Curbside Classic: 1969 Ford F-100 Ranger–Faded but Still Glorious

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If you were born after a certain time, you think of the Ranger only as Ford’s (lost, lamented) compact truck. But from 1965 through 1970, Ford crowned its toniest full-sized trucks with the Ranger name. You could get no truck more tricked out than Ford’s Ranger. (In 1971, a seasonal special truck with extra goodies was christened Explorer. That ought to break the minds of Gen-Y readers who know that name only because of Mom’s old SUV.)

I found this Ford F-100 Ranger way out on the east side of Fishers, Indiana, an upper-middle-class Indianapolis suburb. I’m there a few times a week, and I occasionally see a restored and pampered older car pulling out of one of the many vinyl villages that line the town’s main roads. So I was surprised (but delighted) when I came upon this survivor.

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And what a survivor! Most 40-plus-year-old unrestored trucks wish they still looked this good. Sure, there’s rust and faded paint. But except for a couple AWOL wheel covers and a missing trim strip, all the bits are still present.

I could tell from the grille that this Ranger was from the late 60s: The 1967, 1968 and 1969 Ford trucks have similar grilles. From some internet sleuthing I learned that the 1969 grille has a groove along the middlemost horizontal slat that is always painted red on Rangers. Groove = 1969; now, you know.

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This Ranger carries the same Pure White and Candy Apple Red color scheme and trim as the one Ford advertised in its 1969 truck brochure, one of the many ways it’s the archetypal ’69 Ranger.

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Of course, Ranger was just a trim level that offered greater comfort and style over the lesser standard and Custom F-100s. In addition to all the extra bright trim outside, you got a little wood grain and chrome on the dash, color-keyed textured vinyl upholstery and a spiffy Ranger badge on the glove box door. Nice details if you’re a truck fan; lipstick on the pig if you’re not. Because no matter what the brochure says about a car-like ride, this truck is very much a truck.

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All of the interior goodies are present on this Ranger, but that vinyl seat could use a serious cleaning. You’ll have to trust me on everything east of the gauge panel–when I shot this I had not yet begun heeding Herr Niedermeyer’s advice for successful interior photography, namely shooting from the passenger-side window with the camera close to the glass. The sunset sure cast a wicked glare.

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Dig that storage compartment on the side of the bed–I wonder why that option disappeared in later years. It seems mighty useful.

This Ranger hung out in this very spot for about a week before it moved on, and it had no license plate. Was it temporarily not running? Here’s hoping it moved from this spot under its own power, and is out playing on the country roads that lurk not far from this lot.