Since I just paid mine off, let me tell you about the best truck you’ll never have. It’s so awesome, you’ll beam with visible pride almost every moment you roll with Spartan style down the strip. The other moments you’ll be kindly telling neighbor’s that “Yes, I have a lawnmower, and no, I’m not doing your lawn. Its America’s answer to the Japanese mini-truck obsession people had back when grandpa had teeth. The truck is of course, the completely forgettable Ford Ranger. It is what happens when a Sherman Tank and a Miata have drunk sex after a long night at the club and decide the baby is going to be tough, or at least named Sue. More on that later.
I got my Ford Ranger after months of long dedicated consternation (saw it in a paper) hours of dedicated research (Wikipedia) and severe haggling with the dealer (Please for the Love of God and everything holy, get that POS off my lot!) It was my second vehicle after a thoroughly enjoyable time in a 1997 Honda Accord. Now don’t get me wrong, Hondas are great cars, but this one had run off on me three times and I was tired of replacing radios, and finding odd complimentary screwdrivers under shattered glass. I also learned that Honda’s always work, it’s just not all of it always work (The front left wheel tended to fall off).
I had just graduated from college, so naturally I felt like the world was mine for the taking and I should be driving around in one of those fancy Bavarian Motor Vehicles (spelled BMW in Murican). However after looking at my final salary offer and carefully calculating my discretionary income after student loans, I did an engineering calculation and realized I could afford something with three wheels, the fourth one being optional. My wheel chucking Honda wasn’t looking so bad.
However patriotism and fate got the better of me, and I decided the best way I could support the faltering economy was to buy my Japanese inspired, Mexican assembled All AMERICAN car and I went to the local dealer!
There were three there, one had all the bells whistles and headlight rocket launchers all XLTs apparently come with and a price tag only MI6 would take seriously. The other had obviously been rode hard after pulling too many lawnmowers through suburbia and the last one, well the last was love at first sight. It looked exactly like the one in the google (see picture). The truck was apparently used with a grand total of 300 miles on it. The former owner had opted out for a better vehicle. The test drive showed why.
In the long long ago, in the way way back Ford rolled out the Model T truck. The truck was built before highways, or roads or even before plastic bobble heads. It was tough and had a leaf spring suspension that was built to run over Nazi’s or something like that. The Ranger has the exact same thing. It doesn’t drive, it more flies making just enough eventually contact with the sacred Earth for the FAA to lose interest. I was in love.
The haggling was fierce
Dealer: Please take this off of us, we need the room to sell Fiestas!
Me: “I dunno, I don’t know if I need another car.” I said, while I watched the Honda cast a tire down the street.
Dealer: “I’ll take a thousand off!”
Dealer: “How about another thousand, and I’ll give you my first born!”
Me: “You strike a hard bargain sir, I may consider relenting. “
So for the first time in my life I had a semi-new car, and now I had a sudden dire need to learn to drive stick!
I learn some life lessons about driving stick after three of my friends swore they would never ride with me again. I don’t know why they kissed the Earth when they left my car or suddenly found Faith. Here is what I have learned so far. The screeching sound means you’re doing something bad. The clutch is the magic elf thingy that keeps the engine from dying real sudden like. The car after being parked, doesn’t like to stay still, preferring to cuddle up at high speeds to the most expensive car it can find. (Probably a BMW) When you drive stick, the spirit of Mad Max descends down upon you, and you can speed shift like a night riding fury. Your mileage will vary.
Your mileage will vary for a couple minor reasons. The Ranger came with three engine choices, The big six cylinder was more at home in a Tank or a semi-truck and is the sole reason you see little midget Ranger’s towing fifth wheelers around. There’s a little six cylinder that no one talks about and I’m not going to talk about it. Then there’s the aluminum block Duratek 23 4 cylinder.
What you can’t be a truck man and brag about a four cylinder you say?
Well you are of course wrong. Boeing thought so highly of it (or blew the budget buying matching polo shirts) that they built it into their Phantom Eye drone (Yes this is a drone, it’s not some whiny remote control quadcopter you’re currently annoying your neighbor with)
Now with an American automatic transmission in there, this would be nothing to write about, the engineers at Ford had made an unholy union years ago with Mazda. They reached into the unwritten unspeakable lore of car kind, and dug up the only thing that a drone engine could combine with that would make an unstoppable monster. Yep, they stuck a Miata manual transmission in my All American machine. Now with this power combined I had a CAPTAIN PLANET , I mean all the pickup of a micro sport car and had the towing capacity to needed haul around a smallish sized lawnmower. I got incredible mileage, sort of.
You see when you have a manual transmission, there is no fate but what you make. Your MPG is a number based entirely on own inspired cunning. I could get low thirties while drag racing 90 year old ladies, going downhill, and drafting behind semi-trucks. On the other side, you could suffer the sticker shock of aggressive driving. You may feel like a Starfighter, playing Knights of Cydonia on loop may but drops mileage to the teens!”
