(We call him "HOSS" - we lived on Ponderosa and he's a ranchero, right?)

As I was waiting to turn in at WalMart I noticed a 1966 GTO convertible, top down, waiting to get out of the parking lot. Nice car, well done! As I turned in I yelled "NICE CAR!". He yelled back, "NO, THAT'S A NICE CAR!"

June 11, 2005, Update: We entered Canyon City's "62 Day's Parade" and took a First Place Ribbon over several very desirable cars, so we're proud.

We recently(January 4, 2003) bought this 1968 Ranchero GT as a winter project. We want to create an unusual car we can actually drive. This car was bought knowing we'd have to do considerable work and investment in, including minor body work and a complete re-paint and new interior.
To finance this project we sold a 1991 Geo Tracker we'd had several repairs(and not much mileage!) on. We hope to buy and build this car with the $3500 we got for the Tracker?
This year model is the best, in my opinion, because it was eleven years after the original, and it was the last of the non-clean-air motors. It's light(3000 lbs), with enough motor to perform (302 with 2 barrel, power steering and power brakes) - yet be economical to drive, and since it has disc brakes it stops well. It's not small like the earlier years, yet it's not huge, like the later years.

As an aside, I would note that in 1964 after graduating from high school and before going off to college, I bought a 1958 Ranchero with no engine because I thought it would make a neat street rod. WHY? I had no money - and no time - to be building a second car! I had a speedshop build a motor I had gotten from a junk yard, and had the car of my dreams! While away at college, when my then current ride, a 1953 Ford Victoria 2-door hardtop, died because its motor launched into the radiator, I started driving the Ranchero and did so until almost graduation in May, 1968. I traded it in on a newer car that could get me to my first full-time job in Minneapolis. I always wished I had kept the Ranchero - the 1958's are extremely rare and very desirable. (But, I wish I had kept my first new car - a 1968 Barracuda fastback!)

BEGINNING: This is the car as we bought it, before the make over. (click on each for larger)

CURRENT: This is how the car looks currently.

This is my diary while we restore this beauty to its original quality

(most recent first - go to the end to start at the beginning)

