After trying to commute in a Corvette (see Falcon that ate it), a pickup truck (tool, not car), and a BMW 528i, I found that leather seats and bouncing my ass off were not things that I wanted to have for extended periods of time. This brought me to obsessing over an old Ford Ranchero for some time, the 1960-65 sort that is, because, well, there’s no accounting for taste. Much like the Falcon, which took me, on some level, several years to stumble across, the Ranchero I recently acquired was probably at least 1.5 years in the searching and pondering. It’s a shit brown 1963; it came with a 302 and C4, which were nearly the only parts on the car worth keeping.
Being overly enthusiastic, and shopping in the rain, like a dumbass, I didn’t really look at the thing too hard. The front, rear, and sides looked okay, and it ran really good, and it had all the basic v8 parts, like an 8-inch (not 9, like the ad said) rear and 5-lug drums. For rain in CA, that was okay. It was relatively cheap, too, given the reality that we’re in the age of the $20,000.00 Falcon.
I drove it home, and that was about it. It was a deathtrap, and upon further inspection, I came to realize that the suspension was shot; one of the rear leaf hangers was broken, and the coils were not located in front. It all had to go away. I put in some stock Mustang parts in front, with a wedge kit, cut 600-pound coils, and Koni classics; I had to make some coil spring locators out of some Speedway Motors parts and some old F250 3.5-inch exhaust tubing. I put some Speedway slider boxes in the rear, and did away with the shackle fiasco completely. Then I threw away the hideous bench seat, and got a look under the carpet.
Bondo, rust, more rust, roofing tar, more rust, riveted and screwed-on, galvanized sheetmetal pieces, more Bondo, and more rust awaited my sad eyes; wait, I forgot to mention the randomly scattered bits of fiberglass that were embedded in some of the Bondo. It all had to go away. Out came the (Milwaukee) Sawzall and the DeWalt angle grinder. (On a side note, or perhaps as a preview to another blog post, I’ve found that age has given way to fewer and fewer Harbor Freight power tools; they’re usually good value, but breaking shit sucks.)
Eventually, the only parts of the floor that made it were the seat pans and the bit of tunnel between them. Once this was done, I knew that just sheetmetal could not go back. This thing hadn’t even come with front torque boxes from Ford, so it was an opportunity to take a theoretically better approach to subframe (if you could call that crap subframes) connectors and lateral support.
Initial support would come from .095 wall 2×2 tubing run/welded (not continuously, but in 1.5-inch beads alternately spaced, top and bottom) the length of the rockers–it was also butted to the remainder (cut out most) of the rear torque boxes, just ahead of the front leaf spring mounts. Just above that, crossing just behind the door sill would be more 2×2, humped up in the middle for drive shaft clearance. You can’t really see it much in the pictures, but under where I stopped cutting out the partly rusted, corrugated rear bulkhead, I welded in a piece of .120-wall 1×1, which would be far easier to attach sheetmetal to. Once sheetmetal was applied, all of these tubes would become boxed, providing considerably more structure than any stupid point-to-point subframe connectors could ever dream of being. More would be added as I went.
I added some .120-wall 2×3 at the front of the rocker tubes, and cut and welded the sections into the original “frame rails.” I then, based on my new transmission choice, moved the original upper crossmember back about 3.5 inches, then added some lateral 2×2 into that to add a bit more heavy-duty. Note the additional 1×1 I welded into the back of the seat pans/tunnel; it’s .120-wall, and it butts directly into the rocker tubes. Then I started experimenting with my ghetto sheetmetal brake . . .
I threw in a couple more tubes, in practice for putting a floor in the stupid Falcon at some point.
Admittedly, some of my tunnel looks pretty heinous–this is partly due to the fact that the radius decreases way more and way more suddenly from where it used to with the old crossmember location, and partly due to the fact that I don’t know shit about working with sheetmetal. I’m okay with it, because paint, seam sealer, sound deadener, and carpet, beotch.
It should be pretty sturdy, and actually resist twisting a bit without a roll cage in place. Unfortunately, during one of the multiple times I’ve had to install the new engine (free, because I sold the one it came with for the same amount), I’ve had to cut out part of my new floor–there was also some shock tower carnage, but I may address that in another post.
This car is getting a Ford Exploder 5.0 and a 4r70 automatic. I’m trying to change as little as possible . . .
Oh, and I’ve not addressed the frontal bed area yet (aside from cutting out rusted crap), but Ford should have taken a community beating for the most moronic, water-trapping idiocy ever for that pit.