Monthly Archives: August 2014

Falcon Rancheros of the world, Unite!

Business in the back, party in the front

Business in the back, party in the front

The inspiration for feralcars.com came after noting  just how many Ford Falcons have survived over the past six decades.   “Feral Falcons” posts on Facebook morphed into this site so our roots, it could be said, lie with Ford’s compact car. Many of those still-flying Falcons are Rancheros, the trucklette created by transforming the station wagon variant into a small pickup.

Haulin' little birdie

Haulin’ little birdie

The Rancheros car/truck concept debuted in 1957 and continued through ’59, based on full-size Fords and those, in turn, inspired Chevy’s El Camino. The Falcon-based Ranchero, however,  truly ignited the mini truck revolution in which Toyota and Datsun would soon play their part.

Dio's machina

Deus ex machina

We thought we’d celebrate Labor Day by offering a gallery of Falcon Rancheros, all caught in the wild.  While many are still hard at work, hauling whatever piles of detritus one may choose to toss in the load bed, we’re giving them the day off in recognition of their travails for the last 50+ years.

Distressed express

Distressed express

Ranchero was an integral part of the Falcon line through 1965 and a disproportionate number are still in service. We’re partial to the raw, un-restored, examples found in a condition  that seems to underscore plebian roots.   Let’s salute them on this day of the worker!

Ruffled feathers

Ruffled feathers

Falcon ranger

Snappy kestrel

After 1965 Ranchero was based on the larger Fairlane platform and, ultimately, forswore its working class origin, transforming into a muscle car that happened to have a load bed.  Fairlane yielded to Torino and this less-than-demure ’72 Ranchero GT with a bitchin’ hood scoop is a prime example of that  change in attitude.

Ranchero aggresso

Aggro Ranchero

Here’s a Starsky & Hutch era ’78 Ranchero that shares its platform with the LTD II/Thunderbird of the time. Aside from the fact that it’s a Ford built car based truck, its arriviste affect really has very little in common with that of the humble Falcon Ranchero that we celebrate today.

Blowed up real good

Snooty social striver

The basic Falcon Ranchero concept was revived by Volkwagen in the late ’70s with the Rabbit Pickup, built in Westmoreland, PA over a four year production run.  We encountered this diesel powered 1980 example in rural Kelseyville CA the other day and its owner reports that he’s had 22 of these over the course of time.  The motor on this one has been swapped out for a relatively recent TDi diesel and yields mpg in the mid 40s.  How’s that for addressing the concerns of the working person?

Bauer = Ranchero auf Deutsche

Arbeit macht frei?

 If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com.  Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted

 

 

Buick’s rowdy aristocrat

Black Air in action!

Black Air in action!

Not too long ago we encountered something rare, something inspiring and something, perhaps, a bit  sinister: a 1987 Buick Regal Grand National.  Buick’s reputation from the ’50s related to gaudy adornment, port holes, a wallowy ride and slow shifting Dynaflow automatic transmission.  Flash forward to the 1980s and Buick, despite its identification with the AARP set, becomes GM’s kick ass division by dint of the fact that the Regal’s ultimate high performance variant, the Grand National, was a monster, albeit a monster dressed in formal attire.  We saw an ’87 Grand National, black grill, no bright work, wearing a T-top, blast by the other day and recollected that this was the fastest car built on an assembly line in its time. Equipped with a turbo-charged V-6 developing  245 or 276 hp with 355 – 360 pound feet of torque and a O – 60  time of 4.7 seconds, Buick’s factory-built hot rod could smoke a Corvette which had two more cylinders and no back seat.  Win = Buick.

Torqued out!

Torqued out!

Despite its cushy, bourgeois Buick breeding, this was one of the best bang-for-the-buck cars of all time.  You could buy one off the showroom floor of an unsuspecting Buick dealer more accustomed  to selling LeSabres, for as  little as $18,500. That translates to $38,814 in today’s money.  Does it sounds like a lot?  It shouldn’t because you’d be getting a super car for about half of what you’d pay for a Porsche or, even, a Corvette.  Did we mention the backseat?