We bought a parts car on Ebay from a wrecking yard over in Albany. After towing it the 130 miles back here on a tow dolly, we are taking parts off it to put on Hoss. Eventually we'll have the frame to go to a crusher - so sad! But, in the meantime we got things like the Ranchero scripts and GT door panels.
Tonight I got the passenger seat back into the car and took Ronda for her first ride in the new interior.
This past weekend I finished the floor carpet and got the driver's seat installed. I had tried the seat and found it sat too high and too far forward, so had to re-engineer the mounts. What I found was that the previous owner had raised the seat to compensate for its collapsed condition. So, after having the seats rebuilt, I had to remove the mounts they were mounted on. Now all that remains is the back wall carpet and the rear speakers.
I've been fitting the new carpet into the car and am ready to cutout the shifter and put the seats back in.
I visited the upholsterer's to get some 'before' pictures as they are re-doing the seats.
This past weekend I got the dash back into the car and today I took the seats to the upholsterer. It's all coming together now!
This car originally had reflectors on the rear quarter panels, but they were missing when we bought it. I had mixed feelings about putting something in their places - we thought about doing without, and we considered lighted reflectors and replacement reflectors, but I had the chance to buy some originals on Ebay and you can see that they're not the kind of thing that is available on the open market. Their size makes them one-of-a-kind! And we like the way they add to the look!
I've about finished modifying the old wiring harness and am about to re-install it in the dash. Here you can see where the previous owner had patched it with terminal blocks right off the fuse block. He actually did a pretty good job, but there were some problems.
Today I cut the hole in the dash for the Blaupunkt CD player my bride bought for our anniversary. WOW! that hurt! (cutting the dash!) In addition, I've got the dash pad and the wiring harness out to replace with one I got off Ebay, but it doesn't look like I will as there's one too few fuses on the fuse block and I don't know what else is different in the harness, even though it's from a '69 Fairlane, we thought it would be the same.
Today we painted the bed-liner into the bed. Here's before & after pictures. I'm happy with the way the rust-recovery worked, but I think we've got extensive finish work to detail out the bed.
I've finished puttying the cracks, holes, and sharp angles, so now I sand and finish the contours, getting ready for the roll-on bed-liner.
I've finished cutting and drilling the new support and test-fitted the bed flooring and it looks good. Now I have to put epoxy-putty into the rust holes and the cracks and finish filling the sharp angles so that the bed won't hold water, snow, and trash in the cracks and holes. The last step is a grey rough-finish bed liner that will further seal the whole bed and walls.
There's not enough hours in the day or enough days in the week to get this done, so even small steps take weeks to accomplish. Now cold weather has set in so things like the epoxy putty can't be done without warming the car to room temperature, which means heating the garage.
The metal shop has finished welding in the new support pieces.
Now I have to cut-to-fit for the clip-nuts and the sealer.
I've cleaned up the rust and I've cut the new metal support pieces to fit. Notice the holes drilled in the floorboard where the metal shop will weld down to the support pieces.
I replaced the rear shocks ($53) with Monroe Sensatrac's. I removed coil-spring-over shocks that I think made it sit higher in the rear, but I'm not going to be carrying loads, so don't need the extra capacity.
I'm starting work on repairing the rust damage in the bed. First things first, though, since the rear shocks need replacing the access panel must come out to get to the upper shock mounts. It has to come out anyway, since there's a LOT of rust damage that must be fixed before coating the entire bed with a bed-liner = this will seal it even better for the future.
While working under the hood I noticed the brake-warning connector was disconnected. No wonder the BRAKE light doesn't come on when starting! After testing to try to find any defects that would explain why it was disconnected, I just re-connected it, and IT WORKS!
I replaced the engine temperature sender so now the COLD light works and maybe the HOT won't come on so easily. I also fixed the backup light switch. The switch was dirty inside and the contact balls were worn in places so they didn't make contact.
We drove the Ranchero to the Spande family's place in Vancouver, WA, for our first outing. It was quite a success, and it performed admirably. We got it hot coming back up the Warm Springs grade, but it didn't blow any coolant out, so it's unknown how hot it actually got.
I have finished the re-wiring and have only a few tasks left: The windsheild washer switch doesn't yet work - the OEM can't be cleaned out enough to be reliable. The backup light switch on the shifter doesn't work, and the COLD engine temp sender doesn't work, I'll have to get a new one.
I have finished painting the metal part of the dash that was so scratched up by the previous owners. I've also started the monstrous task of re-doing all the wiring problems I see under the dash, and lubing the heater control cables.
Today I finished reinstalling the floor shifter after fixing the pivot bushing. I guess it was a plastic bushing that was gone, leaving a lot of sideways and up/down freeplay. This also caused a lot of rattles that were really iritating now that the doors are quiet. I used a pair of shim washers and a piece of copper tubing as a bushing to take up the freeplay and voila! no more rattles! I also glued the collars around the manual lock buttons to quiet them.
I decided to change the rear-end fluid, but since there's no drain bolt, I had to siphon out the old fluid. Then part of the siphon hose fell into the housing! So I had to take the carrier out after taking the axle halves out - quite a major job - and quite a loss of time. It took most of a week to get the thing back together, and even now we hope the bearings and seals and gaskets will be OK.
