Story and photos by Brian Earnest
Noah Youngbauer knows he’s probably the only teenage gearhead in America who had a weathered 1966 Ford pickup at the top of his wish list.
But in the collector vehicle world, one man’s humble mule can be another man’s beautiful stallion. The 18-year-old Youngbauer isn’t sure how or why he ever became smitten with 1966 Ford pickups, but he was certain of one thing: He had to have one.
And when he finally spotted the ’66 that he thought might be “the one”, he didn’t care how far he had to travel to get it.
“I’ve been coming [to car shows] since I was about 5 years old, and I don’t know, these ‘66s have just stuck on me,” says the young resident of Oshkosh, Wis. “The sleek lines and stuff, I just like them, so I’ve been looking for one.”
Youngbauer estimates that he looked at 50 different specimens before finally spotting a ’66 on Craigslist last summer. “The salt is not nice to these trucks, so I had to go all the way to Oklahoma to find one,” he chuckles. “I looked for a long time, and looked at a lot of trucks. Being only 18 years, you talk to these old guys about their trucks and you show up and they expect you to be older. You show up with your dad and they wind up talking to your dad and you’re the kid looking for the truck.
“There were a couple close ones, where I thought maybe a little TLC and a paint job, but there was just too much body work and stuff. You can get into a lot of money with the bodywork. Finding one to drive was the goal, but if I had to do some fixing on it, that’s not a big deal. Original was the goal. I wanted one that hadn’t been previously messed with. I wanted one that was bone stock. I didn’t want to fix someone else’s mess.”
The Ranger that he found outside of Oklahoma City appeared intact and solid. And it had led an interesting life, according to the seller’s story. “There was a guy on the outskirts of town that had it and there was a camper that sat in it. He was a farmer that had a camper. He got sick and his son put the truck in the barn in about 1969 and the truck came back out of the barn in 2014. It sat in the barn that long.
“It had 97,000 miles on it, because they drove it to Alaska, like twice a year. And they used it as a farm truck, too, and around town. They drove it a lot for those three years.”
The truck had plenty of surface rust in the bed and plenty of wear inside and out, but it ran good during Youngbauer’s 50-mile test drive and didn’t need any major work. The fact that it was a Ranger edition with the rare optional bucket seats was an unexpected bonus. “Only about 2 percent of the trucks that year had the bucket seats. I didn’t even know it was a Ranger when I went down to look at it, and it just so happened be my dream truck,” Youngbauer said. “[The seller] thought I was nuts... going down 1,500 miles for a pickup truck. He knew I wasn’t messing around.”
At the rate that the previous owners were racking up the miles on the pickup, it probably wouldn’t have lasted long. Such humble work trucks were rarely pampered or preserved, but for some reason the previous owners’ family never felt compelled to do anything with the truck. “He put new U joints in it and new brake pads, because they were all locked up,” he said. “It’s got a newer battery, of course, and other than that they just put some gas in the carburetor and fired it up.”
Youngbauer rolled the truck onto a trailer and happily towed it back to Wisconsin. The trill of the chase was fun, but actually owning and caring for the truck was his end goal.
Nice specimens from the ’66 model year of Ford trucks are few and far between these days. The trucks were the last vestiges of the fourth generation of the Ford F-Series, which ran from 1960-1966.
The early ‘60s F-100s were wider and more aerodynamic than their predecessors as Ford and other manufacturers continued to refine and “civilize” their traditional workhorse trucks. The fourth-gen F-100s introduced a “unibody” construction that integrated the box and cab, but that idea was scrapped in mid-1963.
For 1965, the F-100s got a new frame, new twin I-beam suspension and coil springs. The long-running 292-cid V-8 was also replaced by the optional 352-cid V-8, although the same rugged 240-cid, 150-hp six-cylinder remained the standard issue engine. Most of the other changes for the 1966 model year were in the looks department, including a new series emblem and a new grille with two long rectangular slots above 18 smaller ones. Buyers could again choose between 6.5- and 8-foot box sizes in both Flareside and Styleside configurations. Four-wheel-drive, which had been introduced on Ford’s light-duty trucks in 1959, was again optional.
Youngbauer’s truck was a relatively bare-bones model that came with the heavier-duty Dana rear end. “And it’s got extra leaf springs in it for the extra weight,” he said. “The 240 straight-six is pretty much the standard motor, but it was a good one. It had the bucket seats and the carpeting … There was a skirt around the gas tank, which I took out because it was old and dirty and nasty.” The base price on such a truck would have been just north of $2,100 in 1966.
Some owners would be planning a restoration or at least a paint job for the tan pickup. The patina and battle scars are among the truck’s best qualities, though, as far as Youngbauer is concerned. He’d like to keep it looking exactly the way it does today.
“The only thing I would change as of now is to put a new motor in it. Maybe put a new dash in it — that’s just cosmetics — but I’m going to keep the body as clean and original as I can,” he says. “I’m going to put some rust-proofing in there because I don’t want any holes to show through … Underneath it still has the original undercoating. You’ll be going down the road and a chunk of undercoating will fall of [laughs]. But the metal underneath is like new so I’ll paint some of that POR 15 stuff [rust preventative] on there.
“We have a 352 V-8 that we have lined up and we’re going to put that in there when I get enough money saved up. A V-8 will make it sound nicer, and I’ll have the dual exhausts on there — make it sound tough… I’ll take the old motor and fill it up with oil and stick it in the barn and save it.”
The pickup won’t be a year-round vehicle or daily driver, though. Youngbauer says he will save it for dry days and car shows. An aging pickup from the 1960s wouldn’t seem like a big attention-getter, but Youngbauer has put plenty of miles on the Ford already and he is getting plenty of thumbs-up.
“The patina, oh yeah, I will leave that. People pay for that now. It shines and looks pretty good for original paint. You see this driving down Main Street, and people look at this 10 times more than they look at any Mustang. There are not many of these on the road. You don’t see a 50-year-old truck driving down the road,” he says. “The only problem I’ve had is I broke a throttle cable doing too many burnouts [laughs]. You’d be surprised, it spins the tires pretty good.”
The truck is Youngbauer’s first hobby vehicle of any kind. He says it probably won’t be his last, but he doubts he’ll ever be able to part with the ’66.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of it. It took me long enough to find it!”
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