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Celebrating the double-duty beauty

Form and function never looked so good. One owner's 1963-1/2 Ford Ranchero.
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David Hatchel is a fellow lugnut, and vehicles have been amping him up since he was a child. He looked forward to the day he’d drive when he suddenly experienced a condition that might impede his ability to do so. At age 10, his legs stopped moving and he was thought to have polio. Several hours after a painful spinal tap, David’s legs worked again. Maybe that is the reason he likes stretching his right foot on an accelerator pedal.

In his youth, David was into drag racing.

 “I did plenty of street racing when I was young with my red ’63 Dodge Polara 500,” he says. “It had a 426 wedge, 3:91 rear end and beefed TorqueFlite. No power anything — just engine.”

Undeniably handsome interior is better looking than today’s mousy gray interiors.

Undeniably handsome interior is better looking than today’s mousy gray interiors.

The Brea, Calif., resident’s current hobby horse is a 1963-1/2 Ford Ranchero.

“I got it from my neighbor, who worked for racer John Force,” David says. “The neighbor’s friend asked him to sell it, as his wife said he had too many cars.” The car-pickup pulled at David’s heart strings. “It was just too cute of a truck to pass up. I drove it and had to have it. I was the lucky one to buy it. I have had it for five years now.”

The 1963 model was part of the first generation of downsized Rancheros, which was actually the second generation of Ford’s car-truck hybrid model. Beginning with the 1960 model year, the Ranchero was based on the Falcon two-door wagon. It had a wheelbase of 109.5 inches and was 19 inches shorter than the full-size, passenger-car based ’59 Ranchero, which was the last of the first generation of Rancheros. The 1963 Ranchero’s cargo box was 6 feet long (8 feet long with the tailgate down). The payload was 800 pounds, with a cargo volume of 31.6 cubic feet. Compared to the hulking pickups today, the compact Ranchero is pint-size.

A look at the Ranchero’s 200-hp, 260-cid V-8

A look at the Ranchero’s 200-hp, 260-cid V-8

The ’63 pickup continued the 1960 Ranchero’s shallow body-side cove from the front to rear fenders, and its close-fitting bumpers at both ends. The most prominent change in ’63 was the convex, horizontal-grid grille.

David’s treasure has matching numbers on its engine and transmission. His is one of only 1,615 Rancheros built in ’63 with the 164-hp, 260-cid V-8. In David’s Ranchero, this engine is mated to a two-speed Ford-O-Matic transmission. The 164-hp, 260-cid V-8 engine became available midyear, hence the “1963-1/2” designation.

“It has been in California its entire life,” David says. “It was made in San Jose. It was one of the last ’63s made before they switched the stamping molds for the ’64s.”

In addition to the hot 260-cid V-8, the Ranchero was built with Deluxe equipment, which included a bright molding around the top of the box and cab back, as well as on the door frames. In addition, the Deluxe featured a black steering wheel with a horn ring, dome lamp, vinyl upholstery, armrests and a right hand sun visor.

From the side view you can appreciate the Ford’s svelte looks.

From the side view you can appreciate the Ford’s svelte looks.

“It has no power options, no air conditioner, not even a heater or defroster.”

After David bought the pickup, he made the engine more “caffeinated.” One of the under-hood goodies that he added is an Edelbrock 289 performer intake manifold. Nourishment is supplied by a 600-cfm Edelbrock four-barrel carburetor. The engine exhales through dual exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers. When David hammers on the throttle, he now gets an estimated 200 horses for plenty of straight-ahead acceleration.

David’s Ranchero coupe-pickup had previously been restored. 

“It had completely new vinyl interior, new tires, bushings, new exhausts, etcetera,” he says. “The original color was Rangoon Red, but the last owner had it repainted with some orange added to it. The color, in the sun, really pops.”

David did his own upgrades. 

“I installed a radiator, water pump, electric fan, CD player with four speakers and gauges under the dash. I had the grille straightened and chromed. I just installed stainless trim along the bottom of the truck.”

Since half of the carpet was sun bleached, David replaced it. A nice cosmetic tweak is the set of 14 x 7-inch Magnum 500 wheels installed on the pickup. David also addressed the vehicle’s bottom.

“My wife, Susie, said, ‘Why are you painting the underside of the truck?’ She said no one will see it. I said, ‘Probably not, but I’ll know it is painted.’”

Today, David’s truck is the proverbial four-wheel “eye candy.” The lipstick-gloss paint and mirror-like chrome are fantastic-looking. The cargo box liner has prevented scratches and dents in the bed.

David Hatchel enjoying his hot hauler.

David Hatchel enjoying his hot hauler.

The red-and-white interior of David’s Ranchero looks posh compared to the mousy-gray color of many pickups today. Sitting behind the wheel, David has all-around visibility. Speedometer and gauges are all housed in a single panel in front of the large steering wheel. Instead of being overloaded with numerous gadgets, operating controls are sparse, permitting David to enjoy the road.

David’s truck displays the beginning stages of automotive safety. These safety features include the shatter-resistant rearview mirror, deep-dish steering wheel and optional safety belts.

In addition to his pickup, David paints pictures of cars with acrylic. He also collects auto emblems and scripts that he puts in glass frames, when he’s not driving his Ranchero.

David enjoys his “double-duty beauty” for work and play. His arm can be on the door sill, listening to his rock CDs, and his right foot can be on the accelerator, having a good time while cruising down the road.

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