1989 Ford Ranger XLT


Vintage Car of the Month
1989 Ford Ranger XLT

Posted On August 1, 2023

  Owned by Adam, Ingersoll, ON

“A boy and his truck”

The story of this truck has defined who I am. When I was 15, I had no interest in getting my license, let alone getting a vehicle. I actually failed my driving test a couple times.

My dad took me to a “take your kid to work day” and he was visiting sites that owned his software he designed for inventory management. One of these sites was a Mufflerman exhaust and repair shop.

I was there just looking around and one of the mechanics came up and said hi to me. I said hi back and he just started showing me different parts of a truck that was up on a hoist. He told me what the driveshaft was and explained the rear differential. He showed me the brakes and exhaust and a bunch of other stuff under the chassis. It was cool to me and he asked if I wanted I see more of it. I said ok, so he brought the truck down and at that moment, something changed in me. It was an OBS extended cab that was lowered on mags. It was red and purple with a purple tweed interior. There was even an old tube TV built into the console.  At that moment, I knew I wanted a truck like this.

Over the next few weeks my dad and I scoured the “Auto Trader” magazines and “Triads” for Chevy’s or Mazda’s as that’s all I wanted.  A Ford???   No thanks… so we went looking. We saw a few that were in rough shape.  Some had targa tops and the old school drip paint jobs etc. But none were “good enough” in my dads eyes.

Then, one Saturday morning, I was going through the magazines and there was a white Ford Ranger. My dad said that we should go check it out. I said ok, only because we were going to see a slammed green S10 after… little did I know. The truck was owned from new by a guy a town over from us. He used it to haul around his Harley’s and to say the truck was loved would be a lie. He liked it, but he didn’t love it. So, dad and I went to check it out. It was HEAVILY smoked in, he swapped out the stock wheels for Nissan 300ZX rims and Cooper Cobra tires.

He lowered the truck an extra inch in the front so that it looked better when the bike was in the back. He was driving it that winter because he had to. In fact, the morning before we saw it he hit a snowbank and cracked part of the front bumper almost off. The truck was good not great but when I saw it, my life changed. The second I saw the truck I knew it was the one. My dad drove it with me in the truck (because I couldn’t drive stick) and he didn’t say much. When we got back to the owners, he and my dad talked for a bit and then my dad and I went home. I didn’t realize that he bought the truck that night and when we went back after school a couple days later, I was to bring it home. That’s when this all started.

The truck is a 1989 Ford Ranger GT and I actually have the invoice from the initial sale in my records. When I got the truck it was my first vehicle and I didn’t know how to drive stick so my dad drove it home for me that night. (photo included). Soon after I got it, we had it painted the first time. The truck was Corinthian white from factory but I wanted something more updated at the time so ice white with a blue pearl is what I decided on. My first attempt at a tweed interior followed.

Other than some small shows at local dealerships, the first event the truck was taken to was North Of The Border Bash in Kitchener Ontario that was put on with Costly Obsessions. Some friends & I helped out with the show that year and my love for trucks was solidified. That following summer I convinced my dad to help me figure out getting my first billets (Eagle Alloy 212’s with Cooper tires) and I installed a Ford Explorer grille.

I drove the truck everywhere (when it wasn’t raining) and showed it as much as I could. Magazines and forums were a big deal at the time and I found myself chatting a lot with a small club called Acrophobia. Acrophobia.net was my go to (other than street source) and all the people I met on there were amazing. A popular photo of someone’s blue F150 pushing sand down a beach is what led me to these knuckleheads and also showed me that adjustable suspension was an absolute must. A bunch of money and an upset father later and the truck went to a local shop in Toronto area called Underworld Customs and they proceeded to bag the front of the truck on the I-beams. I drove the truck for a couple years with the front done, now on TSW Mondello 18’s (for offset reasons) and loved it. That’s about the same time as the truck was hit by a re badged 180ZX at a… shh… street race… Some friends & I went to watch one of my buddy’s race and on the sideline a kid in his brothers modded Nissan smashed into the back of my truck. Cops came and after all was said and done, the new phase of the truck began.

The truck went to Valens Autobody in Cambridge where all the high end custom vehicles were done. The truck then had the emblems, tailgate handle, stake pockets and body kit moulded. The truck was painted a custom Cadillac pearl white and came out beautifully. Soon after paint was done, the truck went to Altered Altitude Customs in Scarborough to have the rear bagged and an update on the front suspension. After that was done, the truck came back to Cambridge and the interior was completely redone in two tone tweed and fibreglass. Custom stereo was added and the truck was good to go.

Many trophies were won at local Ontario shows including North of the Border Bash, London Truck Nationals and Scrape By The Lake. The truck was done! So I did what everyone does at that point, I bought a sport bike so I could show the truck with a Ninja in the back. Did that for a few more years. The truck was my summer vehicle in College in London and I did drive it all over Ontario. Always wanting to hit Indy or Carlisle but never actually doing so. This brings us to 2009. I moved home from London to Cambridge after school and got a job at a graphic design shop in Kitchener. A few months into this position, my boss asked me if I wanted to wrap my truck for a trade show in Toronto called Performance World. Figured that was a cool idea so some friends & I decided to shave the truck, to make it easier to wrap. Let the snowball ensue.

