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Took Years to Find the 1971 Ford Ranchero GT of His Dreams

Chuck Fisher has always had a thing for muscle cars built with a bed out back. Ever since he can remember, at least one has been sitting in his driveway. His mom, Barb, was a muscle car lover and a gearhead when Chuck was growing up, and was smitten with these sporty, utilitarian rides from the get-go. She was especially fond of 396-motivated El Caminos, as they made great family trucksters during Chuck’s early years.

When Chuck was 5 years old, his mom met his future stepdad. This guy was a true biker in every sense of the word and had plenty of iron horses and Harley hardware to prove it. Back then, Chevy El Caminos and Ford Rancheros were very popular with the two-wheeler guys, not only because they were muscle cars but also because they were good for transporting bikes if needed. So it wasn’t surprising that when his stepdad joined the family, a bad-to-the-bone Ford Ranchero also came as part of the parental package.

1971 Ford Ranchero GT © Hot Rod Network Staff

Initially, Barb wasn’t thrilled with the Blue Oval truck. She was still hooked on the “bedded” Chevy toys that she had relied on over the years. But that sleek, black 1968 Ranchero soon became her main car, and she quickly realized that this Ford was one sweet ride. To Chuck, that car not only symbolized the love that he developed at a young age for American muscle cars but also the beginning of the first stable family life he had ever known. When his stepdad passed away only a decade later, the Ranchero in the driveway was a constant reminder of the man’s strong presence and the positive influence he had on their lives.

1971 Ford Ranchero GT © Hot Rod Network Staff

Over the years that followed, Chuck’s mom customized that rowdy Ranchero, adding pinstripes, a set of Cragars, and custom artwork (roses and Harley-Davidson “wings” for her late husband) on the back window. But one day the Ranchero was gone, and in its place in the driveway sat a beautiful big-block Chevelle convertible. The loss of that Ranchero didn’t sit well with Chuck. It was like he lost a part of the family, and it definitely took time for the youngster to adjust.

Soon afterwards, his mom bought a fairly new 1979 El Camino, which teenage Chuck immediately took to. It got the same treatment as the Ford that came before it, as a set of Cragars and side pipes were quickly installed. To the young hot rodder, the Camino looked pretty killer with its black and gold paint scheme. That particular Chevy would serve Chuck throughout his teen years, and from that point on he would never have less than one hopped-up EC in his garage at any one time.

1971 Ford Ranchero GT © Hot Rod Network Staff

Ranchero in Hand

Over the years Chuck never stopped thinking about that Ranchero. One day he scratched that itch by buying a completely restored 1968 Sunlit Gold Poly specimen that came up for sale locally. He thought he had finally filled that hole that Mom’s ride once occupied, but this Ford just didn’t feel right. He knew he needed a bit more; more of the things that really made his adrenalin pump. Things like a true performance powerplant between the rails, some muscle car options, and a four-speed stick in his hands.

He mentally drew up his dream Ranchero. First off, he really wanted the 1970-1971 body style, as its muscular shape just oozed aggression and power. He also knew the truck needed to be glazed in deep black paint and it had to be built with a manual transmission attached to a healthy performance V-8. Chuck realized that he would probably never see this vision in person, or at least anything like it. It would be one rare ride for sure. But Chuck looked . . . and looked.

He scanned the local want ads and hit local shows. He jumped to the internet, where he scoured online auctions and ads, looking for the elusive utility. For years he drew a blank. It just wasn’t something you could come upon often, or ever. “I thought I’d have a better chance at winning the Powerball than finding this dream car,” says Chuck. And most guys would be right. But not Chuck. He just has a knack for finding things.

1971 Ford Ranchero GT © Hot Rod Network Staff

Chuck’s Luck

In March 2014 a listing came up online for an estate auction featuring a low-mileage 1969 Shelby Mustang. Intrigued, Chuck read down the list of other items being offered, and his eyes nearly flew out of his head when he read of a very original 1971 Ranchero among the lots. It was a four-speed, 351 Cleveland-motivated Ranchero with a shaker hood, and all dressed in black.

Not only was it a 50,000-original-mile car, but it had 90 percent of its original paint, the balance being a touch-up after a fender bender. The original M-code 351 Cleveland was a healthy specimen, and it was hooked to a four-speed Top Loader transmission. Out back, a Traction Lok rear was stuffed with 3.50 gears. With disc brakes, power steering, a Rim Blow wheel, a console, and the original shaker hood, the Ranchero was everything Chuck wanted.

Unfortunately, things at the auction didn’t go as he hoped. The Ranchero fetched way more than the sum he had in his pocket, and he sadly backed away from the car and even gave up on his search—for a while.
A few years later Chuck decided to look for a Ranchero again. One night on an auction website the first Ranchero to pop up was none other than that particular dream truck. It seems that the owner who took her home from the estate auction was now putting her up for sale. This time Chuck was not going to let her go.

1971 Ford Ranchero GT © Hot Rod Network Staff

He met with the owner and made his best pitch for the car, but the owner balked. So Chuck went out to eat and cleared his head at a local diner. He then called the owner again and gave him a final cash deal over the phone. Amazingly enough, his last-chance, desperate shot paid off and the offer was accepted. Chuck came back and claimed his prize, threw on a set of tags, and proceeded to drive the truck the 200-plus miles back home to Connecticut.

The Ranchero now sits in a collection of several original muscle rides that Chuck has discovered over the years. His mom fell in love with his new ride immediately, and his wife Karen . . . well, she took a while to come around but now loves the sporty Blue Oval. As with all his four-wheeled possessions, this car will not be a trailer queen. Chuck’s not afraid to take them out and use them for what they were intended. This ride is no exception, because Chuck’s Ranchero has all the dressings he ever wanted in a muscle car, plus a bed to boot.


At a Glance

1971 Ranchero GT
Owned by: Chuck Fisher
Restored by: Unrestored original
Engine: 1971 351ci/285hp M-code Cleveland V-8
Transmission: Top Loader 4-speed manual
Rearend: 9-inch with 3.50 gears and Traction Lok
Interior: Black vinyl bucket seat
Wheels: 15×7 Magnum 500
Tires: F60-15 Firestone Wide Oval
Special parts: Disc brakes, sport stripe, Rim-Blow steering wheel, console, AM/FM stereo, power steering

Source: http://www.msn.com/en-us/autos/classic-cars/took-years-to-find-the-1971-ford-ranchero-gt-of-his-dreams/ar-BBBKM7m?li=BBnb7Kz

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