With the ups and downs of gas prices through the years and may continue lack of not being able to kill my boss (How else do you advance!) I learned to coast and ride hills like a sailboat captain sick of paddling. So after finding a nice long downhill to shift into neutral with, I naturally got pulled over for speeding.
I was a Honda driver so I was an old pro with cops at this point.
Cop: Do you know how fast you were going?
Me: Not fast enough, you caught me! (I was smuggling donuts at the time)”
It was going swimmingly, until he cuffed me. Apparently, I had forgotten to change out the plates, and the cop was thoroughly convinced I had stolen the car from a mortuary lawn service. After clearing up the misunderstanding, and promising not to make any more slurs against donuts, I regained my freedom. I learned from then on to drive much more carefully, and slower and to be more observant then I hit one of those fancy Bavarian Motor Works cars.
Sure I’d like to claim it was a dark and stormy night, but unlike the rest of these review, that would be a lie. I had just had a pleasant night with the girl I should have married (guys, you all know THAT one), and was driving home. Like every other night in So Cal, Caltrans had crawled out from their daytime coffins and shut down all the freeways. I was lost, happy, Knights of Cydonia was playing again and I suddenly realized the secret of 3-d travel.
You see roads are 2 dimensions, time is the third, so as long as you’re not in the same place at the same time as another car, and you’re legit. I wasn’t legit. I had gotten into a fender bender with another car. Ahem, my Sherman tank got into a fender bender with a $35,000 BMW coupe. So after making sure the other driver was alright, getting the cops called, and alerting insurances, I checked out my 3 dimensional displacement error. The BMW looked like Shia’s Lebeoff’s career, my truck just looked slightly miffed. The tow truck driver kicked the fender, and ordained me safe to go. Later, I added the BMW to my car payments, wondering how many more bosses I would need to kill to pay for my new BMW and started driving like a 90 year old lady. Well except for the time I was chasing a Marine expeditionary force.
My job, at the time, involved a lot of secret squirrel stuff making sure the Marines didn’t wreck their new toys (They always did). Marines are an odd lot, they like fancy matching clothes, doing kicky things in the sands, riding on yachts, wearing short shorts, and testing things in the middle of BUM LOVING NOWHERE! My first time out, my job insisted on having me rent a car, and since we have these self-inflicted plague creatures called accountants, I got a sub-compact Yaris. Its battered remains are out there still. So second trip out, I insisted on my own vehicle, I had just gotten the fancy tires after all!
Well I could keep pace every HMMVV, and whatever the hell those OshKosk thingies are called and made it all the way into an off road, that wasn’t a road but a riverbed and promptly sank. Now after a couple trips around my car, wondering morosely if I should maybe figure out how to fossilize myself, or just die in the truck, I had a sudden Devine inspiration. Ok no, I didn’t, I suddenly remembered that I had watched too many war documentaries. The Israeli army, (the only buggers on the planet who I think could win a tossup with Marines) were too poor to buy all the fancy toys we give the Marines (all now broken), so instead of true off-road vehicles they simply deflate the tires. So I deflated my tires, and my Tank like, Miata powered lawn mower carrier came flopping out of the desert back into civilizations while playing Knights of Cydonia.
Now the point of this long winded story. My little truck is paid for, has a hundred thousand miles on it, and still mostly resembles the picture I ripped off of Google. I have moved a dozen friends with it now, it’s so fast it can get speeding tickets in neutral. It’s so rugged it can rip through nowhere with Marines. It’s so tough it can kill Evil German machines. It’s so awesome its engine has flown on drones and its guts are scalped from a Miata. It’s also worth more than I paid for. I’m being honest here, and this is why you can’t have one, unless you’re British. You see Ford makes crap cars, but awesome trucks, they know this. They had forgotten about automotive evolution, however. You see cars, like dinosaurs adapt and grow with time. For example , my 1997 Honda Accord would fit nicely in the trunk of a 2015 Honda Accord. Most pickups were the same way. The Tacoma, ahem the evil rival of my Ford Ranger and all things good under the sun, kept pace with the time and grew as large as a Ford F150. The Ranger did not, since what scant R&D funds Ford could muster went into their other truck lines. Ford, being plagued by accountants realized they could compete the F150 against everything in the modern age, the Ranger, they could drop. Suddenly the US was without its beloved lawnmower mobile. The demand went wild, and no sooner had mine left the lot, then the dealer kept trying to buy it back from me for a profit on my part. Its value has gone up ever since. I expects this trend to continue until Ford gets its act together and brings the International Ranger into the US. I could sell out, but nostalgia and loyalty keep my truck and I together.
I would highly recommend this vehicle to anyone, it’s a joy to own, and you just won’t own mine.