Started to shave the truck with some friends that knew how to weld. Also started to address some engine leaks as well and to dress up the engine some more. That all started an 11 year truck hiatus that officially earned the truck unicorn status. Things kept changing and taking longer and longer and the truck didn’t even make it to that Performance World show.

While under the truck I noticed how it was “bagged” our back wouldn’t allow for any larger of a wheel than an 18” so we started looking into the chassis. As we started looking at the rear end, some of the engine parts went missing so a talk with my old man and we decided to swap in a SBF 302. Looking at the front we thought, we could use more low, so we went to work on the front I-beams. Then we went back to the rear to figure out got to get more low, again. Back and forth through crazy dog bone cantilever read bag setups and pushrod style shocks and hoop style front upper I-beam bag brackets and notched crossmembers. To fitting the engine and then notching out wheel tubs and trans tunnels and all these things that a group of buddies that read MT magazine and had friends on forums to “advise” up had NO clue what we were doing.

We learned so, so much on this truck and if it wasn’t for the boys and girls in my life that kept learning with me along the way, the truck wouldn’t be what it is now. I moved out of my parents place into my new home and that’s when the truck FINALLY began on its proper journey to what it is now.

Everything on the suspension got cut off. New rear frame sections was made and the rest of the stock Ranger chassis got boxed and tunnelled for wiring. The whole front frame was rebuilt with a custom MII setup and hand built control arms. The rear turned into a wishbone 3-link with bags of the axle. Engine mounts were re-done and all the cross members were changed out. The body, what hasn’t been touched. the front bumper has 2 fog light holes filled in, it was then pulled in and up to be flush with the fenders. The Explorer grille was modified to have a custom billet insert. LED headlights and turn signals were done in diamond clear housings. The body kit was tweaked and fully moulded to the body of the truck. The rear bumper was frenched in 2inches and had the exhaust cutout filled in. Grant Fab cali combo and taillight/gas filler door were welded in with AVS flush mount clear LED lights into the bottom of the bumper cover and up on top of the cab as the 3rd brake light.

We added a new body line in the top of the tailgate skin to help with the flow of the body. The box was done completely in sheet metal and the cab wall was deleted. The floor is raised with compartments on either side of the gas strut actuated side tilt bed floor. When the floor is closed you can see the FORD stamp that was added into the back wall of the cab and done to make it look stock. Shaved handles, door locks, antenna and badges all up from on the body as well as the cab seams in the back wall. The truck is painted Platinum Tri-Coat (Ford UG) and every colour on the exterior is a factory Ford colour from their truck line including the pin striping. The engine bay is as clean as it comes with wheel tubs, shaved firewall, headlight covers done in stainless panels and an under dash mount brake booster. The engine is a 1991 Mustang GT HO and is painted/powder coated/ and chromed. March pullies and a bunch of Lokar and Edelbrock stuff as well as an E303 cam and rebuilt heads round out what’s under the hood.

The interior of the truck is one of the best parts with the narrowed and custom fit 1963 Galaxie dash, the Cessna airplane seats, the custom console and Lokar shifter and of course, the King Ranch leather interior all done in diamond stitching. The graphics from the exterior of the truck wrap into the custom door stitching as well to bring the outside in. The truck is now sitting on 4 wheel Cobra disc brakes and will very soon be on a custom set of Bonspeed Huntingtons.

This truck debuted at Motorama on March 13 2020, exactly 13 years and in the exact same place it was supposed to go to when it was to be wrapped for the Performance World show. Which was also the same weekend that all of our worlds changed because on the 15th of March, Covid happened and the truck has been hidden since then. I did have it at Motorama again this past spring but it just wasn’t the same. People were still worried and the show was small. If you do want to check this truck out, for the first time in over 25 years the truck will be going to its first US venue! Detroit Autorama 2023 and then I am lucky that it got the ok for MTN as well.

I am so excited that my good friends were all able to get so much experience with this truck and it really was Square One for a lot of my colleagues businesses! Huge thanks go to Adam Pettengill for painting the truck and rescuing it from one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had at another bodyshop. Steve Carlucci and Marco D’Ambrosi for all their help on the grunt work and their welding mastery. Cory Hussey, Ed Godin, Gary Donkers, Rob Vanluik, Todd Robinson, Brandon Steplock, Ryan Leeming and of course, Matt Kennedy for all their help, wisdom, frustrations, love and support in the build. Jeff Wybrow (IssyFab) Shawn Pereira (King of Bling) Tim Atkinson (Atkinson Interiors) JP Ellis (Stripping Technologies) Dennis Thorne (Thorne Customs) Rob (Pinhead Metalkraft) Phil Cholette (Philbuilt Designs) Nicole Dove for all her support, Trevor Bradfield, Jordan White, Geddy Johnston, all my friends and family that contributed to the truck… just, thank you!

1 Comment

  1. Paul

    I remember this truck. I helped with the door panels back in the day.


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