What you see before you is the product of a 14-year journey filled with love, hate, fun, tears, new friends, and the tying up of a good deal of money. Fester bought this truck brand new in April of ’97, and to this day it only has 67 clicks on the odometer. He bought the truck, drove it home, and decided to have a little fun with it. The thought of turning back has never crossed his mind. What started out as a simple ’bag job turned into an attempted traditional and stock-floor bodydrop. Every step turned into another two or three more, but Fester stuck it out, learned a few new tricks along the way, and watched his truck evolve and morph into the wild and crazy Ranger on our pages this month. Follow along as Fester recounts his long road to the cover while adding another timeless piece to his gallery of legendary minitrucks.
“One modification I always wanted to perform on my Ranger was a big-motor swap, and I found a donor in a wrecked Ford Mustang convertible. I hauled it home, drove it off the trailer, whipped it around the block a few times then promptly pulled the motor, transmission, and rearend. Since I had destroyed my original floor in the stock-floor bodydrop attempt, I knew I would end up needing something else from the pony’s carcass, so out came the measuring tape. The Ranger and Mustang floors were similar enough, so with my trusty Sawzall in hand, I cut the engine compartment and trunk off. With the rest of the car out of the way, I was able to start welding the floor into its new home.
“It was about this time that I met some guys that changed this build for the better. I had been so frustrated with the progress I was making, or the lack thereof, and was close to calling it quits. I called James Strassner late one night and told him about the problems I was running into. He showed up at 9 a.m. the next day with a welding helmet in hand. Within days, he had the floor and firewall welded up and we were putting the cab back on the frame before I knew it. In rapid time, the pile of unorganized customization I had made was starting to look like a truck again.
“One night we were working on the front suspension and having issues getting the ’bag to fit without rubbing. I had a spare air shock and jokingly said ‘Hey, let’s try this.’ James liked the idea, and we redid the entire front suspension with his handmade control arms for this purpose.
“With everything dialed in, we then stripped the truck down to a bare frame. While James was finishing welding everything, Greg Costlow was busy prepping the chassis for the powdercoat treatment that was to come. The motor went to a good friend, Steve Max, for a full rebuild, and true to his racing form, it did not come back anywhere near stock condition. The transmission rebuild was also overseen by Steve, and as expected, it came back fully built with a shift kit.
“This is when I met another great friend, Jamie Cummins of If Its Got Wheels. We started hanging out on a regular basis, and he spent hours showing me what it takes to spray a quality paintjob. In no time flat, we had the entire suspension, engine, and transmission fully painted HOK True Blue Pearl. I had been squirreling away parts over the years, and now was the time to finally bolt on all the chrome and shiny parts to the freshly rebuilt engine. With the frame back from powdercoating, I finally had the opportunity to assemble a rolling chassis. The suspension was pieced back together, and the engine and transmission were also fused. Wheels that I have been stashing away for over 10 years were finally mounted as well. Last but not least, I ordered a custom aluminum fuel cell from Mouse’s Kustom Fab. Everything was starting to take shape, and my excitement level was at an all-time high.