Courtesy of Mecum Auctions
  • Recent rotisserie restoration
  • Factory 351-ci engine
  • Four-wheel drive
  • Rare regular-cab short box
  • Power steering
  • Power brakes
  • Factory air conditioning
  • New tires
  • Floor pans painted body color
  • Rust-free Southern truck

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1978 Ford F-150 Ranger pickup
Years Produced:1978–79
Number Produced:107,495 (all 1978 F-150 4x4)
Original List Price:$4,779
SCM Valuation:Median to date, $11,038; high sale, $26,400
Tune Up Cost:$250
Distributor Caps:$20
Chassis Number Location:Stamped on frame rail, passenger’s side, near alternator
Engine Number Location:Casting number under right bank of cylinders
Alternatives:1973–87 Chevrolet K-10, 1972–80 Dodge D-series, 1971–75 International pickup
Investment Grade:C

This truck, Lot F49, sold for $18,150, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s sale in Harrisburg, PA, on July 21–23, 2016.

Initially I was looking to write a first-gen Camaro feature for this issue of ACC.

I happened to be in the office at ACC HQ as this issue was being planned, and as Editor Pickering and I sat with the rest of the editorial group, reviewing his vision for the issue, I had already begun framing up my story and lining up my talking points on a Z/28 that sold in Monterey. I was daydreaming of high-winding 302s and vinyl tops when this truck slid across the table and brrrrapped me back to reality.

For the first time (and perhaps last), I dumped a ’69 Z/28 for an old Ford truck.

Bad choices, good memories

When I was coming of driving age, cars like the ’69 Camaro filled every available space in my consciousness not already preoccupied with girls, sports and food. Regardless, I have no tangible memories of that time in that car. There are, however, a handful of moments in a couple of ’78 and ’79 Fords that I won’t ever forget.

Old Ford trucks were dirt cheap and durable enough to withstand the rigors of teenage shenanigans, and my high school parking lot was sprinkled with them. I have some terrific memories of being packed four-wide on a shredded bench seat with a bunch of other idiots as we shrieked and slid our way across manicured lawns. We parked atop decorative rocks with all the cocksure aplomb of Captain Morgan, knee high over a chest of booty, as if to say, “Behold, the power of stupidity in numbers!” It’s a wonder any of us survived, the trucks included.

As a result, I have a somewhat strange affinity for the ’78 and ’79 Ford short-bed 4x4s that I rarely share with others.

In with the old

Ford only built a quarter-million or so 4×4 half-tons over those two years, and given that trucks back then were still generally purchased for their utility, it’s a wonder they’re still so readily available. Simple, rugged and muscular with just the right amount of brightwork — more country-boy-goes-to-town than rhinestone cowboy — the last of the sixth-gen F-series is, for me, all that new trucks are not.

You see, Pickering and I are constantly going back and forth measuring our love of old cars and trucks against the daily realities of burgeoning family life. If you’ve read his editorials on the topic, you’ll know that he recently made a difficult choice that I’m sure, at some point, he swore he’d never make. In order to park a new 4wd GMC crew-cab in the driveway, he needed to let go of both his ’06 SRT8 Charger and his daughter’s favorite rig, the ’72 Chevrolet K-10.

From my vantage point, the Charger was dismissed easily enough, but the decision to turn the K-10 loose was a bit more difficult. The truck was a solid runner that was nice enough to use, but not so nice as to use sparingly. In fact, it was maybe not quite as nice as our subject truck, but being a slightly more desirable model and year, probably fell in right at about the same value.

What did he get in return? Well, according to him, all he gave up and more. The new truck rides like a Cadillac, comfortably seats five adults, can tow a city block, and is infinitely safer for toting around the family unit. He even opted for the automatically retracting running boards — per his wife’s request. If it had a two-way radio, ol’ Buzz Aldrin could likely slingshot it around the moon.

I know I should be dazzled, but I’m not. I just can’t help but feel that somewhere along the way we’ve lost some of the appreciation for the rugged simplicity that makes vehicles like our feature truck here so endearing.

The engineering, manufacturing, and drivability of trucks have certainly improved dramatically over the years, but the cost, both literally and figuratively, has been tremendous. How we managed to arrive at the $50,000 half-ton is simply beyond my realm of comprehension.

Built to last

Since we’re talking about old trucks, my redneck youth and the inevitability of progress, I can’t help but mention the old Merle Haggard tune that keeps rolling through my subconscious. The lyrics implore us with a wish that “a Ford and a Chevy/Would still last ten years like they should.” Feel free to nod along as he then asks the question that’s been on everyone’s mind lately, “Is the best of the free life behind us now/And are the good times really over for good?”

Merle released “Are the Good Times Really Over” way back in 1981 — only three years after our little Ranger here hit the streets. I’d say the old Ford has more than held up its end of the deal. With what appears to be a tastefully executed resto-mod-eration, this old girl may just have another easy 40 years in her, which begs the question — exactly which Good Times are we talking about?

Growing values

Well, this particular truck happens to remind me of some of my really good times, and with more prices like this seen at auction lately, I’m not alone. I love the lines. I love the thought of ka-chunking that column-shift and dropping that transfer-case down into low. I love the two-tone paint and the bench seat and the analog everything.

Yes, it was born shockingly close to 1980 for us to be discussing it in a magazine about collecting classic cars, but, as we’ve been preaching around here for some time now, the trend for solid trucks from the ’70s and ’80s is going nowhere if not up. For me, and a lot of newer market players as well, a rig like this that strikes a balance between good memories and good condition is now unequivocally worth the $18,150 spent here.

The only question here left to answer is do you, heaven forbid, use it as a truck? I’m pretty sure dirtbikes and firewood and coon hounds will all still fit in the bed, so why not?

I would happily drive the wheels off it, but, you know, I do have a family to think about. Airbags and crumple zones and automatically retracting running boards might not be a bad idea, at least for the next few years.

Like Merle says, “The best of the free life is still left to come/And the good times ain’t over for good.”

(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.)

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