Viva, Ranchero: Galpin Auto Sports Creates The Ultimate Ranchero

gas-ranchero-leadartIf there is a “Disneyland” for car guys, it has to be Galpin. Located at 15500 Roscoe Blvd. in Van Nuys, CA, the sprawling Galpin complex. From new Jags and Fords to custom hot rods, Galpin has it all (they even have a very nice diner on site). Galpin Auto Sports, or GAS for short, is just one of the Galpin operations and they build way out, one-off customs.


The Shelby-inspired Boss 351 Ford Ranchero. Not your typical Ranchero built by not your typical group of enthusiasts.

One of their latest creations is this high performance 1968 Ford Ranchero. Yes, we said high-performance and Ranchero in the same sentence.

The car had been sitting at an RV storage facility in Castaic, California, for about 12 years prior to purchase. It had no engine or trans, back glass had been broken out and the driver’s side window had been down and uncovered. Purchase price: $100.00.

Considering that GAS found the car in the condition it was, the car was very straight and amazingly rust free. They really wanted a custom road race / Shelby look that would be true to its Ford roots, that meant that they did not want to go to extremes and lose the original lines of the car. Besides, with SEMA coming up, there was an 8-week time limit for the build, so there was a limit to what they could do. A little brainstorming turned to rough sketches, and soon the boss approved it and away they went!

Wide tires and a return-to-your-roots racing theme was applied to the Ranchero, and it looked right at home at Willow Springs International Raceway.

First, the Galpin crew completely disassembled the car leaving the suspension and sheet metal intact. The body was sandblasted so they would have a good clean place to start. With help from Ford Auto Body of Van Nuys, California, GAS sourced two 1965 Shelby R model front aprons and grafted them together to create the front bumper/apron that would be wide enough to fit the Ranchero. It took some reshaping of the apron and the Rancheros fenders to make it fit and look clean and proper.


A roll pan was fabricated to fill the void left by removing the factory rear bumper.

Once back from Ford Auto Body, GAS went about the rear of the car. The rear bumper was dumped in favor of a roll pan, which was custom built and installed at GAS. Next was the question of the tail lamps. The GAS crew didn’t like the stock look now that the rear bumper was gone (besides, stock lenses are almost non-existent). After spending hours on the internet looking at pictures and checking dimensions they decided that LED lamps was the way to go, so Galpin technician Ray Petrossian fabricated a sheet metal surround panel and installed it and the lights on the car.


With the hood, the crew really liked the look of the ‘67 Shelby hood scoop (who doesn’t?), but they also wanted it to have a functioning Ram Air system. Of course, no one makes a fiberglass hood for a Ranchero. For this part of the job, GAS enlisted help from their friends at Maeco Motorsport of Reseda, California. When it comes to vintage racecars, these guys really know their stuff, and Maeco was able to re create the hood. They first cut out the center bracing from inside the hood, next the center sheet metal was cut out, and a new piece of sheet metal was fabricated and installed along with the Shelby Hood Scoop.


LED tail lamps and a functioning Ram Air system were just a couple of the subtle touches that set this Ranchero apart.

Next came the wheel wells. The GAS crew was determined to put some serious tire on this car. It has been decided that 17×9-inch American Racing wheels shod with 315/35/17 Nitto NT405 tires were going to be used, so they installed the wheel/tire combo and determined what the final ride heights would be. Once again the Maeco crew did their magic. Extensive work was required both inside and outside the wheel wells and Maeco did a great job of making it fit and still retaining the bodylines. It was done so well that at first glance you really do not notice the amount of work that was done!


A couple of Shelby bumpers were used to fabricate the front bumper for the wider Ranchero.

The car was sent back to Ford Auto Body for the finish sheet metal work and final painting. Wanting the car to pop, it was decided that a custom-mixed PPG Sunrise Orange Mist paint was to be sprayed. The result is definetely eye-catching! At this point the GAS crew was down to just 4 weeks before the SEMA show, but the FAB crew worked some serious hours and it only took them a mere 7-days to get their end completed and the Ranchero back to GAS.

Galpin Classic Auto Service now had a painted and empty shell to assemble in just 3 weeks. They’re only a crew of 3 people so it was 7 days a week and 18 hours per day to get it done on time. They hadn’t been just waiting around for the body, though, as visions of horsepower had been running through their heads.


The rear spoiler is a nice touch on the back end of the Ranchero, directing some downforce when it gets up to speed.

When GAS went looking for an engine, they wanted an era correct factory Ford engine. In 1968, there was a very limited engine option for the Ranchero and none were what could be construed as a real performance option. GAS contacted Don at Barrington Engines in Van Nuys, and he had just the right option: the Boss 351.

Of course, GAS really liked the idea, as the BOSS 351 was known as one of the best stock performance engines of the era. Obviously, a real Boss 351 engine is rare, so GAS worked with Barrington to spec and build a strong powerplant that would run well and not totally break the bank. They decided upon a 1970 351 Cleveland 4v to use as the basis for the Boss 351 build up.

