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No Reserve: 1981 Ford F-150 Ranger Pickup

Ford’s F series trucks are head and shoulders above every other truck on the road. Ford has some 16 million F series pickups roving the byways; that’s 5.5% of all vehicles in the US. Here on eBay is a 1981 Ford F-150 Ranger pickup, bid to $4,550 with no reserve. This truck is located in Tacoma, Washington. The seller identifies it as a Styleside, but it is not; it’s a Flareside. This error offers an opportunity to straighten out bed style nomenclature. Before 1956, most pickups had a two-box design, with the cab and bed bolted onto a ladder frame separately. The fenders swelled out from the body, and the bed was a narrow, near-perfect rectangle. When Ford introduced its Styleside, with a smooth unitary look for cab and bed, every maker followed along, with each developing its own name for this more contemporary style. Chevy used Fleetside, Dodge used Sweptside, and GMC called theirs the Wideside. Since everyone had a name for their smooth-sided trucks, everyone needed a name for their fender-sided trucks. Chevy called its version the Stepside, Dodge went with Utiline, and GMC used Fenderside. Our subject truck is also more affectionately known as a Bullnose.

The truck has a 110 bhp 3.8-liter V6 engine paired with an automatic transmission. The truck is said to run well, but “is having carb trouble”. This truck has been a workhorse. The seller doesn’t give much history but viewing the AutoCheck history report shows an entry in 2005 recording an odometer reading of 157,360 miles. No doubt it has racked up more miles since. Other than the mileage, the AutoCheck shows no issues.

Despite the miles, the cosmetic condition of the truck is encouraging. The interior is clean and free of rips and tears. It is wearing a rug over the dash, so we can expect cracking there, but it appears that someone has really kept up appearances in the cab. The exterior is decent too, though the hood fit is off and the clear coat is peeling in places. The seventh generation F series came in several trim levels, including Custom as the base offering, moving upscale to the Ranger and Ranger Lariat. This Ranger would have come new with bright trim in the door panels and window surrounds, and color-keyed interior accents.

The underside is dry and undamaged. The bed looks like it might be on its last legs; removing the hardware is not fun but with decent tools and plenty of time, this isn’t the worst project you’ll see on a truck. The current price seems more than reasonable for a truck that isn’t rusty, might run better with a modest amount of work, and looks respectable. What do you think?


  1. Avatar photo Bob_in_TN Member

    Good write-up Michelle. Especially the explanation of model names among manufacturers; as you note, this vehicle is a Flareside (not a Flairside and definitely not a Stepside).

    I have a soft spot for Flaresides, and for old-school two-tones like this. The truck looks used but not abused. Nicely equipped and the Ranger trim adds some class. Not rusty. Seems like a chance to get into the old truck collector world for not much money, then fix it up as time and funds permit.

    Like 10
  2. Avatar photo angliagt Member

    Stylish looking truck,& I agree that it’d be a good deal,
    if the bidding doesn’t go too high.
    I wonder if the White of the two-tone is a repaint.Shouldn’t
    the FORD letters on the tailgate be painted a different color?
    I like these,but you lose a lot of hauling space with that
    narrow bed.Guess it depends what you actually use it for.

    Like 3
  3. Avatar photo Big_Fun Member

    I never knew that a 3.8 V6 was offered in an F-150 in this era. I’m going to have to do a little research. When I think 6 cylinder, my mind always heads to the 300 cube – 4.9 Litre I6…

    Like 21
    • Avatar photo Gord

      What I found said the 3.8 was only available in the F100.

      Like 7
      • Avatar photo Phipps

        Man I would have lost a bar bet on that. Had no idea

        Like 3
      • Avatar photo Miminite

        I have a 81 F100 with 4.9 and SROD trans. This is news to me also.

        Hmmm, learn something everyday!

        Like 0
  4. Avatar photo Terrry

    Having carb trouble? Maybe, if it’s the variable-venturi setup. They can be tricky to fix.

    Like 3
  5. Avatar photo CCFisher

    Most sources claim that the V-6 was available only in the F-100, and only in 1982-83. So, I checked the VIN. This one should have a 4.9L inline six.

    Like 9
    • Avatar photo Bill D

      What happened? Those 4.9 inline sixes were darn near unkillable.

      Like 13
      • Avatar photo Bob C.

        Darn right! Most of those early 3.8s were NBT (nothing but trouble).

        Like 6
  6. Avatar photo S David Ulrey

    While the 3.8 wasn’t a bad engine it was an absolute dog when put in these. I know from personal experience. It was well taken care of by the previous owner so it wasn’t beat up. Just gutless. A 300 online 6 will run circles around it.

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo Bill D

      My parents had a Fox-body LTD with the fuel injected 3.8 in it. Acceleration was adequate, but I can’t imagine it hauling a full-sized half-ton pickup around.

      Like 2
  7. Avatar photo Stan

    Robin egg 🥚 blue Fords 💙 👍
    This one looks like one Uncle Jesse would wheel around Hazard county.

    Like 5
  8. Avatar photo john Douglas muldoon

    I recently owned an 82 with glass running boards and the 4.9 straight 6. Not a 2 tone but solid as sears with no rust. Enough torque to pull down a house! 2 wheel drive was my downfall but wish I had it back. It was a real looker and turned lots of heads.

    Like 2
  9. Avatar photo Randy

    I own an ‘81 F100 I bought new. In that you could get the 3.8 V6, 300 I6, 255 and 302 v8’s I believe you had to step up to the 150 to get the 351. This one has later mirrors, grill and missing FORD on the hood.

    Like 2
  10. Avatar photo Woody

    My ‘81 F150 Custom was the in-line 6 with manual three speed overdrive new process trans.and “step-side bed” paint color was Medium Fawn my uncle bought it new.The truck received many compliments being stock with added Ford truck ralley wagon wheels and beauty rings.Yes the 300-6cylinder ran forever and many miles as a daily driver for many years! Still have the “step-side” bed waiting for another project!

    Like 4
  11. Avatar photo Phipps

    Man it not vintage but I’d pay immediate BF BIN price if could get back my 1993. 4.9 Straight 6 manual regular cab short bed

    Like 1
  12. Avatar photo Cherokee boll

    I’ve known allot of people that had 6cyl and the in line 300 were indestructible. About the only complaint was the gas mileage which was awful but you don’t expect great mileage in those.

    Like 0
  13. Avatar photo Miminite

    I replied above to Gord but wanted to add something.

    My 81 F100 has the bigsix 4.9 with the dreaded SROD trans. Stock rear gears 2.46. Remember this was an era where the manufacturers, including Ford, were trying to increase the avg fleet mpg and were making do with what they had already. I personally never knew about the 3.8 in F100s, but it makes sense.

    I changed the (9″) 2.46 with a used 3.50 and it made a huge drivability increase as before I could never use 4th OD.

    Like 1
  14. Avatar photo George Birth

    Decent looking truck and if the price doesn’t get much higher could turn into a little gem. Take care of the carb and hood problems and you could wind up with a nifty hauler

    Like 0

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