In today's day of six-speed automatic transmissions, fuel injection, and power everything, it's easy to be intimidated by traffic on a major highway when you're trying to get up to speed in your classic Ford with a carbureted 289 small-block backed by a C4 three-speed automatic. We know dozens of people who have, over the last five years or so, taken their classic Fords to fewer events and stayed closer to home, using surface streets to get to their cruise night destination. Many more have moved to a late-model Mustang for a fun cruiser and their classic Mustang or Ford now sits, rarely used, in their garage. That's not what we want to hear. We want to hear about how much fun our readers are having taking their classic cars out; getting thumbs up on the highway and being asked questions at the gas pumps when filling up. That's why many of us want to drive our classics in the first place, right?
The phrase "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" comes to mind here. Meaning, why not build or upgrade your classic Ford with some modern drivetrain features to keep up with today's traffic? Got a tired small-block under the hood? Then yank that engine and give it a well-deserved retirement. A modern, aluminum-headed small-block (or even a stroker engine if you have the budget) topped off with an EFI system will give your Pony or classic Ford the pep it needs to merge with today's traffic. Back it with an overdrive transmission, upgrade to power disc brakes, and a few other goodies and you'll want to take your classic Ford everywhere!
This was exactly the case with our good friend, Merv Rego, who owns Classic Creations of Central Florida along with his wife, Pat. Merv's '65 Falcon Ranchero benefitted from a fresh paintjob about 10 years back with some custom touches, and a new interior was fitted. Unfortunately, as clean as the 'Chero looked on the outside, its 200,000-mile 289, wearing nothing more than a modified set of Mustang Tri-Y headers, was more than tired. Between the wheezing engine and stock C4 automatic trans, the Falcon-based ute was far from highway worthy, relegating it to local shows and the rare hour-plus ride to Ocala for the Silver Springs Ford & Mustang Roundup.
To remedy the situation and make the '65 into a "hop in and go anywhere" classic Ford, Merv had slowly amassed parts, including an AOD four-speed overdrive automatic trans, front disc brakes, a power brake booster conversion, and a power steering conversion. The last piece of the puzzle was a new engine to mate to the AOD.
Ford Racing's X302 small-block crate engine ended up being the perfect solution for this build. Ford's newest small-block crate offering provides good power with all new parts built by one of Ford's top engine remanufacturers using a production block/crank and tested by Ford to pass all OE durability tests. The X302 features a late-model cast crank with 50-ounce balance, forged Mahle pistons, forged OE connecting rods, a Ford Racing E303 hydraulic roller cam, Ford Racing GT-40 aluminum cylinder heads, roller rockers, and more. It comes fully assembled with a 12-month/12,000-mile warranty. Best of all, the X302 is as close as your nearest Ford dealer.
Rated at 340 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, the Ford Racing X302 will move this Falcon Ranchero with ease, especially since we plan to top off the X302 with a Ford Racing EFI harness and Summit Racing/Trick Flow induction hardware to help the X302 return great modern-like driveability and fuel economy. In Part 1 this month, we're going to tackle the removal of the old drivetrain, spruce up the engine bay a little bit, and look at some of the X302's hardware. In Part 2, we'll prep and install our new crate engine, wire up our fuel injection, and plumb our EFI-spec fuel system. Hang on; it's going to be a fun ride when the dust settles around this Ranchero buildup.
1 As noted in the opening...
1 As noted in the opening text, this ’65 Ranchero gets its power from a 289 2-V small-block that had seen more than 200,000 miles before it was even swapped into the Ranchero, replacing the original inline six and three-speed, column-shift setup. The 289 is stock except for a set of Tri-Y headers.
2 Since our plan was to...
2 Since our plan was to give the engine compartment a fresh start as well, everything in the engine bay had to go—wiring, brackets, and so forth—so we could paint the engine bay body color. First up was the owner-installed Monte Carlo bar.
3 We found this nice cooling...
3 We found this nice cooling system disaster when removing the upper hose at the thermostat housing. The Ranchero wasn’t running a thermostat, so the engine was running too cool, plus the engine’s cooling was almost straight water.