Modified Mustangs & FordsFeatured Vehicles
1971 Ford Ranchero - High-Tech Hauler
A family of car enthusiasts pools their efforts together to build one sweet parts runner
Ford’s modular engine family has taken a while to catch on with engine swap folks in our classic Fords. Part of it is the engine’s sheer size (some wider than an FE big-block!), not to mention the intricacies of the modular’s engine management, fuel system, and other needs to get it up and running in your typical classic Mustang or Ford. While the modular is certainly gaining respect and becoming more en vogue these daysmainly thanks to easy DIY wiring kits from Ford Racing and other aftermarket companies, plus the big suspension companies out there figuring out how to fit the wide engine into our classic platformsthere’s been one person who’s been swapping Ford’s modular engines into classic Fords from day one. His name is Richard Brandl of Superior Custom Classics in Hudson, Florida [www.superiorcustomclassics.com" (727) 697-2951].
We’ve known Richard and his work since featuring Don Lett’s ’49 Mercury convertible (with a Lincoln Mark VIII drivetrain swap) in Super Ford magazine back in the early ’90s. Since then Richard has built numerous modular-powered classics for both customers and himself alike. His last masterpiece, you might remember from the Feb. ’06 issue of magazine, was his ’55 Regal Thunderbird replica (A Regal Ride), powered by an ’01 Mustang Cobra modular drivetrain. To say Richard knows the ins and outs of Ford’s modular engine is an understatement, and he can darn near shoehorn it into anything. So when we spotted this ’71 Ranchero at the NPD Silver Springs Mustang & Ford Roundup a couple of years back (displayed mid-build) with a four-cam 4.6L modular under the hood, we knew Richard couldn’t be too far away.
When we finally caught up with Richard, the Ranchero had been through several iterations, all with a Ford Racing Aluminator crate engine between the rails. At one point, the mod motor had a stack injection system on it feeding through a custom airbox that was married to the Shaker scoop, making the Shaker functional. Richard also dabbled in hydrogen fuel cell technology for the modular as well. The photos you see here are of a stock 4.6L Cobra-style intake with the Shaker affixed to the hood itself. Richard removed the stacks from the engine simply because he was toying with the idea of selling the car and the stacks put the price of entry a bit too steep for most tire kickers. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here in our story.
Two of Richard’s sons, Clinton and David (Ritchie Jr. works at Dad’s shop), were contemplating getting more into Dad’s business and wanted to learn paint and bodywork, mechanical, fabrication, and so forth. At the time, Richard was looking for a ’58-’60 Thunderbird project when he stumbled upon this Ranchero via an ad on eBay Motors, and it wasn’t more than a mile from his house. It was sitting in a man’s driveway as an unfinished project. The body was straight with no rust, so from a bodywork standpoint it wasn’t the worst thing Clinton and David could have started with to learn paint and body. While Clinton and David were working on smoothing the long flanks of the Ranchero for several coats of unforgiving deep gloss black paint, Richard started contemplating another modular engine swap.
Unlike early Mustangs that need a strut frontend or a Mustang II-style setup to fit the big modular, the Ranchero’s engine bay was already huge (big-blocks were an option in ’71). So fitting the 4.6L 32-Valve engine simply required fabricating engine mounts/adapters and an oil pan for the engine that would clear the Ranchero’s crossmember. Richard grabbed his Ford Racing catalog and ordered up the baddest modular crate engine available at the time, the Ford Racing Aluminator. The Aluminator is a hand-built aluminum block and heads modular offering with the best forged internals. It makes a great foundation for any car build and can easily be used naturally aspirated or in a forced-induction setup.