The Barn Find is the Holy Grail for pretty much every car enthusiast: the car that has been tucked away in a barn or some other storage facility, forgotten until the owner passes away and the family discovers it. In some cases, the car wasn’t forgotten, it was just there. That is the case with a 1963 Ford Ranchero named Gillette’s Blue Blade.
The Gillette’s included Father Elmo and Sons Mark and Greg. I met up with Greg through Facebook, where he told me that his Dad had passed away last month and the family has decided to donate the car to Jim Lattin’s excellent collection of race cars in Encinitas, California. Gillette was kind enough to share some information about the car, along with a bunch of images as the car was unearthed and cleaned up
The Ranchero was originally purchased by a man with the last name of Baxter, who bought it from a Ford dealer, drove it home and it was never driven on the street after that. He raced it at El Mirage Dry Lake and on the Bonneville Salt Flats for a few years until it was purchased by Craig Lund who ran it for a couple of years. Both Baxter and Lund ran the car with a carburated 260cid Ford.
I bought the car from Craig Lund in 1972.
Through our friendships with Jack Lufkin and Ak Miller, we acquired a 221cid V8 (Ford’s first small block) that Ak had run in a Mustang a few years earlier. Our father, Elmo, built the engine with Hilborn Fuel Injection and enough horsepower to allow the Ranchero to claim its first records.
We also ran a fuel injected 260, which also powered The Redhead Steamliner to records.
We ran the Ranchero successfully until 1978 in Production Coupe and Sedan, setting a record on The Salt in 1976.
Following that, the car spent some time in Lattin’s shop in Pomona. After a few years, Gillette’s Mom and Dad moved to Northern Nevada and took the Ranchero with them. It was parked in an old fruit packing barn where it has been sequestered until a few days ago.
Greg laments that he doesn’t know too much about the car mechanically as he was “more of a driver” but he does recall that “It was a good driver; never got sideways. It did wander about 6 inches to the left and right, but as long as you didn’t try to correct that wandering, it just went straight.” Unique in more than just appearance, Gillette says that others were always commenting that the car had a nasty sound that brought many to the assumption that the car was actually powered by a 351 Cleveland, but this was not the case. To the best of the driver’s recollection, the Blue Blade’s best record was 168 MPH in E/Prod.
Images courtesy of Greg Gillette.