COAL:1986 Ford Ranger – Compact Truck, Full-Size Thirst

After moving in together with my then-girlfriend, we decided that we didn’t need two car payments, and that I’d get rid of my 2005 Civic.  Despite it being a dead-reliable and economical car, it was stick-shift, which she couldn’t drive, and not much fun to drive, unlike her 2005 Mazda 3.  I did use the Coronet for the summer, but for the winter I wanted a truck.  And my brother had just blown up the transmission in his.

An ’86 Ranger XLT, with a 2.9, 4-speed automatic, and bright red interior.  He had bought it from a student here at the Coast Guard College, who had brought it with him from somewhere out West.  Thus, the body and frame were in quite good condition.  It had a pile of kilometers on it, but aside from the transmission, it worked well.

I think it had rolled 287,000 KM.

I located a replacement three-speed automatic and manual transfer case for it, and swapped some parts for it.  A set of driveshafts were made, and we were off to the races.  The one less gear in the transmission made the truck just awful on fuel.  On the highway it worked out to something like 13 MPG.  Anyhow, without a car payment, it wasn’t much of an issue.

On a weekend road trip mid-winter.

Despite its propensity for eating fuel, it proved reliable.  We did a few winter trips in it, and it was quite good in the snow.  It wasn’t super roomy, but you could stick stuff behind the seat easily enough.  For running back and forth to work, it suited the bill.  The 2.9 always started up well, and wasn’t scared to rev.  Ford’s Cologne V6’s seemed to have a bit of a mixed reputation, but this one was one of the good ones.

My wife-to-be and I also had a fledgling interest in camping.  I’d done some research, and decided that a small fibreglass trailer would be the best option for us.  Small, easy to tow, weather-tight.  We found a Trillium Jubilee for a reasonable price, and liking what we saw, we bought it.  Then it came time to tow it home.  The poor little Ranger was too underpowered to haul the camper any distance.  I had to keep my foot heavily on the throttle to keep up with the traffic, and upon getting home, the truck smelled of hot oil and grease.  It wouldn’t last long towing.  It wasn’t so much that the trailer was heavy (it wasn’t) but there was so much flat frontal area on the front of the camper, that the faster I tried to go, the heavier the load was on the truck.  After hooking it to the Scout, it hauled it with ease with its 304 V8.

The body was starting to look tired on the truck and it was due for its MVI, so I did some rudimentary body work on it, and sprayed it with the paint I could buy at cost from work, black with a yellow bottom.  It turned out OK.  Unfortunately I hadn’t replaced the tires yet…While driving down to my house from my father’s next door, I went to stop on the slick grass and ended up sliding into the corner of the house.


You can see how bald the tires were in the picture above.  The house fared out fine, thankfully – I’d caught it on the corner.  I was pretty much disgusted with myself, and the truck.  I gave the truck back to my brother, and father –  they fixed it up and sold it.  I think it ended up as a plow truck.  Now I was on the hunt for a cheap winter beater.  More on that next week.