When you go to an event like the Detroit Autorama, you expect to see awesome builds. In fact, that’s why most people go. They want to see things that blow their minds. Being an off-road enthusiast, to me, old steel is every bit as cool as a new, high-dollar build. Being old is part of what made this build a standout. It wasn’t an expensive build, and it wasn’t the shiniest or flashiest. It had a little hint of rust and a bit of dirt left over from the last adventure. This 1979 F-150 Ranger Lariat is kind of a rare sight in this part of the country where rust is abundant.
Steven Moore is the proud owner of this 1979 Ford F-150 Ranger Lariat and loves its past. Steven explained, “It’s got a lot of local history. I bought the truck from the original owner, Carl. Carl and I work together, so that’s how I knew about it. I had a 1978 F-150 long bed before this. It was my baby and I didn’t want to sell it, but I saw an opportunity to buy this one. I said to myself, I can’t pass up this deal.”
This truck is cool for a lot of reasons. One of them is the trim package. At the time, the Lariat was the top trim level available, and this truck is loaded to the hilt. When the truck was built, it had a sticker price of $9,300. To give some perspective, a Corvette the same year cost $10,000, so it had some money into it.
Steven continued, “My dad worked with the owner back in 1990, and that’s how we first met. He bought the truck new and in 1982 or 1983, he was crossing the street and was hit by a drunk driver. He was paralyzed from the waist down. That did not stop him from driving this truck. This truck had hand controls in it when I bought it. He had a winch in his garage to get in and out. That’s dedication. He wasn’t going to let an accident impair him. For me, that history is pretty cool.”
The truck was ordered specifically to be modified. The plan included changing from the original wheels to chrome wagons, as well as an immediate four-inch suspension lift. 36-inch tires were also installed post-lift. Steven shared that, “According to the Marti report, this truck is one of one with these gears.”
“There were only 11 made in these two colors and only one in 4.11:1 gears,” continued Steven. “It was a special order that has a limited-slip front axle. Very few had a limited-slip front axle. In fact, it took a while for Carl to get the truck, because Dana was actually on strike in 1979. When they went on strike, Ford had to close down production on certain vehicles that had the limited-slip differentials. It is true four-wheel-drive.”
Use It, Don’t Lose It
The truck has seen dirt all over the East Coast. Steven shared that, “It’s been to the upper peninsula of Michigan and back. It has been to Florida and back. This truck has also done a lot of four-wheeling in Camp Grayling. It has been to the Silver Lake Sand Dunes as well. That is mostly what I do with it now.”
The truck was actually stolen twice back in the day. The second time it was stolen, the thieves beat it up pretty good. That was just the excuse that Carl needed to get the paint redone in the original color to cover up some of the scratches he had put on it off-roading. Carl reports that the truck was only ever stuck one time. He was out wheeling and a friend in a Jeep got stuck. Carl pulled up next to him and shouted that he should have bought a Ford. Then Carl mashed the gas and dug a hole he couldn’t get out of.
For me, this is the perfect truck.
After a lot of love and adventure, the truck sat in a garage from 1996 to 2019. That’s when Steven got his hands on it. Steven joked, “I was told that if this truck could tell stories, they would be X-rated!
“I have owned it for less than a year, but I’m already in love with it,” beamed Steven. “Since it sat from 1996 until I bought it, the first thing I had to do was go through the fuel system. The 1996 gasoline was pretty nasty. I put some new gas in and flushed out the whole system. Then I did a new 750 Proform carburetor. It seems to work pretty good. I also redid all the brakes and put new shocks on it. After that, it was just polishing and cleaning up what we could. I was shocked that under all of that dust, the original paint was in great shape.”
Once the ride was up and running, it was time to get it back out in the daylight. This may look like a tough old truck, but it actually does pretty well on the street. Steven said, “It’s a toy, but still very street-able. I can drive it wherever I need to. With the current 39-inch Mickey Thompson Baja belted tires and 4.11:1 gears, it will cruise at 60 miles per hour no problem. These tires are a really popular tire amongst the sand dune crowd. They’re kind of an old tire, but they float fantastically on the dunes at low pressures.”
The original 400 cubic-inch engine was replaced by Carl at some point with a 460 cubic-inch engine. It is backed up by a C6 automatic transmission and NP205 transfer case combination. The Dana 44 front axle and Ford 9-inch rear axle are both filled with the aforementioned 4.11:1 gears. A rare Traction-Lok front differential can be found spinning the front wheels; the rear got the same treatment.
The current six-inch Skyjacker suspension lift is an upgrade from the original four-inch kit installed shortly after Carl received the truck from the factory. Some of the factory options include A/C, cruise control, and a tilt steering wheel – prime features back in the day. The factory Medium Vaquero Glow and Dark Brown Metallic remains sprayed on the outside. This truck is one of eleven built with this exterior paint combination.
Every Day Is Dune Day
Steven stated, “It’s just a blast man. It’s nothing super special. It has an old Skyjacker six-inch lift on it and it doesn’t ride that great. There’s room for improvement. I was just looking at some Deaver leaf spring kits for it. I’m getting some ideas but I want to keep it as period-correct as I can. I want to improve it, but I want it to look right. For the most part, it will be an old-school, cruise-around-the-dunes kind of ride.”
Steven is lucky enough to live close to the sand dunes and plans to spend plenty of time there. He said, “I tow it to the dunes because the last thing I want to do is break something and be stuck there. I’m planning to do a lot of wheeling this year.”
As it stands, Steven admits there is some room for improvement. “Right now, it is missing just a couple of things,” he said. “I have a visor and some fender flares that need to go back on. The idea is that if you opened an old magazine from the 1980s, this is what you would find. That is exactly the way I intend to keep it. It’s far from perfect, but it is an era-correct survivor. I am also still really close with the original owner and I know what his vision for the truck was. I plan on staying true to that vision.”
Steven shared, “I love this era of four-wheel-drive trucks. I’m from a Ford family and it just doesn’t get any better than this. I do have a couple of 460 cubic-inch blocks in the garage and I would love to have a stroker motor in it. A lot of people say that this is from when a truck was a truck. Don’t get me wrong, new trucks are great. For me, this is the perfect truck.”