1986 Ford Ranger | NAMED ELTON

Coker Rod Shop’s Timeless Tiny Dancer!

 We spend quite a bit of time thinking about one of the world’s most wondrous mysteries—what do custom vehicle builders build for themselves? While know how and money might not present as much of a disadvantage to a capable fabricator as much as available time would, it always leaves us wondering what an established builder might buy and invest valuable resources in as far as a personal ride. Certainly, the paying customer does come first, but when the right time comes, a guy’s gotta create something for himself, right? 

Nathan Coker (no relation to Coker Tire fame, but super interested in a collaboration) of Winchester, Tennessee, is a name you may already be familiar with by now. Nathan already has some amazing builds under his belt, namely his ’56 Chevy shop truck that debuted at SEMA in 2018, but before he opened the doors at Coker’s Rod Shop in 2015, his inspirations came in many different forms.

“When I was a kid, my family was always into vehicles,” he says. “I loved Lowrider magazine and got into mini-trucks from there. I always wanted to be in one of the magazines and have strived for that quality ever since.”

Once the mini-truck bug bit down on Nathan, it took quite a hold on him. He has owned a bunch of Ford Rangers in the past, but it was really the square body style that he wanted to sink his teeth into.

The Suped-up Ford Mustang 302 engine was finished off with expert airbrush work by Scott Huskey.

“I traded a ’95 extended cab Ranger for this ’86 Ranger straight up back in 2003,” he tells us. “Back then, it had already been traditionally body dropped about 6 inches, and I drove it all the way back home after I traded for it.”

While that ride may not have been the most comfortable, Nathan fully planned to do something about it and redo the truck at some point in the future. He didn’t know exactly when he would have the time do get to it, but he figured the right moment would come—maybe. Hopefully.

Things didn’t happen on the truck for a while. It took about four years for Nathan to get serious about the Ranger’s next life phase.

Christopher “Big Body” Tisdale crafted the stock Ranger seats to look like legit 1960s Ford Galaxie seats.

“Since the truck had been previously modified, I felt it was best to start fresh moving forward,” he says.

This truck has since been through multiple revamps under Nathan’s watch, but for some reason or another, they stalled out. But he never was able to completely give up on it. He had a vision for the truck, and felt that he could get there under the right circumstances.

Nathan is a body and paint man by trade but has since become comfortable with metal work and LS swaps and is now able to offer his customers a more extensive menu of services because of it. Aside from benefiting greatly from his education and work experience, he also honed his skills while working on his personal projects. In 2014, he finally got to the other side of the tunnel with the Ranger, as he ditched the previous traditional body drop for a more favorable stock floor setup. The suspension system was upgraded wherever Nathan saw necessary, and under the hood he prepped a small block ’90 Ford Mustang 302 that was dressed and custom airbrushed by his talented painter pal Scott Huskey. The realistic wood grain is one of the Ranger’s most memorable highlights that tends to stick with onlookers long after their first glance.

Even the door panels were reworked to look like Galaxie panels—dig that Zebrawood detail!

To better make a lasting first impression, Nathan, along with a good group of friends, sculpted the Ranger’s exterior to represent its new lease on life. Aside from a handful of carefully selected accessories and a ton of bodywork, Nathan chose two paint colors— PPG Porsche Riviera Blue and Ford Crème Brule—that make for a timeless combination. The airbrushed chrome effect trim by Scott Huskey, once again, makes for a winning finishing touch.

Even though Nathan was able to capitalize off inspiration and carve out the time to bring his Ranger this far, there was still much more to do before completing the truck. It would take another year or so before the interior was ready to be unveiled. It was a matter of luck that a ’64 Galaxie dash became available for the taking. After cutting to fit, Nathan then entrusted Christopher “Big Body” Tisdale of Big Body’s Custom Interior to take the reins of cab overhaul. What Nathan was presented with was an interior space decked out in serious vintage-inspired styling. Big Body took the Ranger’s factory seats and door panels and heavily modified them to closely resemble authentic ’60s-era Galaxie attire. The plush Mercedes carpet, suede headliner, 1940 Ford steering wheel and finished dash all come together to give the Ranger that missing link towards total completion.

A ’64 Galaxie metal dash was carefully cut and placed to fit perfectly inside of the Ranger’s cab.

It took more than 10 years from start to finish, but Nathan’s Ranger has finally crossed the finish line. The truck features a unique combination of classic mini-truck aesthetic, with a dash of classic car styling and a hearty sprinkling of hot rod flavor. To answer our own question, THIS is the type of truck this particular custom builder would create for himself. Nathan Coker has displayed great patience while waiting through idle moments only to get to the periods of progress and pure excitement.

“I just loved a laid-out square body Ranger, and this one was well worth the wait,” he says.

Now, about the name Elton. Nathan has a special connection with Elton John’s song “Tiny Dancer”—don’t judge. It’s a great song.

The Ranger’s namesake, Sir Elton John, has got Nathan’s back wherever he rolls.

“The song has actually helped me make it through the hard times, as did all my friends and wife for believing that we could get this turd of a 14-year project finally wrapped up,” Nathan says. “Thank you, Christopher Tisdale and Scott Huskey, for killing the interior and airbrush work, and Nick Cunningham for showing up on Saturdays to lend a hand and keep me company.”

TRUCK SPECS

 Owner 

Nathan Coker
(Coker Rod Shop)
1986 Ford Ranger
Winchester, Tennessee
No Regrets 

Chassis & Suspension 

  • Shop: Coker Rod Shop
  • Handmade chassis
  • Toyota front clip
  • 2×3 quarter wall
  • Stock Ranger limited slip
  • ThorBros triangular four-link
  • Toxic drop shocks front and rear
  • Fuel cell relocated in bed of truck

Wheels & Tires 

  • 20-inch smoothie wheels
  • 225/30/20 Nitto Neo Gen tires

Powertrain & Brakes 

  • 1990 Ford Mustang small block 302
  • Electric cooling fan
  • Aluminum radiator
  • Chrome pulleys
  • Comps springs
  • GT40P heads
  • BBK Performance shorty headers
  • 2 1/4-inch exhaust system, Flowmaster single chamber muffler
  • Holley 650 carb
  • Ford HEI distributor
  • Moroso 8mm plug wires
  • 1990 Mustang T5 transmission 

Exterior & Paint 

  • Shop: Body and paint by Nathan Coker and friends at Coker’s Rod Shop, airbrush work by Scott Huskey
  • PPG Porsche Riviera Blue and Ford Crème Brule
  • Faux chrome trim airbrushed effects and wood grain detailing by Scott Huskey
  • 3 ½ stock floor body drop
  • Grant Kustoms rear Cali Combo
  • Gas filler in bed
  • H4 stock looking LED conversion headlights
  • Old school clear taillights
  • Fabricated trailer tubs cut and modified to fit

Interior & Stereo 

  • Shop: Christopher “Big Body” Tisdale @ Big Body’s Custom Interior, Lebanon, TN
  • Modified ’64 Galaxie dash cut and made to fit
  • Stock Galaxy gauges
  • Door panels handmade to look like ’64 Galaxie w/ custom African Zebrawood inserts
  • Suede headliner, interior panels wrapped in vinyl to match
  • Stock Ranger seats heavily modified to look like ’64 Galaxie seats
  • Seats covered in peanut butter colored vinyl
  • Mercedes carpet
  • 1940 Ford steering wheel
  • Surfboard style rearview mirror
  • Pioneer head unit
  • Memphis Audio 5-channel amp, 10-inch subs, component sets
  • Wiring by Billy Gladin, Lebanon, TN

 

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