COAL: 1984 Ford Ranger – We All Fall In Love, But We Disregard The Ranger


[Not mine. This is the fancy XLT with two-tone paint]

Sometimes we buy cars with our heads, and sometimes we buy cars with our hearts. Every time I have let my heart do the deciding it turns out poorly. One day, I just decided I wanted a truck. I didn’t have any particular reason for wanting one – I had nothing to haul and nothing to tow. I just wanted a truck. I went down to the skid row of car dealers in town and traded in the Chevrolet Sprint for a 1984 Ford Ranger XL Longbed. It didn’t turn out well.

The minimalist in me always liked pickups, especially small ones. There’s a box up front for the engine, a place to sit, and a place for stuff. That’s all, nothing else.

My truck was a bit oddly equipped. Because it was a longbed, I was spared from the weak 2.0 found in base-model shortbed Rangers. Instead, I got the 2.3, basically the Pinto engine. My truck had power steering, but unassisted brakes. Cloth bench seat, but rubber floors.


It also had the notoriously bad paint that lots of cars had in the early 80s had. It came off my truck in sheets. I paid a buddy probably more money than I ought to have, to paint it in his garage. It came back to me full of overspray and runs.

Then the head gasket blew. I had never replaced a head gasket before, but I sure had read a lot of books. Let’s just say I learned a lot about how not to replace a head gasket. For one thing, if the book says to re-torque the head bolts after so many miles, well, not doing that is a bad idea.

Looking back, the Ranger was a good learning experience, but I bought it bad because I bought it with my heart. That’s the lesson I really should have learned, but it took a few more dumb choices before that tidbit of information took hold in my brain. I sold the Ranger a few years later for about what I had into it, so it wasn’t all bad, I guess.

While I had it down for the head gasket job, I bought a beater to get me around. Stay tuned for that story next week…