“Ole Red” – Dustin Williams’ 1968 Ford F100 Ranger
For three generations this trusty 1968 Ford F100 Ranger has been a binding force in the Williams family. For Dustin, there was no other truck that he wanted to own.
His father, Ray, bought the truck in 1971. He was a car guy who had owned a red and white ’55 Chevy, a ’69 GTX, and a few others. He was newly married and starting a family and while the hot rods were cool, they weren’t very practical for his blossoming career in construction.
This bright red F100 caught his eye as he passed a local car lot, and he pulled in to take a closer look. It had a 360 under the hood and was on sale for $1950. He loved the color.
His wife, Donna, let him use her first car as a trade-in. The car lot gave them $150 for her 1963 Falcon, and Ray chipped in another $154 in cash for the down payment. With a monthly note of $84.86 for the next two years, he was off and running.
Dustin says it wasn’t long before he “added slot mags and a gun rack, and yanked the seat belts.” A pair of West Coast mirrors soon followed. Ray used the truck for construction, hauling scaffolding all over the southeast as he did drop ceilings and interior work for new chain restaurants and home renovations.
Eventually he took a job at the General Motors plant in Doraville, Georgia, where the Ford truck was a standout in the parking lot. He worked the assembly line for a while, until he grew bored and told them they either needed to find him something else to do or he was going to quit. He quickly became the plant’s head carpenter and stayed on until retirement.
As with most aging vehicles, the truck slowly sank from daily driver duties to second-car status, and then slumbering for nine months out of the year waiting on hunting season. A little worse for the wear, Ray repainted it in 1990, the slot mags giving way to a round of white hunting-friendly steelies and mud tires.
Ole Red remained a fixture in the family landscape and became a formidable hunting buggy, a favorite pastime for Ray and the boys, despite only being 2WD. Dustin recalls the installation of a long bed camper top and them having to stuff blankets in the overhang at night as they camped inside.
It was on one of these hunting trips that gave Ole Red its name. Dustin says he was about 8 years old when a fellow hunter got stuck in the mud on the hunting land. He quickly told his dad: “Go get Ole Red, he’ll pull it out!”
That’s exactly what they did and the name stuck. Ole Red was a hero.
Eventually the trucks’ hunting trips ceased and it was parked. Though there were three brothers, nobody was more in love with Ole Red than Dustin, and Ray gave it to him when he turned 14 to build for when he got his license.
In 1996 the truck was taken down to the frame in the backyard and the chassis sandblasted. One of Ray’s friends was well known in the area for building ’53-’56 Ford trucks, and was a bit of a pioneer in the new-for-the-day idea of replacing the twin I-beam suspension with a 1976 Camaro clip. This allowed the truck to sit lower and handle better.
Gary Grimes, another local friend built, balanced, and blueprinted a 350 into a 384 stroker with an .040 over bore and a 400 crank. The truck’s specially-cast aluminum Chevy valve covers with Ford scripting were a gift from Gary, and never failed to spark conversations.
With the truck painted and complete in time for his driver’s license at 16, Dustin was a high school parking lot hero and a burnout king. He daily drove the truck pretty hard through his senior year.
As life rolled on for Dustin Ole Red sat longer and longer once again. When he ripped the rearend out in 2002, the $900 to fix it right seemed too far out of reach, and the truck sat outside for many years as he married his wife, Natalie, and started a family of his own
In 2014, his father Ray was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis. Dustin says his questions of “what are you going to do with my old truck?” began to take on a little more weight. He knew Ray didn’t like to see the truck suffering from neglect.
Dustin and Natalie decided to make a push to fix up the truck as Ray might have with today’s technologies. Once again the brothers got together and pulled the cab from the frame and stripped everything to bare metal. The parts and pieces were taken to Brad Shadburn at The Hot Rod Syndicate in Buford, Georgia to be put back together.
The rearend was replaced, lowered on flipped and raised spring mounts. The inspirational steelies and mudders were honored with a set of painted 18- and 20-inch wheels from Detroit Steel, fitted with a round of modified ’48 Ford caps. Since the bed floor was too damaged to repair, and the only panels available are patches, it was replaced with one from a 1994 Chevy CK1500. The bed floor was raised and the wheel tubs were widened to accommodate the new stance.
Though he had been building a 390 to keep it all Ford, Dustin decided to stay with a Chevy under the hood in homage to Ray’s career at the GM plant. Daffron Race Innovations was tapped to assemble a carbureted 366ci LS with Hooker headers and a 4L60E trans. The old Ford/Chevy valve covers were added on a set of adapters, further confusing those who look under the hood.
Dustin took Ray around to a variety of dealerships looking for a suitable shade of red. The truck was originally a Ford “Rangoon Red” for the 1968 truck line, a hue also offered as “Candy Apple Red” for the Mustangs, and nothing they saw on the car lots came close to what Ray liked – neither did the true Candy Apple Reds offered today. Finally, they located the original paint formula and it was sprayed in single stage paint and polished to perfection.
The interior was redone close to stock with a bench seat and factory door panels. The dash was filled with AutoMeter gauges and topped with a Grant wheel. A Gennie shifter and the original radio round things out.
During the truck’s construction Ray’s health took a turn for a worse. He suffered an infection from a lung transplant and even spent time in a coma at the Duke hospital. Throughout the ordeal, the truck was a welcomed source of conversation for the family. Progress pictures were brought in, options were discussed, and it gave everyone something to focus on during their trying time.
Ole Red was completed in time for the Goodguys Nashville Nationals in May of 2018. Though Ray was still in recovery at Duke, they used cell phones to send pictures and videos of the weekend, and he was happy with the results. He finally sat in the truck for the first time in August of 2018 and was “blown away at the quality.”
Dustin says Ole Red continues to bind the family together and make memories. His two young daughters Sadie and Sydney love the red truck and the after-dinner rides they take in it. They have quickly adapted to hanging out at car shows, and Ole Red has never looked better or been more loved. It’s also the only Ford the family has ever owned.