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1998 Ford Ranger - Long Nights, Worth It?

Tim Sockness' '98 Ranger

Photography by , Wes AlIison

Tim Sockness was looking for a lightweight car he could cut up and use as a "Pro Street go-fast car." He'd been doing so since the '80s when he saw a Pro Street Duster wobbling down the freeway. "I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen," Tim says. So it stayed in his head for 20 years. Then one day, something clicked. "I was a late bloomer as a car guy. Up until I was 30 years old, I drove garbage." When Tim realized his fate, he began to build. First there were four-wheel drives, then an import with a turbo. "That car was fast; it had 240 hp at the wheel and only weighed 2,100 pounds." That's when Tim decided to build a real car.

You're thinking it; we asked it. Why a Ranger? "It's small," Tim says. "I was looking for a Falcon or something smaller. Originally I wanted a Nova, but there were so many Novas at the [Car Craft Summer Nationals] that I wanted to be different."

Why not a Chevy S-10? "I'm a Ford guy. My dad has driven Fords all his life, so I started driving them, too."

Tim was on the hunt for "not a Nova" when he found this '98 Ranger. It had 291,000 miles on it, but the body was still in good shape. Without telling the owner his plan for a complete teardown, Tim paid the man $1,700 and drove it home. Since Tim was relatively new to building cars, he went to car shows with a camera and snapped photos of Pro Street cars to see what people were doing. If he had specific parts on his mind, he'd focus on that at the show. Soon, his photo album contained enough information for Tim to start ordering parts.

Once he had the basic plan, he tore into the truck. Over the course of a year, he'd accumulate parts, then work, and then buy more parts. He started with the rear suspension by first pulling the box off the frame, then taking the car to a friend with a welder to build the four-link and back half the truck. That friend also had a tubing bender, so they built the rollcage at the same time.

His son, Nate, attended a one-year class at a technical college that focused on bodywork, so he was hired as the panel beater. The aim was a coat of Volkswagen Indigo Blue, but there is still some work to be done before the truck sees a paint booth. In the meantime, it'll get blocked and bumped until the body is straight. This happens one weekend at a time so Tim and Nate can drive it.

And drive it, they do. "It's not a daily driver but a toy to take to Porky's drive-in and other cruises during the summer," Tim explains. "The goal last year was to get it to the [Car Craft Summer Nationals]. All the engine wiring was zip-tied to the rollcage so we could get it there."

Why is it primer? Last winter, they chased rust in the core support until it was summer again, so they still didn't get it painted. Another problem was it is too much fun. "After [driving it], we really dragged our feet taking the car apart again," Tim says. So the truck remains in primer.

"We can't believe the reaction we get about the primer. Some guys tell us just to leave it that way, but it will get paint eventually. The plan is to finish the inside of the box, drive it in primer next summer, and take it apart next fall for final paint," Tim says. Yeah, sure, we believe him.

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