Welcome back to Shitbox Showdown, where we explore the stuff no one’s dreams are made of. Today we have a pickup truck so bizarre that only a vintage mini-bike could possibly be paired with it. I’ll explain in a minute; first let’s finish up with yesterday’s collegiate clunkers:
Fifty-five whole votes, huh? Well, that’s about fifty-six more than I expected it to get. I never said they would all be even matchups. Those few who voted for the Jeep either have a fetish for rust that would make even David blush, or were somehow wronged once by a Dodge van and can’t let go.
Today’s matchup is weird. But it’s not entirely my fault; we have established a tradition of sharing automotive classified ads in the Autopian Slack main editorial channel, and once in a while one comes along that simply must be shared with a larger audience. (And sometimes David buys them.) Yesterday, our east coast buddy Stephen Walter Gossin shared an ad for a Ford Ranger that demanded further attention. It’s not really a truck anymore, as such; it’s art. Like a Picasso or a Garfunkel. Certain comparisons, therefore, seem appropriate: a nice Chesterfield or an Ottoman, perhaps. I thought about subjecting you all to another K-car, but the only one I found on short notice was too far gone even for this column. Then I thought: How about a Monkey instead?
1995 Ford Ranger – $1,500
Engine/drivetrain: 2.3 liter overhead cam inline 4, five-speed manual, RWD
Location: Jacksonville, NC
Odometer reading: 206,000 miles
Runs/drives? Runs great, but doesn’t appear very roadworthy
We all know and love the Ford Ranger. It’s the little truck our buddy had in high school, who took us out to do donuts in a field until he hit that tree stump he didn’t know was there. It’s the truck you always see at Home Depot on Saturday afternoons being grossly overloaded with bricks or bags of gravel or something and then somehow lumbering out of the parking lot on the bump stops like it’s no big deal. For damn near three decades it was America’s Small Truck, much more so than Chevy’s S-10 or any import challengers.
But if you came here expecting to see an honest little work truck, you’re in for a surprise. This Ranger has been modified and decorated to within an inch ot its life. The doors are gone, as is the tailgate (or maybe it’s hiding under all that fiberglass). The top has been chopped, and the windshield is missing. There is what appears to be tennis racquet grip wrap around the A-pillars. The wheel arches and bed sides have been re-shaped. There are no seats, only an ornate rug that covers the entire inside of the cab. And I don’t know what the hell is going on with the back window. [Editor’s Note: Something triforce-related, maybe? – JT]
And then there’s the paint. Lace work and metalflake are everywhere, in many colors, and portraits of Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s Rat Fink and Von Dutch’s flying eyeball adorn the hood and roof, respectively. It’s well-executed, but there’s no real theme; it looks like someone’s painting practice. And maybe that’s what it was; the seller does say that it began as a father and son project. Maybe this truck was just a canvas for trying out ideas.
If so, more power to them, I guess. I never have quite understood art cars, but I do love the old ’60s and ’70s show rods, and I can see some hints of an homage to them here. But I don’t think this was planned out very well; I think it just sort of happened. It could be “finished,” I suppose, but it would take a lot of work.
Mechanically, it sounds fine. The 2.3 liter four in the Ranger is as tough as they come, and 200,000 miles is a walk in the park for one. The truck also has new wheels and tires all around, though I don’t understand the choice of wheels; they really don’t fit the rest of the theme. Such as it is.
1969 Honda Z50A – $2,400
Engine/drivetrain: 49 cc overhead valve single, three-speed semi-automatic, RWD
Location: Beaverton, OR
Odometer reading: unknown
Honda’s Z series of minibikes came out in the early ’60s and almost immediately became known as Monkey bikes because of the ridiculous appearance of a full-grown adult riding one. Astonishingly, these tiny 49cc wonders are street-legal, despite having a top speed of maybe 30 miles an hour. A four-stroke single-cylinder engine drives a three-speed gearbox through a centrifugal clutch, so there’s no hand-operated clutch lever, but you still have to shift with your foot.
