COAL: 1995 Ford Ranger XL – Son of Ranger


Mine was dark blue, not teal

Perhaps I fibbed a bit when I said that the 1989 Dodge Omni was the only brand-new car I ever bought. On a technicality, Son of Ranger wasn’t a car, and neither was it technically brand new, although I was the first titled owner. I bought it with 6500 miles on the clock, and although the salesman insisted it was a demo, it was clear that it was really the shop’s parts runner.

I bought this truck for the same reasons I’d bought the Omni – I was sick of owning unreliable, crappy cars to the point where I was willing to take on a loan just to have something decent to drive.

I paid $9000 out the door, which included an $800 trade value for the Volvo known as Nora (the first). The truck was almost as stripped out as one could buy, including rubber floors, a vinyl bench seat, steel wheels with dog-dish hubcaps, and manual steering but power brakes. The only two options listed on the sticker were heavy-duty springs (1600 lb. payload) and (slightly) oversized tires – 205’s vs. the base 195’s.

That’s it, just a plain truck. The kind of truck people lament about no longer being available. And it was a perfectly serviceable vehicle, for both commuting and road trips. However it really wasn’t particularly good at those things. The heavy payload package made the truck really bouncy when empty. The twin-spark 2.3 liter I-4 had neither particularly good power nor particularly good fuel economy.

The truck could be made to ride a lot better with the heavy load the springs were designed for. It rode great when hauling gravel or a heavy roto-tiller I’d borrowed. Problem was, while the load smoothed the ride out, that poor 2.3 could barely get the heavily-loaded truck moving without a lot of clutch slipping.

Regular-cab compact trucks are, well, cramped. And while a good old-fashioned bench seat might seem like a good idea for date night, it really doesn’t accomplish much when there’s a big ol’ shifter in the way!

Which brings about my theory about why trucks like this are no longer sold. People who drove them said, “This thing would be great if only it had more room inside and more power.” So they bought V-6, extended-cab versions of the small trucks. And then they realized that those trucks didn’t really do anything better than a full-size truck would do, and didn’t really get better MPG anyhow. Aside from fleet buyers who weren’t ever going to drive the stripped-out Rangers they were buying for their employees, it turned out that not enough people thought compact trucks were a good idea, so these models just went away or became significantly larger.

Anyhow, I drove the Ranger for 4 years until the loan was paid off. A co-worker had just retired his old Ranger, and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. The Ranger really cost me next to nothing to own, operate, and depreciate over the 4 years I owned it.

Besides, by the time I sold it, I really wasn’t driving it much anymore. Please come back next week to read, “Nora II, III, IV, etc – Own ALL the Volvo 240s!”