1961 Falcon Ranchero – Kustomized to be Kool

1961 Falcon Ranchero with do-it-yourself Custom Touches


I met Gary Kanel browsing TFFN.net, “The Ford Falcon Network”, like the name says, a website dedicated to Falcon owners. In case this is your first time at MyRideisMe.com, I’m partial to the round bodied 1960-1963 Falcons, especially wagons… so much so I’m building a 1963 Falcon Wagon. Gary’s 1961 Falcon Ranchero is right up my alley! I learned to drive a stick in a 1960 Ranchero with the PILE-O-JUNK 3-speed on the tree that came in these Falcons and Comets. Try teaching a 15 year old to wait until you’ve reached a FULL stop before shifting to first! It just don’t work!! I had the 3-speed out of my 65 Comet 3 times to change the 2nd gear cluster. Luckily, my pops helped me repair the trans and my dad’s buddy Brad had a few spares.


Wait, this is a story about Gary’s Falcon Ranchero, I’ll get back on topic!


Gary’s Ranchero started as the fairly rusty, not so pretty ride you see below. If you’re a fan like me, you’re pretty curious, and as you’ll learn later, Gary wanted/needed a shop truck. Ranchero’s are perfect for that. He struck a deal with the previous owner who, as you can see from this video, as a pretty decent sense of humor!  1961 Falcon Ranchero For Sale


stock ranchero,1961 Falcon Ranchero, Custom Ranchero
before restoration,1961 Falcon Ranchero, Custom Ranchero
As purchased 1961 Falcon Ranchero back at Gary’s shop.


From these humble beginnings, the customizing and rust repair started. Here’s where I could see immediately that Gary’s talented and has a great eye for style. Before we get into the mods, let’s hear from Gary:


“I had a 1964 Ranchero in high school. I really liked that truck but have always favored the round body Falcons more. I knew someday I wanted another one to make into a “shop truck”.


By trade I’m the machinist/welder/fabricator in a one man shop tucked in the corner of a factory. I’m responsible for prototype development, small run production, special fab projects, and repairs. My passion however is custom fabrication in the automotive world. Man my life’s ambition has been to own and operate a real shop. I’ve always had more ambition than money so I just learned how to do it. My shop now is just a 28×30. And I’m not equipped to take on work. I have a gut feeling though this shit might be getting real, and soon. (Gary’s looking to take on some customer work soon…)


Although I don’t have an official shop yet, I do work on the side and had managed to save up enough “shop” money to buy the Ranchero. So it is a true shop truck.


I look at design, function, form, and execution of the mods as a whole to become a rolling sculpture. So yes I guess there is an artistic side as well, but I wouldn’t call myself an artist.


Ultimately what I see is a solid, dependable, vehicle that is safe and comfortable, capable of being driven anywhere, with no issues or worries. The vision is to use a Mustang II cross-member, 4.6 DOHC Lincoln Mark VIII engine and overdrive trans along with a Jag rear to make up the drivetrain.


Style wise I really dig the early 60’s look but want to put my own twist to it. The hardest and most fun part is to combine everything so that it looks like its “supposed” to be that way.


Not everyone will approve, but “My Ride is Me” and that’s all that really matters.”


I hear that!! So let check out some of the mods Gary did and then the final product.


1961 Falcon Ranchero – Rust Repair

rust repair,1961 Falcon Ranchero, Custom Ranchero

Here’s the original condition of the rear quarters. Bondo and some primer cover these up in the photos above. Gary made short work of what might make me panic!

rust repair, rust patches,1961 Falcon Ranchero, Custom Ranchero

Gary first used some steel bar to re-make the contour of the fender well and lower rear quarter panel. I’ve never seen this done! Looks like it worked like a champ and gave a nice foundation to weld  patch panels to. The panel missing now is mostly flat and has straight sides.

rust repair finished,1961 Falcon Ranchero, Custom Ranchero

Here’s the Ranchero’s rear quarter almost completely repaired of that nasty rust. After some additional body work, you’ll never know how nasty the rust was!