Eleganza gone wrong

Eleganza gone wrong

The Grand National version of the Regal faded to memory as Buick got back to its core business: selling softly sprung barges and baby barges to geriatric types, catering to the oldest demo in the book..  The mock convertible roof on this ’88 Regal GS that was captured in Manhattan by Feral Cars Field Scout Jim Bessman is a gauche take on external luxury.  Seems like the fiery Grand National has a bit more dignity that this tarted up coupe.

Regal resolve

Regal resolve

At its inception, Regal was imagined to be a downsized Riviera to compete with Thunderbird and Cougar and GM sister divisions’ Monte Carlo, Grand Prix and Cutlass.  We think this ’77, found in a Miami Beach shopping mall, has quite a bit of assertive presence, especially in this era of look alike wind-styled blobs.

Regal ruled early on

Regal ruled early on

The ultimate expression of the first generation Regal, this black beauty belies the conventional wisdom that ’70s style was overly baroque and/or uninspired.  We do admit that the vinyl clad half-roof seems gratuitous but it’s really quite understated by the standards of the year that begat Saturday Night Fever.

Yes, we really would rather have one

Yes, we really would rather have one

The Grand National GNX is the subject of a much lauded documentary film entitled Black Air in  recognition that all were painted black and turbocharged. The trailer is really worth checking out as is this “Bad To The Bone” -themed 1984 commercial with George Thorogood sounding somewhat convincing and this much, much milder one with Glenn Ford.  Think they were influenced to hire the Blackboard Jungle survivor so it could say that Ford endorses Buick?

There are no fewer than 14 Grand Nationals for sale at this time on Hemmings.com so it may really be the time to ask yourself if you really wouldn’t rather have a Buick.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com.  Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted


 

 

Keha’s Plymouth Horizon never sets

The Blue Horizon never ends

The Blue Horizon never ends

We were delighted and amazed to meet lovely Keha McIlwaine the other day as she lounged behind the wheel of her 1986 Plymouth Horizon.  She told us she had driven the car out to California from New York a few months back and encountered no difficulties despite the fact that the odometer is closing in on 150,000 miles.  We especially like the duct tape around the parking light.  This kind of ingenuity worked for Apollo 13, so it would seem  a logical solution for a terrestrial vehicle with certain needs.

Plymouth pride will out

Plymouth pride will out (NOTE: ultra feral ’68 Chevy Caprice just ahead)

Plymouth Horizon and corporate twin Dodge Omni were introduced in 1978 and the same basic car stayed in production for 12 years.  They were fielded by Chrysler to compete with Volkswagen’s Rabbit and, like that bunny, were powered by a transverse mounted 4-cylinder motor via front wheel drive. Most mass-produced cars these days are configured this way but the “Omnirizon” twins were the first American cars of this kind and were jointly named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 1978.   We salute Keha who, paradoxically, pronounces her name like a certain Korean car spelled with three letters.

Hop-a-long VW

Hop-a-long VW

Volkswagen Rabbits of this general vintage are much more plentiful than their Plymouth and Dodge counterparts so we offer two such here to underscore the point.  Both of these are diesel-powered which may provide a clue to their preternatural longevity.

Oil-burning sweaty Rabbit

Oil-burning sweaty Rabbit

Diesel-powered VW = Sooty Rabbit

Diesel-powered VW = Sooty Rabbit

For quite a few model years, the Horizon co-existed with its ultimate replacement, Plymouth Sundance.  We’re not sure we’d exhibit the kind of loyalty Keha has for her Horizon if we had to tango with something like this over the long haul.

Unbutch: Plymouth's Sundance

Unbutch

Dappled Sundance

Dappled Sundance

Chrysler touted Horizon with lots of red, white and blue advertising such as this “The Pride Is Back” commercial that has a distinct Springsteenian undertone. The truth is that Simca, its French subsidiary, later offloaded to Peugeot, did the initial development work on this car.  Let’s keep that notre petit secret, d’accord?

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com.  Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted