Find of the Week: 1951 Ford F-1 Marmon-Herrington “Ranger”Posted in News on March 30, 2016
Ford didn’t build a true competitor for the Chevrolet Suburban until the 1997 model year, with the F-Series–based Expedition. The company also didn’t have a factory-produced four-wheel-drive pickup until 1959. But long before both those company milestones, the Blue Oval worked with upfitter Marmon-Herrington to bring unique all-wheel-drive offerings to the market.
One such example of the partnership is this: the 1951 Ford F-1 “Ranger.” While the truck shown here started life on the Ford assembly line in Highland Park, Michigan, as a rear-drive panel van, it was sent to Marmon-Herrington in Indianapolis for conversion. The M-H team was well versed in swapping a Dana 44 front axle and proprietary transfer case into F-Series pickups, panels, and chassis, and for many customers, the work ended there.
For 54 people, however, Marmon-Herrington turned their 1949-1952 F-1 panel vans into “Ranger” carryalls. Adding four sliding side windows and two rear benches turned the work-spec van into a bona fide crew hauler or heavy-duty family vehicle, and it also became Ford’s de facto competition for the Chevrolet Suburban and later International Harvester Travelall.
Powered by a 239ci flathead V-8, this F-1 originally came with 100 hp at 3,800 rpm. The four-speed manual transmission was an optional extra, dubbed the “crashbox” for its non-synchronized gears. Double-clutching is mandatory with this option. Adding to this F-1’s charm is the spur-cut gears found in the transmission. Their design means the transmission constantly whines quietly, which we think would be a fun reminder of the vehicle’s age and uniqueness.
According to Canepa, the dealership and restoration shop currently offering this particular F-1 for sale, only 10 Rangers of this model year are known to exist, and this example is one of two such vehicles that has been restored. Two companies from Washington -- J&L Fabricating and Byers Custom -- undertook a nuts-and-bolts restoration of the Ranger in 2009 and 2010. The lovely Sheridan Blue paint took 400 hours alone, and Canepa claims every detail is perfect, right down to the Ford-embossed glass.
Stepping inside is like being in a parallel universe. A simple dashboard, manual transmission, and flat seats are par for the course on a work truck, but the extensive, exquisite wood paneling wouldn’t look out of place on a Chris Craft speedboat. That paneling isn’t just pretty; the headliner bows provide additional support and strength to the vast piece of sheetmetal that is the Ranger’s roof. Although they’re dressed in lovely brown upholstery, the rear benches don’t exactly look comfortable, but then again, 1950s butts weren’t as discerning as our wimpy, modern hindquarters.
Regardless of how much Canepa may be asking for the F-1, we think the next owner is getting a good deal. With as much history, utility, and painstaking restoration work as this Marmon-Herrington Ranger has under its belt, it’ll be worth the price.