1961 Falcon Ranchero – Custom Taillights

original falcon taillights,1961 Falcon Ranchero, Custom Ranchero

Here’s what the original 1961 Falcon taillights look like. Not bad, but not custom.

custom falcon taillights,1961 Falcon Ranchero, Custom Ranchero

Here’s what Gary came up with. Know what it is? In Gary’s words: Its fun to be about half nuts. How else could ya think of a mixing bowl and 1959 Buick? He finished off the light with Tractor trailer “multi” LED lights from the local source, tail, brake, turn. (What else!?)

falcon taillight options,1961 Falcon Ranchero, Custom Ranchero
Here’s the before and after for the taillights. Looks cool sitting there and looks even better installed! And… it’s one of a kind!


1961 Falcon Ranchero – Custom Hood Scoop

custom metal work,1961 Falcon Ranchero, Custom Ranchero
Here’s some close-ups of the finished product. One way to tell the difference between a 60-61 Falcon and 62-63 is the hood. The earlier Falcons just had a “hump” in the hood where the 62 and 63s had a “boomerang” trim piece where this scoop is. I like what Gary did better!

custom metal work,1961 Falcon Ranchero, Custom Ranchero
Here’s a look from the side showing the peak he made. Custom and again, one of a kind.


1961 Falcon Ranchero – Relocated Fuel Filler

remote fuel door,1961 Falcon Ranchero, Custom Ranchero

Here’s another cool trick Gary did. Relocated the fuel filler from the side of the car where it’s (lets face it) UGLY and if that weren’t enough, every time you get fuel, you’re likely to spill on the side of the car. I relocated my Falcon fuel filler too.


1961 Falcon Ranchero – Custom Bumpers

custom flacon bumper,1961 Falcon Ranchero, Custom Ranchero

I’d love to duplicate this on my Falcon Wagon. Look how clean these bumpers from a 1969 Camaro look! The rear bumper has been narrowed about 1-1/2″ and the ends tucked in. The lower pan is the original Falcon center section with the outer sections fabbed. The front bumper was also from a Camaro and looks just as cool.


1961 Falcon Ranchero – Custom Pinstriping

pinstriping, custom pinstriping,1961 Falcon Ranchero, Custom Ranchero

I’m not sure how Gary hooked up with Mr. Rhythm for pinstriping, but I dig what he did on this valve cover. The original valve cover has a really nice shape. I grabbed one last time I was at a swap meet and may replace the chrome one I have for something custom like this.


1961 Falcon Ranchero – How’d it turn out?

primer black hot rod,1961 Falcon Ranchero, Custom Ranchero

Fantastic!! In this shot you can see the 1955 Olds headlight rings inset and tucked with some custom metal work and the custom bumper. The stance is just right too. This is still a shop truck, but it’s looking pretty tough and makes a great calling card for Gary’s work.


At one point, the rims matched the metal flake green of the valve cover. I think the simple black looks better, but we”ll see where Gary ends up. He’s also put on some subtle gold scallops, but those didn’t make the cut, at least not yet.

hot rod ranchero,1961 Falcon Ranchero, Custom Rancherohot rod ranchero,1961 Falcon Ranchero, Custom Ranchero

There you have it! The exact definition of a mild custom and on a very mild budget when you’ve got the skills and determination to do it. Way to go Gary!

hot rod builder,1961 Falcon Ranchero, Custom Ranchero 

The man himself. I stole this one off his facebook page. Get in touch with him if you need some work done and you’re near Rogersville, Missouri.


Garys’ working on a 62 Ford Econoline pickup and I’ve seen something happening with a big-ol Caddy. We’ll keep in touch with Gary and let you know what’s next for those rides and his Ranchero.


Don’t forget to check out my 1963 Falcon Wagon Project if you’re a Falcon dude (or lady… Grease Girl’s working on a 1960 Falcon Sedan too!)