Joe Asciutto's 1965 Falcon Ranchero
The Conversion of a Chevy Guy
1965 Falcon Ranchero
Location: San Diego, California
YOU'RE BUILDING A FORD!!!! I DON"T BELIEVE IT! With a list of high performance GM vehicles in my past history, as well as those currently parked in the garage, those are the words that echoed of my shop walls whenever my Chevy friends viewed my new project, a 1965 Ford Falcon Ranchero. To add insult to their injury, this little Ford was going to replace my daily driver, a big block, Chevrolet El Camino. I knew the Ranchero would never be as valuable, or as popular as the El Camino, but I didn't care. It was small and light, so I figured that a mildly modified small block would make it as quick as the El Camino, and logically it should get better gas mileage. I was right on all counts, and have come to love this little truck.
Let me tell you how it all began. A close friend was having some financial difficulties. He also owned an original 1964 Ranchero V8 that had had been sitting in his yard for many years. In order to help him out financially I offered to buy it. I really didn't know what I was going to do with a Ford, but I figured I could probably resell it, or at least part it out and recoup some of my money. When I got it home it was obvious that it had deteriorated far more than I realized. I cleaned it up and tried to sell it, but I wasn't having much luck. I found out that a Ranchero, compared to an El Camino, wasn't all that popular. But fortunately for me something more surprising was occurring. While trying to sell the Ranchero, I had come to like it. Every time I drove into my yard I would see the little truck parked there and I started to think that maybe something like this could be a better daily driver. As I stated before, it was small, light, and at least to me, was a good looking vehicle, even if it was a Ford!
I gradually became convinced that this truck was going to replace my El Camino and become my new "daily driver"; but just how should I set it up? Should I leave it all Ford? Should I put one of my Chevy engines in it? Or how about making a complete hot rod out of it, with a Mustang II front end and a 9" disc brake rear? I even considered a turbo-charged 6-cylinder combination! One major problem was that the body and paint needed several thousand dollars worth of work before I would be happy with it, and the interior wasn't all that much better.
While all of this was going through my head, my brother-in-law, a true Falcon fanatic, was telling me that this once was a very nice truck and I ought to restore it back to stock. He even hinted that he might be interested in buying it from me. I knew that I would never be happy with a totally stock 1964 Ranchero, but I did understand his concern about modifying this particular truck, so I began looking for a different Ranchero. Shortly thereafter I ran across one. I had been watching the local car adds, in particular, the Falcons that were for sale. I observed that there was a 1965 Ranchero for sale that the owner was having problems selling. I decided to look at it. It had a newly rebuilt 289 engine, a C-4 trans, and an almost perfect rust free body. It even had decent paint and interior. He was asking $3000 for it. I offered him $2500 and he agreed to sell it for that price. I bought it and immediately put the running gear and other parts up for sale.
By the way, my brother-in-law did buy the 1964 ranchero and is planning on restoring it sometime in the future.
I sold the engine and transmission out of the 65, along with several other parts, for a total of $1800. I also found & bought a complete 302 engine and AOD trans, out of a wrecked 1988 T-bird, for $500. I now had a 1965 Ranchero with an almost perfect body and a late model engine and trans, for a total investment of $1200. I knew it would cost a lot more than that to finish the truck, but the major stuff was now there, and for a cost that was less than it would have taken to just do the body and paint on the 64.
There was no problem making a decision now. It was going to remain all Ford with a high performance 302 engine and a 4-spd automatic trans. Since this was my first Ford project, it turned out to be quite a Ford learning experience, but one that has proven to be well worth the effort. There is nothing "trick" about this truck, it's just a simple, fun, high performance street vehicle that handles surprisingly well and even gets good gas mileage. What more could you ask for!
I still have a lot of little things left to do before I will call it finished, but these are the specs as of 3-99:
*1965 falcon ranchero (yes it has a 1964 grill)
*302 C.I engine (307 Rear wheel dyno'ed horsepower)
Trick Flow aluminum heads
Ford E-303 roller cam
Edelbrock RPM Performer
manifold w/600 cfm AFB carb.
Headers with 2 1/2" dual exhaust
*4 speed AOD trans w/2000 stall converter
*Ford Motorsports Mustang aluminum radiator
*Front disc brakes (non-power)
*Heavy duty springs, shocks, and front and rear sway bars
*8" rear end with 3:40 gears
*Vintage-Air A/C & heat unit
*Mustang bucket seats (I don't know what year, there were there when I bought it)
*Centerline aluminum wheels:
7" front tires, 215-65x15
8" rear 235-60x15
*Weight w/ 1/2 tank of fuel, 2920 lbs.
And yes, I have way more than $1200 into it now!