Description: Here’s a happy twist on an often-told story, one you might know first hand. About the guy who spent years building his dream car, only to be dissatisfied with the result. Unfortunately it happens all the time and is one reason fresh restorations end up at auctions.
Now turn that around and imagine buying a car you never wanted, building it for resale, and unexpectedly discovering it’s your all-time favorite. That’s exactly what happened to Gary Browne.
“I wasn’t planning on building this car. I actually have a 1959 Rambler two-door station wagon that I was going to build. I was working on it and getting along good when this Ford Ranch Wagon just popped up on eBay. The guy wanted $18,000 dollars for it at first and it wasn’t even complete. It was a repainted frame-off restoration but it was all apart. It was really a neat car but the price was ridiculous. Then all of a sudden it came back on eBay with a starting bid of $8000. He really dropped the price like a rock. It was there for a couple of days and then it disappeared. I figured somebody must have gobbled it up,” says Browne.
The car disappeared from eBay but Browne had saved the seller’s email address. Thinking it was a good deal, Gary checked to see if it was sold.
“He said, ‘No, I forgot to put a reserve in so I pulled the ad.’ I said, ‘Okay, what’s the bottom line that you will take for it now that it’s not on eBay anymore?’ He said, ‘Well, maybe around $10,000.’”
Browne didn’t want the car for himself but thought one of his friends might be interested.
“It was a local car so I told my friends, ‘There’s this car out there and you might be able to get it for $8000.’ The frame was off the body, restored at a custom hot rod shop in Escondido. They had done the plumbing for the brakes and the gas tank. They undercoated the whole body of the car after replacing some panels and put it back on the frame. They put the engine in it but had not done the wiring. The brakes weren’t hooked up, the radiator wasn’t in, the interior wasn’t in, and basically it was all in pieces. But nobody said they wanted it so I said, ‘Then I will!’”
Now that he had made the mental commitment Gary’s job was to get the best possible deal.
“I talked with the guy again and he said he had lots of extra parts. He said that if I didn’t want the parts he’d sell it to me for $7000. I thought $7000, that sounds good! It had 20 inch wheels and tires on it and, in my opinion, terrible wheels with little rubber bands around them. So, I said, ‘If you keep the wheels how much will you knock off?’ And he said, ‘Well I’ll take those back for a thousand bucks right now.’ So I said, ‘Sold!’ I went home and got some roller wheels and tires and called Two Bit Tow to drive it home.”
Now Browne had his work cut out for him. The body was on the chassis, the fenders were hung, and all of the chrome was replated but not installed. The car was virtually in a basket.
“There were new turn signals, a new grill, back bumper, and side trim. Basically it was a kit. I got a kit, battery not included. And besides not including a battery, it didn’t include instructions. And that makes it tough because I didn’t take it apart, somebody else did. There were pieces all over the place but it was obvious how the front seat went. It seemed obvious how the back seat went, but it wasn’t. Because it’s a folding seat it took a little bit of work to figure out how to put it in.”
When Brown took the Ranch Wagon for a spin he got a couple of surprises.
“When I got it running and drove it two things happened. First I found out the rear end had to go. I think it was a standard shift car and I couldn’t even go on the freeway. The engine was just spinning, it was horrible. I didn’t check the ratio but it was at least a 4.56. So, I put an eight-inch rear end in it with 3.0 gears and now it’s really good. The second thing was that it was such a beautiful car to drive I decided I couldn’t sell it. It’s just a keeper.”
But the assembly had more challenges. The engine pinged and nothing Browne did would make it stop.
“You couldn’t leave a traffic light to keep up with a Volkswagen without it pinging. I changed the distributor and I changed carburetor, it wasn’t too lean and the plugs looked great. This was a frustrating thing, I had my car put together and I loved it but I couldn’t get rid of the pinging. It got to the point where I said, ‘I’m going to grenade it. We’re going to put a new engine in here!’ I tried some 91 octane but that still didn’t help. It is a 1969 or 1970 engine and I figured the valves aren’t really good for unleaded. So I got a set of 5.0 heads which bolt right on and that lowered the compression a little bit. I figured that way I was set for regular fuel. It did ping a little bit less but the problem wasn’t solved. Somehow I discovered by driving it, it actually started getting better. And to this day I can’t tell you why it pinged, but here’s what I think may have happened. The car was painted and then it sat for five years in the garage all in pieces. I think the previous owner might have had fuel in the tank that went really, really bad, and left a film that made the new gas go rotten.”
The paint is bright and shiny but Browne is unhappy with the body work He plans on repainting it and adding some custom trim in the process.
“The previous owner was building the car to be a driver and he didn’t want a $10,000 paint job so he got a MAACO paint job. It was a $1400 MAACO paint job and it’s a good 20 footer. If you’re driving down the road, from 20 feet away, it looks great. But it does have MAACO body work. They blocked it out and they’re not good blockers so it’s wavy on the side. I want it to be more of a show car, but also a driven show car. If I could get the body work done without removing the paint I would. But I haven’t figured out how to do that,” Browne says laughing.
“So, I’m going to sand it down and install 1957 Fairlane 300 side trim which is really different. It’s going to look really cool. It will look stock but people who know Fords will know it didn’t come on the car. I’m going to go with a cream color on the bottom, red in the middle and a cream color roof.”
Browne likes the 1960s custom car look and that’s his plan for the Ranch Wagon.
“I’ve always loved hot rods and my Anglia counts as a hot rod. And I’ve always loved old customs so I’m building this to look like it was built in the 60s. There won’t be any aluminum on the outside, no funny wheels, it’s got the little steelies and it’s going to look like it was done back then.”