Trying to decide on a powerplant, and wanting to keep to the theme of a late '60s musclecar, the 351 Cleveland engine was the perfect candidate.

Once the block was machined, Barrington added the balanced and chamfered Ford steel crankshaft. It’s connected to the Diamond pistons and rings via a set of polished Ford rods and gives the engine a healthy 10.5:1 compression ratio. A Comp Cams mechanical flat tappet cam bumps the Ford 351 ported and polished 4-valve heads and a Comp Cams roller timing chain keeps everything, well, rolling. To provide plenty of life giving spark, a billet Pertronix Flamethrower distributer and ignition system was used.

Providing plenty of the good stuff is a Holley 750cfm Ultra HP carburetor that sits upon a Ford intake manifold. The intake manifold features a modified plenum for increased flow. Speaking of flow, another problem sprang up. A ‘68 Ranchero never came with a 351C therefore, there were no headers available for this application and build time was very short. It’s nice to have friends in high places, and GAS called their friends at Ford Powertrain Applications who were able to custom build a set. Once completed, the headers went to Performance Coatings and then off to GAS in record time. The headers turned out to be a perfect fit, as are the 3-inch diameter Dyno Max Race Bullit mufflers that complete the system.

IMG_1082Engine cooling is always a potential problem with a high performance engine (this one dyno’d out to 475 horsepower), but the crew at Be Cool did the job. The GAS guys say that thanks to the Be Cool aluminum radiator, this car can be driven around in city traffic in the summer with no issues.

Good looks are nearly as important as power, so GAS used a Ford “Ram Air” air-cleaner along with Ford “OEM” Boss 351 Valve covers that are manufactured by Ansen, and a March Performance pulley system.

With the engine done, thoughts turned to how GAS wanted to get that power to the 9-inch rearend. They were able to source a 4-speed Toploader transmission and Galpin Technician Ray Petrossian performed the rebuild with parts provided by David Kee Transmissions. When it came to a clutch GAS talked to McLeod Racing who hooked them up with an aluminum flywheel and a McLeod RST twin disc clutch set up. The GAS guys say that if you have never tried one of these setups, you are missing out. The contend that the clutch hooks up with no chatter and best of all, the pedal pressure is actually lighter than stock. A heavy-duty, custom driveshaft was spun up by Wenco Driveshafts, also of Van Nuys.

IMG_1083Now, 475 horses is a lot, especially when one considers that the “frame” of a Ranchero is actually a unibody design, which made things a little difficult for the Galpin guys. If the vehicle was to perform like the crew intended, and to accommodate many of the upgrades that they had in mind for the Ranchero, then it needed to be modified.

A Ranchero is not exactly known as a canyon carver but GAS wanted the Ranchero to handle well. To achieve that high level of performance, GAS installed a Total Control Products front suspension system that included a set of Vara Shock coil-over shocks. To keep body roll to a minimum, a Maeco Motorsport adjustable anti-sway bar was also added. With the speed that they envisioned, GAS knew that they would need world-class brakes, so a set of 13-inch Wilwood disc brakes completed the set up.

The interior was also kept closer to it's heritage because the object of this build wasn't to modernize, but to restify the Ranchero and build the sport truck that Ford didn't.

Out back, the rearend is a posi-equipped Currie 9 inch unit with 3:89 gears that’s held aloft with a Maeco Motorsport full-floating, rear suspension set up. Again, Vara Shock coil-over shocks are used and again, Wilwood disc brakes, this time with a 12-inch rotor complete the scene.

As with the rest of the car, the interior is what you could call “racer plush.” The seats are SCAT Elite Black units that place the driver perfectly to grab onto the LeCarra steering wheel and the Hurst floor shifter. The original dash was refurbished by Snow’s Vinyl, while North Hollywood Speedometer made sure that the original gauges were working like new. The Galpin crew joked that the Ranchero has “2/40 air” and that they retained the stock Ford AM radio because they prefer the crackling sound of the Boss 351, but they did have Chatsworth Auto Upholstery attend to various interior touches to give the Ranchero a little more comfort.

In an amazingly short 8-weeks, the technical staff at GAS, including Ray Petrossian and Manny Gonzales, took what no one would consider a racer and turned a lowly Ranchero into a car that not only turns heads but fast lap times. The Ranchero was voted one of 10 best trucks at SEMA 2011, and was one of 10 vehicles at SEMA selected to participate in the Optima Battery Challenge where it put down some very respectable times against flat-out muscle cars.

If you’re ever in “The Valley” and want to see what a car dealership should be, stop in at the Galpin complex. You will be amazed at what they have there and will probably end up feverishly counting your pennies so you too can have some GAS.


About the author

Matt Emery

As an editor of Drive! and Classic Trucks magazines and staff editor on titles such as Dirt Sports, Off Road, and 4 Stroke Dirt Bikes, Matt Emery at one or another covered everything from the Baja 1000 to NASCAR, NHRA to the Bonneville salt flats and the Easter Jeep Safari to motocross. He now freelances to the Power Automedia online publications, among his many ventures.
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