The Z50A is a trail bike, but going off-road has got to be murder on your tailbone. There is no rear suspension, only that big squishy seat. Since a Honda Monkey is one of exactly two motorcycles I have ever tried to ride in my life (the other being a ’70s Kawasaki LTD 440), I can tell you that it’s not a place you want to spend a lot of time sitting in any case. Fun, yes, but not comfortable. I’m six feet tall and lanky; I must have looked like Ichabod Crane on this thing.
This Z50 has just been restored, and the seller says it runs great and is ready to go. The seat has been reupholstered, in plaid like it’s supposed to be, and the whole bike looks great. I could see this as a fantastic way to get around a campground in style, and without making annoying two-stroke noises at everyone.
I’m not a bike guy; I have no need for it; I’d be terrified to ride it anywhere there is any other sort of larger vehicle around, but I can’t deny there’s a small part of me that’s drawn to this thing. It’s just so dang cute. I mean, come on – like the song says, haven’t you always wanted a Monkey?
So that’s that. I hope I was able to make your Tuesday morning a little more surreal, and entertaining. We’ll go back to less bizarre modes of transport tomorrow, I promise. But for now, if you had to choose, would it be the haphazardly modified Ford, or the miniature Honda bike?
(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)
For the love of History, PLEASE! The Honda Z-50A was known in the USA as the Mini Trail 50. “Monkey Bike” was a Japanese and/or UK thing, but NOT a US thing until its recent incarnation.
Source: I was there.
And people say there is no good reason for owning a military style automatic weapon. And yet Mark has given us two good reasons right here. I guess pickup since it would be easier to hit while shooting
I thnk if you wanted you could pretty simply upgrade the monkey motor with a GY6 and keep the numbers matching unit in dry storage for later sales. I am not really sure what the Ferd Deal is, but coming from Jacksonville NC, Perhaps it is channeling it’s inner Florida man because it is a sister city or whatever.
The Monkey Bike for me, far more useful and completely original. Added bonus is its near my son so he fold the handlebars and stash it in his Suburban.
Good Lord that Ranger looks worse than what Mark Hamill did to that Vette in Corvette Summer. Tiny bike by default.
Honestly I’d rather take the money that would be spent on either of them and just bought bbq and beer for some friends. Definitely a ‘why not neither?’ choice.
Okay Autopian meet up at SAABstorys house.
So there must be some good mushrooms where the Ranger guy lives.
This thing makes my head hurt. WTF?
That Ranger has way more than $1500 worth of parts. It wound be a great parts truck or mechanical donor vehicle. I hope the current owner enjoyed their project, because they killed the value of this thing.
While I think the Ranger is the better deal and its gets my vote, I really like that Honda. $2400 is a lot for a mini bike, but it is a reasonable price given the condition and that these things are just plain cool. I would be a buyer if this were for sale locally.
Forced to vote I went with the little bike, since it’s cute as a button and looks like it would be worth some giggles. But over two large for a minibike? That’s insane, even if it is nicely restored.
The Ranger is just “nope”.
My real vote would be a hard pass on both.
Yikes, I’m on the “neither” boat along with everyone else. The Ranger is just a travesty, but that Honda is way overpriced. The Honda is a fun bike, but I can speak from experience that not having rear suspension and riding on anything other than smooth pavement or sand will leave you severely saddle-sore. The fact that pre-pandemic you could buy a Z50A (perhaps not quite in nice of condition) for $500 regularly makes me wonder how this one is suddenly worth five times as much?!
I try not to knock other people’s visions. Problem with that Ranger is that it’s lacking vision. The lace thing wasn’t too bad, might even work with the too-new wheels if they were chromed, and the hot rod graffiti look is fine, but the whole package together doesn’t work. If it were a truck you could actually use, the price is okay, but it’s not worth putting money into. The bike is pricey but nice enough for the fanbase to appreciate it.