Heartwarming Story: 1996 Ford Ranchero and the Previous Owner’s Legacy

The following story highlights how an inanimate object, a classic car, can hold a special place in a person’s heart, and how an owner’s legacy can live on even after the car finds a new home. Scott, a car enthusiast from Colorado, shared this amazing experience with me two years after purchasing a 1966 Ford Ranchero from our Scottsdale showroom. This is a heartwarming story about an unexpected purchase with a unique discovery that has left a lasting impression on Scott.

On a trip to Arizona for Spring training, Scott and his friends decided they needed a few other activities to partake in while in the area. Being the car enthusiasts that they were, stopping at Gateway’s Scottsdale showroom was top of their list. The group had been to the Denver showroom multiple times before and were excited to see what inventory awaited them. 

Scott's Ranchero

While going down the rows of cars, a 1966 Thunderbird caught Scott’s eye but it was the red 1966 Ranchero sitting next to it that caused him to pause. Back in high school, Scott owned a 1974 red Ranchero. He vividly remembered the ’74 Ranchero was bought was from Cal Worthington, a big car dealer in California famous for his “dog Spot” (which were actually every animal but a dog). Yet, even with those memories flooding back to the front of his mind, Scott thought to himself, “Wow that is a really cool car” but didn’t think much more about the Ranchero after walking past it.

After the friends left the showroom, Scott said he really didn’t think about the Ranchero until he found himself not being able to stop thinking about it. Once back in Colorado, Scott decided to see if the Ranchero would even fit in the only space, he had left to store it, his smallest garage. Scott called up Tim, Scottsdale’s Inventory Consultant, and said, “Hey man, I gotta know exactly how long that Ranchero is because if it doesn’t fit in my garage, I am not going to get it.”

Tim didn’t hesitate in getting Scott an answer. To make sure the measurement was as accurate as it could be, Tim placed wooden 2x4s on each end of the vehicle. This attention to detail impressed Scott and proved that he had 9 inches in his garage to spare. That was all the confirmation he needed to “pull the trigger” and buy it.

A little over a week later, a large box appeared on Scott’s doorstep. The box was labeled Gateway Classic Cars but for the life of him, Scott just couldn’t fathom what its contents could be. When he opened it, Scott realized he received what car owners lovingly refer to as the Holy Grail. “Oh my God look at all this stuff,” Scott said when opening the box.

Inside the box, every…single…piece of history on the ’66 Ranchero was chronicled…and laminated – original dealership papers and shop manual, receipts, photos, magazines, trophies, little notes and other valuable memorabilia. “I got a sense I knew who the seller was. I was like WOW,” said Scott.

Yet, something unexpected was mixed in with the memorabilia that really threw Scott for a loop. Tucked in amongst the receipts and photos was the owner’s obituary. This confused Scott as first, but when he read it he knew why it was included: “….leaves behind the love of his life, his ’66 Ranchero.”

The obituary incredibly moved Scott, he desired to know more about the owner.

“And you want to know the most interesting thing?”, Scott exclaimed, “He put seven thousand dollars into the car - suspension, and all this stuff. But he died a week before it was done.”

As Scott went page by page trying to learn more, he stumbled upon a receipt with owner’s wife’s name and number scribbled upon it. He looked at the number in front of him and immediately thought, “I’m gonna call her.” And he did without hesitation. What he didn’t expect was her to actually answer the phone.

“You don’t know me; my name is Scott.”

“What can I help you with?”

“I just want to let you know I was the one that bought your husband’s car. I’m not a dealer. I’m not a collector. I am someone who really, really wants the car and I am going to take really good care of it.”

The two ended up talking for 45 minutes that night and the widow even sent Scott some more items from the car – car parts and such. She told him she would come to Colorado to meet Scott and visit the car. Sometime later, the widow was true to her word. She and a friend that lived in the area came to view the car.

Scott believes the trip was a closure for the widow. The last words she said to him were, “This just brings full closure, and I probably won’t be in contact with you.” Since then, the two have never spoken again.

The previous owner’s legacy lives on through Scott’s meticulous car of the car.

“He couldn’t have sold it to a better person to take care of it. I mean, I am like meticulous with that car (Ranchero). I even just had it ceramic coated. It’s amazing how good it looks,” Scott stated.

The Ranchero now has new trophies to join the previous ones included in the box. “The very first car show that I entered, I won. There were 300 cars and I won the 1960-1969 class. It was like ‘whoa’ really?” declared Scott and I could hear the pride radiating through the phone.

Scott continues to show off the beautiful red Ranchero. “I have come to appreciate how really rare the care is. I go to car shows all the time and you never see another one. It’s, it’s just so weird. I just never thought it would be one of those cars that people would be drawn to. People stare everywhere I go and state: ‘wow that is really, really awesome’. The whole thing just couldn’t have been better.”

“It’s been a great car…or truck. It’s just been awesome the whole time, I just love it. I own other cars but that one (Ranchero)…for some reason it’s special. It really is.”

 Scott’s story reminds us of the importance of valuing and preserving the legacies of things we hold dear. The previous owner’s love and care for the car can still be felt through the detailed records and memorabilia he left behind. Scott’s simple gesture of reaching out to the widow proved even the smallest acts of kindness can bring joy and closure to others. His experience is a heartwarming reminder of the beauty of human connections and the legacies these classic vehicles leave behind.