1978 Ford
Ranchero 500
Utility Vehicle/Pickup

57,763 miles
302 V-8 w/Automatic
SelectAire Air Conditioning
Raised White Letter Radials
Magnum 500 Wheels
AM/FM Radio/Power Steering
Power Brakes/Day-Date Clock
Dual Sport Mirrors, Factory Camper Shell

(SOLD 07/28/2020)

July 28, 2020 - After just a week of listing in my car club newsletter, the Ranchero has a new home ahead.  Partly because it is a rare and unusual vehicle that is very solid, and partly because I sold it cheap.  The new owner actually runs a garage, so sorting out the various mechanical issues left will be quick and easy, especially since I already have most of the parts in hand. Plus, he's  Ford guy (mostly).  I had originally I might try to make the Ranchero a toy and bump up the horsepower, but it is just not my kind of car.  Or truck.  Or whatever.  In any case, it leaves my hands much better than it entered.
July 19, 2020 - A lot of small jobs completed over the weekend despite high humidity and 95+ temperatures.  A new fuel pump, air and PCV filters, electric idle control valve, and fuel hose for the engine, and new wiper blades and a new driver's side wiper arm.  The brakes are adjusted out, though the passenger side is too tight and is being reluctant to loosen up again.  And I removed the aftermarket trailer hitch that was in the way and had the license plate sitting halfway behind the bumper.  It turns out there were only two bolts holding the bumper on, which explained why it wasn't aligned properly.  Some new bolts and a little bit of adjustment and I have the bumper and license back as they should be.
July 17, 2020 - So it only took a bit over two months to get the right side rear brakes replaced.  The shoes are excellent, so I just cleaned those up.  Thanks to the low mileage and clean underside, the brake line came free easily, and I fitted a new wheel cylinder and hardware.  More to do still, such as brake lines, front pads, master cylinder.  You, know - little stuff.  But I did also take advantage of the Ranchero's roots as a Ford and got new window cranks for $3.50 each.  Other items on the way include a new fuel pump and carburetor.
July 7, 2020 - Despite sitting outside in grass for at least eight months, the Ranchero's camper shell is in amazing condition.  Even the screens in the sliding windows are good.  I gave the cap a good cleaning inside before installing it tonight with good neighbor John's assistance. The outside was mottled gray with lots of black spots, but it all came clean with some Whitely's Whitewall cleaner and 0000 steel wool liberally soaked with soapy water.  I am amazed at how much difference the cap makes - I really like the Ranchero a lot better with it on. Besides being more practical for carrying anything, it is even more unique than before.  I've never seen another Ranchero with the shell still on it.  One clamp broke, but that is an easy fix. The seal is in excellent shape, and the shell looks to fit well. One issue for later - the rear window seal is missing, so it will leak around there until I come up with a replacement. Still, this is a great improvement for the cost of gas to go pick it up!
July 6, 2020 - A major item for the Ranchero made it home tonight - when I bought the car I was told the previous owner still had the factory camper shell and I could pick it up any time.  It took a while to work things out, but the prior owner called tonight to let me know I could get it any time.  Best Bud Chip went over with me and we loaded it up in the Mazda's bed.  The top is in excellent condition, with no obvious damage and good seals and hardware.  I was expecting it to be pretty junky, so this was all a terrific surprise.  I need to clean the top inside and out, but hope to get it in place this weekend.
May 31, 2020 - Sharp-eyed Richard stopped by yesterday and noticed that the Ranchero was probably missing some sort of grille or cover for the cowl.  I checked picture on line a sure enough, there were supposed to be two plastic grilles keeping leaves and debris out.  A quick trip to Pick-N-Pull located the needed items on the 1978 Thunderbird that also provided a wiper arm last week. 
May 17, 2020 - A couple of small items today - I picked up the original air cleaner for the Ranchero from the seller, and got it cleaned up and installed. I also located the previous owner and found out that the camper shell is indeed still around and mine for the taking.  It is over at his shop and I can pick up up when I want it.
May 15, 2020 - The Ranchero's cover arrived tonight, and I gave it the first bath - the car cleaned up nicely, especially the bed.  I am pleased with the cover - not custom fit, but close enough that it doesn't matter.  Took the car around the block a few times. 

