Automotive History: The Ford RF-500 – Gee Martha, If You Squint, It Really Looks Like An LTD

68Ford-RF500-Rankin-Ford

What constitutes rare? It’s a term that get bandied about in the automobile world with reckless abandon, and oftentimes, is abused. We’ve all seen the Hemmings or E-Bay listings advertising an auto as being, for example, “one of 16 ever built with with AC, radio delete, 3-on-the-tree and the pink & purple polka dot interior option”. Based on this criteria, every car ever made could have this label applied to it.  We all know that a Boss 429 Mustang or Hemi powered Mopar E-body convertible  is rare. The  former for being a rare model, the latter for an unusual body style and powertrain choice. By the latter criteria, I would like to nominate a ’72 Mustang with the 351-HO engine as rare. By the former criteria, I would like to nominate the above car as being exceedingly rare: the Ford RF-500.

The what? That looks like a brochure pic of a Ford Custom that someone crudely photochopped an LTD grill and vinyl roof onto. I have a confession to make: That’s exactly what it is. However, products closely resembling this did leave the line at Ford’s Oakville, Ontario plant. I would have never known about this car had it not been for a copy of a book I found in a Calgary Public Library branch on a cold autumn afternoon in 1992. It was title “Canadian Cars”, by Perry Zavitz.

Oh sure, I knew all about the Meteors, the Canadian Pontiacs, and the mix & match sheetmetal Chrysler products, AKA Plodges. However, a very short paragraph mentioned something that even a most ardent full-size Ford enthusiast such as myself had never heard of: The Rankin-Ford RF-500. Evidently commissioned  by London, Ontario based dealer, Rankin Ford, the RF-500 was created by grafting an LTD hidden headlight front onto a base Custom 2-d0or sedan, and topping it with a black vinyl toupee. A similar package was on offer for 1969 as well.

 

69Ford-RF500-Rankin-Ford

In the ensuing years, I have been on an obsessive quest to find any and all information on this freak show rare and obviously valuable classic. It has been all for naught. The only information extant on the web is in the final paragraph of Ford of Canada’s heritage site on postwar Fords.

http://www.ford.ca/heritage/#page=postWarFords

To save you the click, I will simply repost what it said.

“On very rare occasions, dealers would concoct a variation from the normal production model. In 1968 and 1969, at least one Ford dealer sold a special Custom two-door sedan model. It featured a vinyl-covered roof, and the LTD front end with hidden headlights. This was an unusual combination of prestige in the very bottom end of the full-size Ford range. “

Not even a  mention of the dealer’s name, which, thanks to Mr. Zavitz’s book, I already knew. Subsequent research on Rankin Ford indicates that the agency was at least prosperous enough that it could afford to field a succession of B/FX drag racing Falcons in the 60s. Evidently, Rankin Ford possessed enough clout with the factory that they could get this built just for them.

http://www.hemmings.com/mus/stories/2005/03/01/hmn_feature15.html

One has to wonder at the rationale for offering this package. The meme of the cheapskate   fiscally prudent Canadian car buyer is well known on this board. Was there a public clamoring for a taxi-cab like 2-door sedan with a high-end model’s  face grafted on? The last line of the Ford Heritage site  got me to thinking. “An unusual combination of prestige in the very bottom of the range”. The mind’s eye pictures a man very much like Bob & Doug McKenzie’s father

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0086373/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

lounging out on his front stoop in his undershirt after a hard day at the factory, stubby of Molson’s in hand, admiring the sleek, hidden headlamp prow of his new Ford, smugly & silently congratulating himself on his shrewd purchase, which looked “just like an LTD”, at least from a distant front view.

 

68Custom-4dr-int

 

That jig would soon be up upon getting into the car, as he would be presented with a view very similar to this (4-door model shown)

69Custom-dash

or this, possibly, depending on what year he had.

And Mr. McKenzie had better have been diligent about getting it Ziebarted upon purchase, and subsequent bi-annual oilings of it’s underside, or it would have degenerated into a pile of orange flakes faster than you could say “take off, you hoser”, Ontario being in the very heart of salt country. This factor alone, along with the regional nature of it’s sales, practically guarantees that these are extinct today.

4289400_l3

But then again, one never knows. Maybe somewhere, in the rickety old garage  of a brick house somewhere in southern Ontario, there sits an RF-500.  So, Doug, like… what are we gonna do with dad’s old Ford eh?