Richard Lee Tiago's 1957 Ford
1957 Ford Ranchero restyled by Ward's Body Shop for Hayward Rod Benders member Richard Lee Tiago aka Dick Tiago of Hayward, California. In 1957, Dick bought a brand new 1957 Ford Ranchero from his local Ford dealer in Hayward, California. He used the car until early 1958, when he was involved in a traffic accident, severely damaging the top, door pillars and windshield. While it was being fixed, Richard decided to have it customized. Tom Selman, an employee at Ward's Body Shop in nearby Alameda chopped the top three inches, installed a 1957 DeSoto grill, bumper bar and quad headlights from a 1958 Ford. The rear bumper was replaced with a rolled pan fit with twin 1957 Chevrolet bumper guards. The hood was shaved and rounded, the door handles were removed and an external exhaust system consisting of four pipes was made. Two of the pipes ran along the rocker panels and two followed the rocker panels and continued above the rear wheel openings. Once the bodywork was done, Joe Bailon of Bailon's Custom Shop mixed up some Candy Apple green lacquer which was applied along with lime gold scallops. The body was lowered four inches by cutting the coils and de-arching the springs. Dual Appleton spotlights and smooth Moon hubcaps finished up the style. Gonsalves Top Shop in Hayward reupholstered the interior in all-white pleated Naugahyde; even the rug behind the seat was pleated. The build took only two months to complete. The Ranchero never had functional door glass. It would have been almost impossible with the forward slanting windshield posts and no "wind wings."
Soon after it was featured in Custom Cars October 1958, the car was involved in another traffic accident. This time it was the tailgate and the rear quarter panels which were badly damaged. Richard had Joe Ortiz repair it this time. Joe liked to experiment with custom work. Tiago and Joe sat down and began to lay designs to what was to become one of the most radical Rancheros ever. At this time, Joe was a career fireman who was doing paint and bodywork in the old Fairview Fire Protection building. This was fairly easy for him since he lived next door. When Joe had spare time, he used to it work on Tiago's ride. Instead of repairing the rear section, he cut two feet off the body, created a brand new design. He used conduit tubing as a framework for the steel panels which he made at a friend's sheet metal shop. Oldsmobile coil springs and sway bars were installed. The leaf springs could no longer be used because of the shortened bed and frame. Since the rear end and suspension were highly visible, it was all chrome-plated. Eight 1958 Chevrolet Impala taillights were installed on the tailgate, four on each side. Four antennas were extended from the ends of the shortened bed moldings. "We needed something to set the back off!" Ortiz remembers. The fins were redesigned and new side pipes with pull-out mufflers for drag racing were fabricated using motorcycle pipes. The headlights were set back 12 inches and had a custom aluminum frame built around them. A new grille shell was hand-formed and filled with mesh screen. The surrounds were made using conduit and sheet metal. With the Oakland Roadster Show just days away and the Ranchero uncompleted, Joe mixed up some white pearl for the body and rust metallic for the sides and engine compartment. Jerry Sahagon did one of his first rolled and pleated upholstery jobs on the Ranchero. The interior was reupholstered and fit with twin swivel seats. The top was padded along with the bed, which was covered with white Naugahyde and the under side the bed as well, where it only could be seen with mirrors at shows. A custom gas filler cap was made using an old stove ornament and a telephone bell which were welded together and chromed. Tommy the Greek was hired to pinstripe the car. When they arrived at the Oakland Roadster Show three days later than planned, the interior was not finished. Entering late in those days would lose points in the show car circuit. Eventually it didn't matter as the car easily won the Western Championship. Once completed it was featured in Car Craft July 1959 as the "Out Of This World Rod-Pickup."
Tiago continued to show the car in California in the summer of 1959, going as far south as Los Angeles. In late 1959, it was sold to Richard Shirk of Salinas, California. Shirk drove it for a while and it was a common sight on Main Street and at Mel's Drive in during the early 60's. It was painted black and orange in 1960 or 1961 since the pearl color was turning yellow. Custom paint was hard to keep nice in those days, since exposure to sunlight yellowed the clear lacquer top coat. While the car looked great on the outside, many things had been left undone. There were only pieces of Plexiglass for side windows and it had no windshield wipers, brake lights, turn signals, heater, radio or horn. Only one taillight per side worked and the seats swiveled and did not lock, so the seat moved around a lot while driving. The steering wheel was cut on the top, making it look good, but it could really whack your wrists if you where not careful. Around 1962/63, the front was damaged. Instead of fixing it, they tried to do it better and failed. In the mid 1960's, Rod Powell painted it silver pearl and Candy Apple red. The interior was dyed black at this point as well. Soon afterward, Richard sold it.
It remained around the Salinas area for years, passing through several hands, getting more and more beaten up each time. It was eventually painted black again, with white designs on the sides by Andy Southard. Rod Powell spotted the car sitting next to a house in Watsonville. He considered buying it and use it as a shop truck, but the it was bad shape all around. The chrome, paint, running gear and mechanicals were all shot. Rod considered it was to much work, so he let it go. The car is still around. It's unrestored but well protected from mother nature since it's stored inside. Bruce Heather, the current owner has plans to restore it back to its former glory.
Custom Cars August 1958
Custom Cars October 1958
Custom Cars January 1959
Motor Life February 1959
Car Craft July 1959
Customs Illustrated September 1959
Trend Book 175 Custom Cars 1959 Annual
Custom Cars April 1960
Trend Book 189 Custom Cars 1960 Annual
Trend Book 197 Custom Cars 1961 Annual
Custom Rodder July 1997
Clones and Recreations
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