You've heard of the rolling restoration. Well, Tom McCool's way-out '62 Ranchero is the epitome of the rolling restomod. What was originally intended as a get-to-work vehicle turned out to be something quite different.
Tom, a resident of Galloway, Ohio, bought the Ranchero in 1984. It was a trade-in car that came from California, and it sat on a lot for a good while until Tom negotiated for a price to suit his intended driving needs. When the price finally dropped, Tom shifted gears a bit. "I kept on driving [my] other car to work," says Tom, "and immediately began doing stuff to the Ranchero."
"Stuff" began with a complete rust-proofing of the car since it was already rust-free, and Tom intended to put this beauty on Ohio's notorious salt trails. The next year, Tom purchased a new house with an attached garage. With the "sort-of" blessing of his wife, Tom bought a compressor, a spray gun, and paint, and commenced with his first-ever paint job. That was enough to make the car-show bug bite hard; so, after putting plenty of miles on the Ranchero that summer, Tom built a three-car garage behind the house to better support his blossoming new hobby.
After 10 years of piloting the 289 C4 Ranchero, and raising three boys who also developed an affinity for things automotive, Tom reckoned it was time for something a little different. He'd already had some experience in 5.0L conversions, and decided that this would make a definite upgrade for the Ranchero. With this swap in mind, Tom and the boys tore the car apart, stripped the old paint, and rebuilt a 5.0L V-8 from an '86 Mustang. Two years later, the Ranchero was sporting a hot new engine and an equally slick Laser Red Metallic topcoat (Tom's first attempt at a candy color).
Following an interior re-do, in which Tom dropped some VDO gauges, the suspension was next on the agenda.
"I wanted to get rid of the stock suspension," says Tom. "Through friends in the Falcon Club I went to Willie Osbourne at Rod and Custom Motorsports to look at Mustang II front suspensions. I bought a kit with 11-inch front discs and 2-inch dropped spindles, and everything I needed to do the conversion myself. "I spent a good bit of the following winter putting in the new front end. I moved the centerline of the wheels back 3/4 inch to get the wheels more in the center of the wheelwells, and had to reset the engine to line up with all of that. It was a big job, but it was the single best thing I'd ever done to the car at that point. The braking and handling made it so much more fun to drive." Naturally, that led to more time on the road for Tom and his wife--which also led the Mrs. to conclude that air conditioning should be the next logical upgrade. So, the winter of 2000/2001 saw Tom installing a Vintage Air system with a Gen Pac II HVAC unit.
"I decided to remove the original heating system so I would have a cleaner, less cluttered look. This turned out to be a big job also, as there was cutting, welding, and repainting to do again." Nevertheless, Tom soldiered on, and now the '62 Ranchero is the cat's whiskers for cool highway cruising.
But, as you may expect with any true rolling restomod, it ain't over yet. "This is a project that I'm sure will not come to an end anytime soon," says Tom. "I'm already planning the next project--cutting the floor out, tying the frames together, and stiffening it up somewhat. Our sons would like to race it someday, and this is something that would need to be done."
So, while Tom McCool's wicked Ranchero isn't quite the image of perfection he'd like it to be, it's only a matter of time. A little more work here, a little bit there...