American Nostalgia And A Badass Grandma: 1966 Ford Ranchero Tows A Restored Teardrop
Photography by Shane Allen
Hearing the 1966 Ford Ranchero turn over and seeing the 1947 Kenskill Teardrop Camper get revealed from under the cover today was a moment pulled from memory for more than one of us, and we dragged a few spiderwebs along for the ride as the duo was exhumed from the garage for this story. Being stored away in here after my grandpa’s passing in 2002, my grandma is behind the wheel of these cars for their reemergence; taking these two out for a drive again is like opening a box of old photos pulled out from a dusty section of the attic.
Shane Allen: So, knowing that our family is all about owning Chevy, how did you end up with the Ford Ranchero?
Juanita Allen: After nearly finishing the teardrop trailer, we were in desperate need of something cool to pull it with and one day we stumbled upon this newly-painted ’66 Ranchero that was for sale in late 2000. I’ve forgotten the name of the place but it was parked at a body shop off Walnut Grove in San Gabriel. After taking a look, Grandpa talked with the owner and we ended up trading our 1981 Corvette Stingray that we had at the time.
SA: After picking up the Ranchero, what were the first changes you two made to the car?
JA: A few things. First, It had some really ugly bucket seats with a center console that was poorly made out of wood. We ended up finding a ‘66 Ranchero with the original bench seat at Pick A Part here in Monrovia. It was in terrible shape so we sent it out to get reupholstered. Once that was finished, we started to put some miles down and it started to overheat every time we took it out for more than a few minutes. Years later after Grandpa passed, a mechanic figured out that the radiator was for the original 289 engine and was a little too small for the 351 we bought it with, so that was swapped out right away and it’s been running cool since.
SA: Going back to when you first bought the camper, how did you find out about it?
JA: Your dad came to us with the local Sunday paper called the Herald Sun, and found it listed for $350 in Pico Rivera around mid-2000. That thing was in really bad shape!
SA: Didn’t the guy have someone living in it on his property at one time?
JA: Yeah, originally the person who owned it lived in the camper for many years and then just left and said, “Keep the camper for this month’s rent.”
SA: I can’t see how anyone would want to live in there, especially the way it sat. What’d you think of the camper once you first saw it in person?
JA: It was really rough looking. The guy that owned it sealed the whole camper with tar, the wood frame and cabinets were rotting away, and it had asbestos insulation right under the weathered aluminum.
SA: From the pictures, it looks like a nightmare. How was the ride home once you purchased it?
JA: Everyone was laughing at us on the road. I’m just surprised it didn’t fall apart before we got home! We didn’t want to risk taking it on the freeway so we took regular streets the whole way.
SA: When did the camper finally get its overdue restoration? And how did you find the parts?
JA: Right after we picked it up. We went to the local hardware store and saw a Teardrop rebuild flyer in the front of the store. The rebuilder’s name was George Wilkerson from Eagle Rock/Glendale area, and he had multiple campers on his property that were in the process of getting restored. While it was getting rebuilt, we picked up a pair of replica 1940’s Ford fenders since the original fenders were way too heavy and looked terrible.
Then we grabbed blue-dot taillights and threw on an original 1947 California trailer license plate. We bought the plate from a retired CHP officer who had purchased many similar trailer plates from the DMV.
SA: Who worked on it?
JA: Grandpa and George. From the aluminum, down to the wood framing. They tried to salvage as much of the original parts as we could, but it was tough, very little was recovered. The new aluminum and wood framing was cut to the exact measurements though. I sanded and varnished the wood and made the curtains and bed spread you see in it now.
SA: It didn’t take you guys very long to have the camper finished, did it?
JA: From start to finish, about 6 months.
SA: What kind of trips did you both go on once it was ready?
JA: Oh man, we only brought them out a few times to family reunions in Silverwood, Lake Perris, and Pismo Beach, but the first event was down in San Diego at the Teardrop Convention!
SA: I was only nine years old when you guys completed it. I think I’ve seen them out once or twice since then.
JA: Ya, they’ve been garaged for many years, but I’m finally bringing the pair up to this year’s family reunion to get a stretch.
SA: I look forward to it. The Ranchero and Teardrop Camper complement each other pretty well for being two decades apart from one another. From the roof lines that are almost identical in height, to the cherry red against the glaring aluminum in the sun. They look like a perfect set. Looking forward to seeing them more often now, thanks Grandma!
JA: Happy to share them!