Why this forgotten barn find pickup is the perfect project

It may have a blown headgasket and no transmission, but this 1990 Ford Ranger could just be the perfect American project. Here’s why

If we were to ask you what America and its rich customs could boast more than any other country, the answer would undoubtedly swivel around one thing; heritage. Whatever your current view of the U.S.A, it’s mantra remains the same – from nothing, you can make something. The same applies to the American car industry, and we think this 1990 Ford Ranger also qualifies.

Americans never shy away from their legacy and, as an automotive symbol of freedom, there’s one vehicle that inspires more than any other. The almighty pick-up truck.

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With dozens of models yearning for your attention, it's hard to pinpoint a true dollop of Americana. For that, you need to seek company of the blue oval. The F-150 may be king of the utilitarians, but the compact Ranger is a far better vehicle for those seeking a less-celebrated workhorse oozing with merit and lure.

While production of the Ford Ranger began on January 18, 1982, the truck received a cosmetic update for the 1989 model year, flush with style cues that encompassed block-like composite headlamps, front fenders, grille and bonnet. Inside the cabin, Ford injected the ageing interior with new fabrics, a new dashboard and steering column.

What was once a work mule, with the slack-jawed appeal of a refrigerator in dungarees, now offered an outright butch and aggressive stance. The aesthetic changes gave the impression that the frame and powerplant lurking beneath the bodywork has received a hefty shot of steroids.

The facelifted Ranger may have only been two-wheel drive, but the inline-four and V6 models could happily take the equivalent Dodge Ram around the back and punch it to death. As for the diesel, well, it could practically tow a house.

Values have scraped the bottom of the price trough as of late, but with a resurgence of all things grunge and curtain-haired, the Ranger is in prime position as a genuine automotive icon. Emerging from Ford’s assembly line in Kentucky, this 1990 Ranger trumpets the aforementioned retro styling but with extra provenance – because it’s currently living in a hedge.

Barn finds and restoration projects always radiate an extra layer of fascination. Whereas dry-stored, beloved and cherished vehicles strut their concourse condition on days where sun-baked asphalt and cloudless skies reign supreme, they defy the point. A pick-up is only cool if either modified, restored or worn.

Nobody wants to see Chuck Norris starring in a romantic comedy, we want him roundhouse kicking someone out of a helicopter. As such, we won’t want our Ford Rangers to prance about with unblemished paintwork and straight panels. To feel comfortable behind the wheel of Americana’s largely unsung pick-up, we require pigmented wings and the gruff appearance of Joe Don Baker in hunting gear.

That’s what this Ranger offers in spades. Don’t get us wrong, this is a proper restoration job. The engine has self-detonated and the vehicle’s transmission was removed and lost some time ago. There more vegetation on the windscreen than Elvis ever ate and a colony of spiders currently call it home, but saving a truck in need of TLC holds more kudos than buying one in already sterling condition.

As a staple of early 1990s culture that’s been frozen beneath the shadow of Ford’s larger and more iconic offerings, with healthy parts availability and the perfect blend of age-old heritage and contemporary usability, this 1990 Ford Ranger is the perfect restoration project – and an embodiment of making something great from what others would view as nothing. Get a closer look at the pick-up you should save!

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