I finally got the driver door and window adjusted to close properly, even with the new weatherstripping. But I do like the way it closes! While the door was gutted, and as we put it back together, we felt the door closed like it was hollow, flimsy, and cheap - but with it all together it has a nice solid feel!
Yesterday I also rebuilt the carburetor. Only had one problem - it flooded the whole engine compartment with gas! But I found I had not anchored the float pivot so the gas came out the bowl vents. Simple to fix, and now the car drives and idles really nice!
Something of a milestone: Every Ranchero like this we've seen has had a tacky steering wheel cover, but we hate it, so I took it off prepared to see why it was there. Only a couple of splits in the rim were being hidden. I had read somewhere that I could buy a special kit containig epoxy to repair steering wheels, so I have used JBWeld and filed it smooth, then painted it with black paint. We'll see how it holds up with time, but we like it much better w/o the cover!
It's turning out that getting the doors and windows to close properly is the biggest headache and time-consumer there could be! Any adjustment - and there are many of them - throws off all the others, so I've spent a lot of time getting the doors right. And they're still not the way I want them!
While we're far from through, we drove the Ranchero to a local Dairy Queen for a small gathering of classic cars; it created quite a stir, as they all liked our car and the progress we've made so far.
This weekend I got the Crane Cams FireBall electronic ignition conversion installed. What a difference! And I got the passenger door working correctly - seems that the problems started on re-install. I put all the rubber pieces on without testing any of them and now I'm re-doing them one at a time and testing each as I go.
This weekend I replaced the rubber boot on the power steering - a simple job that I tried, successfully, to make difficult and time consuming!
We visited the Portland Swap Meet and came away with a factory shop manual($20), a headliner($60), and a bull emblem($10) for the right pillar.
I got the tailgate mounted and operational. It involved lubing and adjusting the latches, after the paint shop had fixed the rust damage in the bottom. They also filled all the holes for the FORD letters, but we think we like it best this way. We have spent many hours trying to get the doors and windows to close properly, since we replaced all the weatherstripping. The doors don't want to close yet and the windows aren't hitting the roof rail properly.
We spent the weekend painting the wheels silver and putting the doors back together and mounting more of the chrome.
Finally, Hoss is home for good (except for when we get the bed fixed). We've mounted the front and rear bumpers and it's starting to look like we always knew it could!
This weekend we brought the car home to work on it - it goes back to have the door jams painted. I fixed the driver door where it locked itself and couldn't be opened. I found the door latch had been repaired by a previous owner - they had welded a piece that then interfered with the latch's proper operation. Judicious use of a dremel tool fixed it to work properly! We got the tail lights and rear bumper mounted and we got the grill and the front end trim-work on the hood and fenders. It's starting to look really good!
Tonight when I checked on the car just before going home I found the car had been painted. We love the color and love the look of the car, so we'll start putting it back together! (it looks blue in these picture, but it's the original color, which is more green with a hint of metalflake)
This weekend I mounted the new window beltline "fuzzies" on the parts that mount on the door, after the paint is dry. Tomorrow the car goes into the paint booth for final sanding and color paint.
This morning we found the car back at our garage door, as he had been re-primered last evening. Again we will keep him in our shop for a week while the primer dries thoroughly. During the day we'll move him out into the warm sunshine, and at night we'll put him inside where the heater is left running - all in an effort to get the primer, then the paint, to set up good and hard!
This past weekend I finished sanding and repainting both interior window sills a satin flat black. The dash will also have to come out and be sanded and painted the same color. The padded dash appears to be OK, just needs to be re-anchored to the cowl. All of this waits to be done after the paint is done and we can take him back to our house where we have more room to work.
Today I replaced the hinge pin in the driver door upper hinge and the spring on the lower hinge. The passenger door hinges will have to wait until we can find some additional new parts, inluding the detent(while the detent is completely worn out the hinge pin and bushings have no play in them).
Another milestone! I visited him in the paint booth after getting the first coats of primer. We expect two sets of primer-coats, then color and clear coats. We intend to let each dry for up to five days before sanding and proceeding to the next.
Technically, today is a milestone - we're starting the re-assembly! I installed the door-window guide bars into both doors after cleaning 35 years of dried grease off the assemblies. Hopefully, the widows will raise and lower smoothly, just like new, when we're done! But we have to wait for more as the painter is still working on patching rust spots and primer and paint.
The painter said they'd be through with the body work and ready to paint if they hadn't found a lot of poorly repaired rust just behind the rear wheels. Again, this is a common problem area for Rancheros, and this car's problems aren't all that bad, but it's obvious that the previous owner had driven a lot in muddy conditions and not cleaned the wet mud out from the wheelwells, so the clinging wet mud made the conditions worse.
They also have repaired the tailgate left hinge where it had rusted and been repaired poorly with brazing rod.
I painted the grill and the rear taillight bezels with flat black, after masking them off.

