Project Car SOTU: The Ranchero 2.0

Hey folks. It’s been a while. Might as well get back in the swing of things with a project car update.
When you last saw, we’d done a little work on the rearend of the New Ranchero (Ranchero Nuevo? Two-chero? New-chero?) and were getting ready to do the cage.
To fast forward through it all: DIYed the cage using Evil Genius’ tools, the engine build, transmission rebuild, a million other details, raced at Sonoma in March with some degree of success, did nothing for a few months, fixed what broke at Sonoma, raced last weekend at Thunderhill and won the Index of Effluency!

Unsurprisingly, we still have a pile of things to fix…

Engine Work

We decided to swap over to a 250ci inline six to get a broader torque curve as well as a common bellhousing with the ubiquitous Ford small block V8s. Of the two we bought, the better one was already bored .040″ over, making it 256ci. We threw a cheap mid-to-high range cam in it and had some more machining work done on our old head to open up the throat for a two-barrel carburetor. For our first race we defaulted to running a points ignition, but ditched it for a cheap HEI unit for Arse-Sweat ’17.

Hooked through a rebuilt toploader (we’ll get to that in a minute) and our old 3.55:1 rearend, this thing moves. It doesn’t quite have the off-the-line brutality of my Falcon’s 260ci V8, but it pulls better through the mid-range all the way to over 6k.
…at which point it throws the fan belt and overheats. Our pulleys might be a tiny bit out of alignment, but right now we’re blaming our belt throwing on the long span from the crank pulley to the alternator. At speed, the belt vibrates like crazy to the point it just launches off. More on that later.


toploader transmission rebuild

I shopped and shopped for a T-10, the “lesser” 60s Ford four-speed, but eventually found a too-good-to-be-true deal on a Hurst shifter equipped Toploader. Turns out the deal was just good enough to be true, as the shifter and shifting arms were all rusted stuck. Meanwhile, the input shaft had 1/8″ play in every direction. The shifter freed up with liberal applications of heat, penetrating oil, and hammer blows. Luckily, decent rebuild kits are also relatively cheap. A rebuild’s pretty straightforward and takes a weekend, but heed this warning: buy good retaining ring pliers. We’d have saved hours of fighting with c-clips if we’d had good waffle/knurled-faced pliers.

Everything Else:
We swapped over all the steering and suspension from the wrecked car, a surprisingly quick and easy task. Our choice to completely gut the original wiring worked out great; there’s no point in trying to tie back into 50+ year old wiring harnesses. We swapped the whatever-it-was used radiator for a super-cheaty aluminum crossflow unit as wide as would fit in the engine bay. Unfortunately, our pulley woes broke our first water pump pulley and sent it flying into the radiator.
broken water pump pulley
How’d it work out?
los huevos rancheros hooniverse lemons car
Overall, this car is exactly what I wanted to build when I decided to get back into LeMons. It’s old and terrible, but makes use of parts interchangeability (and some great aftermarket support) to make for a actually-pretty-good car at speed. Hell, it ran Area-Sweat using a water pump pulley borrowed from my Falcon. There’s enough power to keep up with all the but the gnarliest class A cars, the brakes never fade and the chassis communicates when you’re about to run out of grip.
Obviously, it’s still got issues. At Arse-Sweat, we went through about six fan belts, a rear main seal and at least 12 quarts of oil. Oh, and the fuel tank still has slosh-to-leak issues on right hand turns, limiting us to five gallon fill-ups. Thus, our pit stops were many and long.
Between now and our next race, we’ll hunt down a proper cell to be rid of ’60s fuel retention issues, add a deep-V pulley to the alternator and probably fabricate a roller idler to help keep that belt locked in place. An oil cooler and baffled pan may be in order, based on some potentially scary oil pressures observed as temps and lateral Gs rose.
Luckily, we’ve got a few months to fix a relatively short list of things. Maybe that’ll leave time to drop a few leftover parts in that ’61 Falcon I picked up for cheap…
1961 Falcon project car

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3 responses to “Project Car SOTU: The Ranchero 2.0”

  1. engineerd Avatar

    Congrats on IOE! I like your approach of using old ’60s iron with good aftermarket support. Oh, and no guibo joints.

  2. outback_ute Avatar

    Good stuff. I wonder if you could get some gates around the oil pickup too?
    The racing mod for the old six used to be machine off the whole log intake, then tap to put on triple Webers! These days I dare say a port EFI setup would be better, and an intake manifold with a big plenum would be the way to go – the attached (from a Falcon) is an exaggerated version…

  3. mdharrell Avatar

    Congratulations on the IOE!

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