I had to raid the gas can for the mower just to get the truck started. At least there were no leaks, and the exhaust system went back in without incident, though I did have to put in a new "donut" at the pipe to manifold seal and it has a small leak at one of the muffler inlets because the pipe is so old and rusty.
The original master cylinder was getting a little old and was leaking internally - the pedal would slowly drift to the floor while sitting at a stoplight. Not cool. I really wanted to do the disc brake swap, but now that so many cool kits are out there, I'm torn on exactly what I want to do. So, in the meantime I replaced the original master cylinder and should have decent brakes again. At least as decent as original style 4-wheel drum brakes can be.
The master cylinder is tucked way back in the corner almost underneath the shock tower brace - very hard to get to. I was also trying to figure out how in the heck a power brake booster would fit back here. I'm still pondering that one.
That 70's Truck
The truck was a product of it's time - and it was originally done in the 70's, so it got some very 70's touches. The purple window tinting, the white vinyl top, the black vinyl glued over the metal dash, and that groovy full width rubber mud flap in the back. The front window tinting came off while I was stuck in traffic one day - it was starting to peel off anyway, so a few strategically placed tugs combined with a few cuts with my pocketknife and it was history. The mud flap came off to do some work on the truck and mysteriously went into the trash can instead of back onto the truck. :-) The vinyl top started to peel off on it's own - the glue was old and not sticking very well anymore - so I helped it along. Unfortunately what I found underneath validates why I hate vinyl tops - they trap water and encourage rust. At least I can see it now. I still need to remove the thin strips of vinyl around the back window, but I'll leave that for another day.
After I took the harness out and got to looking at things, I realized that I really don't like the Ford externally regulated alternator setup that Dad had installed. It works, but it's got too many wires and isn't a particularly great alternator setup in the first place - the GM alternators are a much better design and charge much better at idle. I surfed around a bit and found out that swapping a GM 10SI or 12SI series alternator in place of the Ford unit is a pretty straightforward swap, so I decided to do it. While I was doing the conversion, I put all the info I learned into a tech page.
The original windshield was in tired shape and the original gasket was leaking badly after 40+ years of weathering, so it was time for a replacement. I contacted a local glass replacement company, waited for the glass and gasket to get ordered in, and had them do the replacement. My usual luck kicked in and the parts ordering saga is quite the tale. Yay.
When the old windshield and gasket were removed, I took the chance to inspect the window channel and do some quick rust control while it was exposed. The bottom corners had some surface rust, but no holes through the channel. I wire brushed off the loose rust and applied some rust encapsulating paint to it. Masking off the compound curves in that area was fun, but it wasn't too hard. Later on when I do the full bodywork on the truck, this will get re-done in a more thorough fashion, but for now this will help keep the rust creep to a minimum - or with any luck, halt it completely - until I can get back in here and do it right.
Here's a couple of pics of the new windshield + gasket after it was installed. As promised, it's a clean and weatherproof install - the interior is finally starting to dry out! The mushroom growing out of the carpet is a bad omen for the carpet's future, though... :-)
The nice part is that getting this work done and the leak problem solved will let the interior stay dry, which in turn will let me get started on the wiring and various other projects that need doing - like the late model 5.0L engine swap. I didn't want the computer and EFI wiring to be exposed to as much moisture as was inside the truck due to the leaking gasket. One small step...
Dad had this car for decades as his personal toy, and that means it crept into various family photos. I've asked Mom to scan in and send me as many as she can find so I can post them here. One thing I learned real fast is that the truck isn't primer black like I thought it was originally - it's actually really-faded-and-dull-but-used-to-be-very-shiny black. (For the record, I think the primer look is way cooler - sorry, Dad.) As you can see, it even made it into a local parade a couple of times towing a small float. Cool. Deb's ex is in a few of the photos - he's the dumb-ugly-dude-who-doesn't-own-this-really-cool-truck in the red jacket in the two side shots. He may be a slime ball (not that I have a biased opinion on the matter or anything like that...), but the truck is more than cool enough to offset any sliminess that the ex imparts to the photo, so I'm including the photos here.
This was car #15. My first car as a gift. My first V8 Ford.
Page last updated 06/20/2009 11:02:53 AM