When the 1964 Ford Falcon Ranchero was released, Beatlemania was racing across the U.S., and Rocky Rockwell told his wife that he was going to buy one. “We can’t all get in it,” she told him, so they settled for, as Rockwell put it, a regular car.“ I told her someday I’m going to get me one of those,” he said with an infectious smile. Fast forward nearly half a century after the sons were grown. Rockwell stumbled upon a 1965 Ranchero in Campbell, California, not far from where he’d lived in San Jose. Rockwell went down to take a look at the car. The owner wanted $2200.00 for the vehicle. “Man, that’s too much. I gotta do all this work,” he told the seller. He offered $1600.00 and was promptly laughed off the street. The vehicle had been owned by a guy who hauled trees. The car was a mess, but there was no rust, which can be a problem in many areas. Rust begins on the surface, can weaken the metal over time, eventually penetrating the metal and forming holes. Repairing these problems can be costly, sometimes too costly, for restoration work. A couple of months later, he received a telephone call from his sister. The car was still for sale in Campbell. She’d been driving by and noticed the sign. Rockwell’s brother-in-law asked if Rockwell would mind if he bought the car because “I can fix that one easy.” “Well, no.” “Why don’t you just give the guy what he wants?” Rockwell phoned his sister and asked her to offer the guy $1800.00. She offered the seller the original amount. “He took it,” Rockwell said, grinning , “so I got it for $1600.00.” Patience paid off. Rockwell let his brother-in-law do most of the restoration, cleaning the floor board with a simple steel wool pad and some elbow grease. Only one part required replacement. “I guess I was smart buying it,” Rockwell said. The restoration has been a slow process of a little here and a little there, or as Rockwell says, “little by little.” The drum brakes were changed out for disc brakes and they installed a 5 speed transmission from a Ford mustang. The car was just about the way Rockwell wanted it. One day, while at a car show, he noticed that his Ranchero sat higher than another one, so he switched out the axle for a fat boy axle and lowered the car down just a bit. Then, he explained, he was really happy with the car. The bed still needed work and his brother-in-law came to the rescue again, stopping Rockwell from buying a kit. He offered to make the bed since he’s a cabinetmaker. The bed is wood and is certainly a centerpiece on the vehicle. “And then he put that box in it, which is nice because I can put my chairs in it.” The toolbox sits right behind the cab and fits perfectly, having been custom built. Then Rockwell was really happy and felt it was the way he wanted it. Any parts for the car were pretty easy to find, Rockwell said, except for a strip of trim he needed. He found the trim at Falcon Enterprises. The car is currently torch red, a Corvette color which is more orange than Ford’s torch red. Rockwell had wavered between a couple of colors until it was time to paint the engine compartment and he was forced to decide. Rockwell is semi-retired from his lawn maintenance service company, but he works a little here and a little there in case he wants anything else for the car. “Now I’m satisfied with it,” he said with that same infectious smile that invites you to take a seat and sit a spell.
Story and photos by Trina L. Drotar