Orginal 65bbq site photo

The Ford Ranchero

Part car, part pick-up, Ford released the Ranchero as a “fun utility vehicle”. Created from a Ranch Wagon with the rear roof removed, the Ford Ranchero became part of the Falcon family of vehicles. Selling over 20,000 units the first year, it soon became a great economy pick-up.

In 1965 the Falcon nameplate disappeared, featuring a new split grill. The 1965 Ford Falcon Ranchero was born. It featured a 289-cubic inch V-8 engine, Palomino vinyl interiors, and deluxe model bucket seats. A total of 19,279 units were manufactured.

The price: $2,095.00

The Rundown

Originally sold on New Years Eve, 1965 at Herb Gold Ford a car dealership in Santa Paula, California - sporting a 289 V8 engine, bench seats, side trim pieces, and the famous tailgate steer emblem.  The original paint job was blue, not the color it is now.  The glove box contains the original owner’s manual, signed by the original owner from the dealership where it was purchased, confirming the purchase date.

How it spent the years before I found it on a Sunday morning at the Pomona Swap Meet may never be known. Still here it was, the car of my boyhood dreams, the car my brother drove and my father promised me but gave away because he did not want it sitting in the front yard anymore.

My brother’s car was black, deluxe model, bucket seats. For 10 years, pinned on a bulletin board in my office were the exact dimensions of a ‘65 Ranchero, reminding me that someday I would find the perfect car and make it mine.

I made an offer on the car, telling the owner that if he didn’t sell it to give me a call, I walked away hoping no one would buy it. I received a call at the end of the day and I picked it up the next morning.

The dream was reality, a perfect fit.

The Hard-Way

Taking the car to a local shop for estimates on what it needed to keep it running as a daily-driver was a learning experience. Shocks, brakes, a new radiator, bushings, a carburetor (good thing the car didn’t set itself on fire), tires, rear leafs, front coils and hoses.

The interior needed work, including carpet and door panels. I upgraded the seat belts, replaced the scuff plates.  The dash needed to be re-chromed along with replacing the inside window-laces. I had the seats chopped to fit my six-foot frame. The radio needed work and the steering wheel had to be replaced.

In spite of all this it ran well and it still had the coveted, original gas cap. I replaced the cap with a locked gas cap, saving the original for car shows I enter as a daily driver, a work in progress. The paint on the car was still in great condition but I dreamed of ghost flames once all was complete.

Searching for the perfect shops to make the necessary restoration gave me an insight into the good, the bad and the ugly.  It was important to do it right by making creative decisions while staying true to the original integrity of the car.  I searched for companies that did chrome restoration, and I joined the Falcon Club of America (FCAA) for informative feedback. I used the following shops and resources during the restoration:

*Mustang Etc. was a great choice for all 60’s & 70’s Ford repairs.
*The National Falcon News helped with information on parts and ideas related to the Falcon experience.
*Nacho’s Upholstery became the only shop for the interior and tonneau cover.
*Ordering parts from Dearborn Classics became a mainstay.

I found out the hard-way who did it right and who did it wrong, I kept notes and detailed copies of changes, made friends with many of the shops who worked on the Ranchero and shared the knowledge acquired with other Falcon enthusiast I encountered at car shows.  The challenge is getting it right. The dream continues.

The Blue Q

First sighted in Bakersfield at the Falcon Regional Car show, a rusted cut-up old '64 Falcon caught my eye. A group of old timers wondered what you could possibly do with this worthless hunk of metal.

I knew immediately and told them that if given the chance, I would make it into a BBQ.

Not being able to tow it home from Bakersfield I left the show empty-handed and headed home. It showed up the next day at the Road Kings Car show at Johnny Carson Park in Burbank. There it sat on a flat bed trailer with a $1,000.00 price tag, the words "BBQ" and "Ice Chest" written on it in Sharpie marker.

It was following me. I couldn’t find the owner and once again left it sitting on that flatbed.

A month later I called Russ Wall to purchase a part for the Ranchero and told him the story about seeing the trailer twice at a car show and told him what I wanted to do with it.

Russ told me that he purchased the trailer in Bakersfield and he’d taken it to Johnny Carson Park, but he didn’t get any offers, he was about to break it down and sell it for parts! Fate was on my side once again: for $600 it was to become more of a project than I'd imagined.

My good fortune was Jon Belyeu, studio special effects supreme; he offered his long-standing friendship to help me make this into my dream BBQ.

Russ Wall dropped the trailer off at Jon’s shop, and we started on the rust and grinding Frankenstein welds. He then helped me with the design concept, framing, welding of the framework, and after months of work it started to take shape.

There were lots of patterns, much cutting of stainless steel, numerous fittings and plenty of beer. Finally, after 2 years of working we were ready to drop in the propane grill, hiding the hookup to give a clean custom fit.

Next it was taken to Jack’s Auto Body where Harvey took-over, changing some of the ideas: he made the trailer look seamless.

It was painted to match the color of the Ranchero with matching ghost flames. Once home, Boyd Coddington five-spoke wheels custom drilled 4-Lug patterns for a '64 were added along with new taillights to match the Ranchero.

The tailgate steer emblem and rear panel letters were ordered, and the grill was re-plated. The front-end was wired for towing, the Eckart trailer hitch hidden under the Ranchero license plate. The grill and both Coleman stainless coolers set in place.

3 years from start to finish, we named it: The Blue Q.

 The '65 Ranchero & The Blue Q

The Road Kings at Johnny Carson Park seemed the perfect place for the debut. Close to home, The Blue Q was hitched to its companion Ranchero and off we went.

The coolers were filled with soda and water for everyone to enjoy. Burgers and hot-dogs ready for friends to consume. High-fives and honks greeted us along the way.

 From a distance it looked like two identical cars!

Sitting on the grass, the 1965 Ranchero, introduced the trailer. I put all hoods up and aligned the duo's position as to give the illusion of a matching set. With the hitch hidden from sight, I set the scene.  From a distance it looked like two identical cars.

The Ranchero has always looked great by itself but now the trailer made it exceed expectations.  It was like a magnet. Some came asking how it got there, others wondered what it was.  As soon as they saw the coolers they smiled, when they walked to the back and saw it was a BBQ they beamed, all who stopped stood in amazement.

They nodded, others look confused wondering where the middle of the car was.  Some went to find their friends bringing them over for a look inside.  Men, women, children, teens, old, young, all colors and lifestyles, all walks of car show life gave the same response. “It’s car with a matching BBQ!”  The reaction was always the same, laughter and a smile. The drinks were cold, the burgers tasty.

The day was perfect. The Ranchero & the Blue Q, worth every penny, all the hard work, the lessons learned, and the friends made. An idea worth its weight, The 65 Ranchero and the Blue Q.

Catch it if you can!