Class of 1996 making a Splash

Making a Splash.

For a hot minute, way, way back in 1995, this gearhead really wanted a mini truck. I came damn close to buying one, too. And I had it narrowed down to two sweet, sweet little trucks—the Nissan D21 “Hardbody” and the Ford Ranger Splash.

The Nissan had the crisp, clean lines of a traditional, fleetside mini truck, but there was just something about the flareside Ford that spoke to me. I don’t remember when or why I moved on to other automotive interests (I think it may have been a Mk 2 Jetta), but I do remember wanting a Canary Yellow Ranger Splash. 

Brainstorming interesting cars we don’t necessarily see everyday, the Ranger Splash popped into my mind. I started searching Instagram, and would you believe most of them appear to be in South America? Go figure!

In any case, I met up with John Gunn, who told me about his truck. 

The Splash doesn’t get out much, but it looks good when it does. | img: @gawlisnkiisgod

It’s an amazing machine!

[tgp] Introductions: My understanding is you’ve got a FordRanger Splash and you’ve had it for some time. Is that correct? Anything else you’d like to mention? 

[John] Yes, I special ordered my Ranger Splash in early September of 1996 and picked her up in mid-October. 

At a show in 2006 | img: @gawlinskiisgod

On the Ranger Splash…

[tgp] The most important automotive opinions are those of real, actual owners. As a Splash owner, could you share a little unvarnished truth with the rest of us? What do you love about them? What do you not love about them? 

[John] I loved the look and styling of the Ranger Splash and the performance wasn’t bad for the time. Downside was when I started to customize it is when I ran into a struggle finding companies that made aftermarket parts for it. Thankfully, the internet was around in the late 90s and that helped. 

[tgp] How did you end up in this camp? Why have you stuck around as long as you have? 

[John] When I got to the point of getting my first vehicle, I wanted a truck. My dad was a Ford guy so I just naturally went that way too. The Ranger was what Ford had, so I started researching what they had to offer. The Splash package was what I gravitated towards because of the monochromatic look. 

I always knew I wanted to make it different from other trucks on the road and just really like the lowered mini truck look of the day. I also liked having something different than a GMC Sonoma or Chevy S10 that dominated the mini truck scene. 

When I finally got the truck, I was quoted saying, “I’m gonna keep her forever”, as a buddy still reminds me. I just like the little truck and still love driving her, so that’s what has kept me around this long. 

John recently replaced the clutch. After 24 years, it was due. | img: @gawlinskiisgod
Smooth like new. | img: @gawlinskiisgod

The Ranger/Splash community…

[tgp] How’s the Ranger community doing these days? Where do y’all hangout, share tech, and whatnot? (Is the Ranger Station still a thing?) And any idea why, when I went looking for a Splash owner, they’re almost all in South America?

[John] I rarely see any other Ranger Splashes in my area but I know the trucks still have a following, whether it be in stock or customized form. The internet was huge for me in finding information on what I wanted to do to my Splash. The Ranger Station and Ford Truck World were some of the places I frequently checked daily to see what guys were doing to their trucks. I haven’t been on any forums in a while, but they are still out there with members still talking and trading info on their favorite vehicles.

As far as the South America thing goes, those guys are die hard Ranger Splash owners and collectors. I noticed this when I got an Instagram account and started searching for #rangersplash. There are some extremely clean examples down there and those guys love ‘em and keep them looking awesome!   I’ve had several positive comments from Splash owners from South America on Instagram. When I go to their pages I’m in awe of their trucks, They definitely have an affection for Ford’s little sport truck. 

Ford Ranger Splash engine bay | img: @gawlinskiisgod

This gearhead life…

[tgp] When you think about automotive culture in general, what stands out as being the biggest issue we should be working on together? What’s your biggest concern and what should we be doing about it?

[John] I’d Like to see more people be accepting of different styles of the car culture. People sometimes tend to be judgemental on what others drive or like. I’m sure if they gave it a chance they would find commonality and maybe even ideas that would benefit their current vehicle. If everyone had the same vehicle it would be a boring world. Appreciation across the car culture as a whole is what I’d like to see. 

Shout outs…

[tgp] Who’s made the biggest difference in your life with cars? How so?

[John] My dad started me on this love for the automobile. It started with Hot Wheels, watching racing on TV, and him taking me to car shows or race tracks since I was born. His always showing me cars and the differences of makes, models, and years is something that has stayed with me. He always showed  respect for different genres of the car culture and I always try to do the same. 

Dat ass, tho. | img: @gawlinskiisgod

Uniquely Stylish

According to the brochure, the Ford Ranger Splash was the first-ever flareside compact pickup with special, color-keyed trim. It turned heads. Including mine. Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s cleverly crafted sales copy. (Ford used “flareside” where everyone else used “stepside”, so there’s that.) Either way, it’s nice to see John’s Splash still looks good-as-new—even better than new, I’d say. 

Would you like to know more?

@gawlinskiisgod has cool Ranger, bike, and carting stuff on his Instagram

And help keep car culture alive by visiting the communities John mentioned— & Aside from being something interesting and different to look at, it’s always nice to know where to direct a fellow gearhead in need.