THIS IS THE DAY! I took the Ranchero to the paint shop where it will receive its most important part of the make-over. NEW PAINT! Yesterday I removed the front bumper and grill in preparation for the paint job. Here are some pictures of our "naked" Ranchero" ! (and I gave the painter a starting check for $500)

I finished stripping the chrome off the body. To get the wheel lip moldings off, I had to jack up each corner and take the wheels off to get the trim off, but in the process I could check the brakes and wheel bearings. No really bad news other than some mildly worn back brake shoes. The front brake pads and bearings are in good shape.
The bad news is that I found a rust hole completely through the front corner of the bed. This is a common problem with Rancheros in that they have nowhere for the rain water and snow melt to go and they tend to rust though - the water runs in behind the driver seat. I also found that the left-side tailgate hinge is badly rusted which causes it to not open/shut correctly. These two things will have to be fixed before going into the paint shop.
I started stripping all chrome off the body, in preparation for painting.
I also took the driver door apart and found mostly minor problems.
The door can't be opened from the inside because the inside handle is broken. Simple fix: a new inner door handle can be had from Dearborn Classics, in Bend, $35 (no shipping or sales tax for us!)
The door can't be locked or unlocked from the outside because the C-clip had come loose from the lock assembly - easy fix since the push/pull rod was still hanging inside the door!
The door lock was falling out because the clip to hold it was coming loose - another easy fix since the clip was still hanging there.
The car is fairly tight with the windows up, but you can tell there are problems in the doors. The driver's door can't be opened from the inside and cannot be locked/unlocked from the outside with the key.
So we started by taking the passenger door apart. Since we're going to replace all the rubber weatherstrippings we took all out as we gutted the door and we found the window glass had been glued into the bottom holder with silicon sealer, but not too well and the glass was halfway out of the holder. So the window glass went to the glass company to be re-seated.
I painted the red GT letters in the small center hubcaps and the grill emblem by masking the letters and spraying with a can - this car is supposed to be the GT model, body 66C, but the VIN plate doesn't confirm that, it says body 66B. The GT model only had a couple trim items so it's not a big deal, but it IS a pretty item.
Since both the windshield chrome and the rear window trim are missing, we've been scanning both EBAY and WWW.RANCHERO.ORG for sources and found the windshield trim at BLUEOVAL.COM for $45+$12 shipping and ordered it. The previous owner had said the chrome was all there in the bed of the car, but later we found he had folded to fit into a container thus ruining it!
My first (of many!) visit to Dearborn Classics netted me a body "build" manual - a reproduction of the book used by the factory to build the body on the assembly line. This has so much detail about the construction of the car that will be invaluable to me later on as we restore the car.
We drove it from Puyallup, WA, to the in-laws outside of Vancouver, WA, 130 miles, where Ken just adjusted the points, timing and carb idle screws and it just purrs! It seems the major problem was that the points had closed up, and the previous owner had adjusted the idle up to compensate. NO BURNT VALVES HERE!
We drove north 290 miles to Lacey, Washington, to buy this car from the previous owner for $1500. We were told the he had already done a newly re-built motor and transmission, new dual exhaust, new distributor, radiator, etc. He told us the motor had a burnt valve so couldn't be driven very far or fast. (yeah, right! like I don't drive very far or fast!) The car sure wouldn't drive very well when hot, but when cold started and drove OK.
We then drove north to Puyallup to spend the night with our friend George, but since our directions were no better than our memory of finding his place we had considerable stress of driving two vehicles after dark, lost, one of them a new-to-us with idling problems, but we DID find it.
The Start
After spending a lot of time on EBAY, and unsuccesfully bidding on several cars, we started browsing AUTOTRADER ONLINE and found this car, close to here, in the Seattle area. I asked my friend, George, who lives near there, to go by and take a look at it to see if it was worth a trip there. His opinion was that it was worth the trip.