 

May 14, 2020 - It took a bit of cutting and crimping, but I was able to get the new wires properly fit - out of the box they were way too long and looked terrible.  With the engine running pretty well, I took the car around the block a few times.  It is a HUGE car - it feels and probably is bigger than the 1986 Buick Electra, which was a full-sized luxury car just 8 years later.  Given the year, weight, and 302 engine, I wasn't surprised that the Ranchero is not what I would consider a performance car.  Some improvements can probably be made, but there is a major difference in the feel of the 302 and the hi-po 289 that was in my 1967 Cougar. Looks like a water pump leak - I knew it was losing some coolant, and that is a cheap and easy fix.
May 12, 2020 - The left side is finished up now - the photo I took before I started was a huge help getting everything back in place. I also installed a new distributor cap, rotor and spark plug wires.  Everything on the car was factory original from 1978. The wires were a disappointment - they were supposed to be 'professional grade custom fit', but are way too long. I figured out how to shorten them, though it is tedious work.  Two done, and six to go. A car cover is coming, and it is now on my Hagerty policy.
May 11, 2020 - There was enough time after work today to start on the rear brakes. They bear out the 57K mileage - the shoes are great and cleaned up with some sandpaper.  No sign of leakage at the wheel cylinder or axle seal, but general rust as expected after 42 years.  I have a new hardware kit for most, though I did have to go back to O'Reilly's for new brake adjuster cables.  The brake line came off with no issues, though I had to use a hammer to knock the old wheel cylinder out of the backing plate.  Everything is cleaned and painted and ready to go back in tomorrow night.  Then I will do the right side, and replace the master cylinder and rubber hoses.  Not expensive, but important work! 
May 10, 2020 - Lots of activity on the Ranchero this past week.  I found a good steering wheel (black) at the junkyard for $20 and have  special paint coming to make it the proper dark red.  The turn signal switch was struggling with a flasher that only worked part of time time - I installed a new flasher and signals, flashers, and brake lights are working properly.  Feeling brave, I decided to attack the right exhaust manifold, where i could hear a leak.  I have been drenching the studs and bolts with penetrating oil the past week, but even so I was shocked at how easily the studs came out!  All was clean and solid, including the gasket.  Looks like the exhaust donut needs to be replaced, but that should be fairly easy.  I cleaned up the studs and installed the new gasket - no real change, but I feel better about the exhaust leak.  Also installed a brake pedal pad, and got in the new brake parts, plugs, wires, shop manuals, and dealer literature.
May 4, 2020 - While the Ranchero has a lot of issues to deal with, by far the most worrisome was the fact that the turn signals all lit up when you hit the brakes, and didn't work at all otherwise. I replaced bulbs and added grounds in the back to no avail, and also removed a rat's nest of wiring jury-rigged for trailer lights. That narrowed things down a bit to a potentially bad turn signal switch or (shudder) a short in the wiring.  The only key that came with the Ranchero (above, right) was twisted and badly worn, so getting duplicate would have been chancy at best. A new ignition and door lock set ordered Saturday arrived today and I decided to install it. This required removal of the steering wheel with the puller kit (above left) I bought a decade or more ago when Western Auto closed up shop.  The ignition switch has a button to lock it in place - you have to partially remove the turn signal switch to get at it, but the job was done quickly.  While I had access to the turn signal switch, I checked things out - all looked good, but the hazard light switch, which is part of it, felt odd.  I played with the hazard knob a bit and got it to seat.  When I got everything back in place, I tried the ignition, which worked smoothly, and also discovered I had turn signals!  With those successes behind me, I went ahead and installed both door locks, also quick and easy. A new turn signal switch is already on order, along with the parts to redo the brakes and give the car a tune-up.  A very productive couple of hours!
May 2, 2020 - I got under the Ranchero for the first time today. It was parked in wet grass and mud when I looked at it and I had taken something of a chance. However, the underside looks terrific - no rust at all, a newer exhaust system, air shocks, and a leak-free rear axle. Most of the issues are minor electric things. A new dimmer switch and some bulbs got the headlights all working, and a couple of bad bulbs in the back had to be replaced. No turn signals yet, and when you hit the brakes the parking lights all come on! A factory wiring diagram is on the way. I also replaced what looked like the original fuel filter from 1978 and replaced a bad fuse which brought the oil and brake warning lights to life.  There were a couple of old cans of R-12 in the garage, which got the compressor turning smoothly.  A vacuum leak is preventing the flaps from working properly, but at least I know the system works.  In the meantime, I am soaking the right exhaust header studs and bolts in penetrating oil in hopes of getting it off for a gasket replacement.
April 30, 2020 - April showers bring...Rancheros? I saw this 1978 Ranchero a few weeks ago at $5500 and thought it looked decent - 57K miles, running well, solid body.  The price steadily dropped until it was advertised for $3000 including a camper top. Feeling the urge, I called my Best Bud Chip to get talked out of even taking a look.  "Oh, that red and white one?  I've been watching that, too."  The car was located just a few miles from the house, so after torrential rains had let up to occasional drizzle, I had to make an inspection.  Besides being remarkably solid for the period, it had new tires and new-looking sport wheels, was unmolested and complete.  The 302's choke was not cooperative, but once the car warmed up it ran great and shifted well.  Lots of small things wrong - exhaust leak, weak brakes, bad paint, and some other problems that must have overwhelmed the seller who had only had it a couple of months.  When I hesitated, he offered it to me for $2300.  He had the title, I had the cash, and 30 minutes later it was sitting on the pad next to my garage.  The camper top should be available this weekend.  It's all Chip's fault!

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