WANNA GET stared at? Wanna get cursed? Drive a pickup truck in Georgetown.

People go crazy, even when you stay in your own lane and obey traffic laws. It's as if they resent your driving anything larger than a sedan on those tony streets.

I considered putting a BMW or Mercedes badge on the 1985 Ford Ranger Styleside pickup in my possession. But I figured, hey, why ruin a good thing? This is one tough truck. It takes disdain as easily as it takes bumpy roads.

Outstanding complaint(s): No headrests. Everyone who climbed into the Ranger cab complained about the absence of a place to rest their noggins. These were people who normally roll around in cars. They were concerned about what could happen to neck and head if the truck were hit from behind.

I talked to several auto-safety engineering types who said that the no-headrest concerns were understandable, but invalid. Their argument, simply put: A head smashing back into safety plate glass receives less severe injuries than a neck snapped back by a rigid headrest. That didn't sway the critics.

What follows may be an unfair complaint, because the truck had barely 2,000 miles at delivery. But, here it is. The five-speed manual transmission should have been in an exercise room. Moving from gear to gear required some muscle. Shifting became easier as muscles developed.

Outstanding praise: What a little tank! Rolls over almost anything. No rumble, no grumble.

One thing, though: First-time truckers should be aware that pickups are made to carry a load. The absence of a load means that the rear end can fall victim to wind play and wet roads. Moderate, but frightening, fishtailing can occur. If you're running lightly loaded in a pickup, don't try to take curves the way you would in your little red Corvette.

Otherwise, overall handling and stability of the Ranger rank among the best in its category. This is a well-made machine, replete with double-wall construction and twin-I-beam independent suspension. Solid.

Another rave: The 2.8-liter, V-6 engine in this model is terrific. Talk about power! Instant acceleration, moves with authority. But, again, remember that this is not a sports car. No wheelies, please.

Head-turning-quotient: Hostile in Georgetown and similar environments. Kudos in Hagerstown, Md., and York, Pa. The trucking class gives it A-plus on appearance. In fact, drivers in Ford's larger F series trucks often waved and smiled as they passed me.

Sound system: Ford factory. Excellent with windows up. With windows down, sunroof open and sliding rear windows pushed back, the sound system was useless. So much for the best of both worlds.

Mileage: About 19 miles per gallon, running lightly loaded; the air conditioner wasn't on.

Price as tested: $11,984.40, including $5,155.40 in options, such as tilt steering wheel, tie-down hooks on truck bed, the V-6 engine (four cylinders are standard), custom interior, air conditioner and rear-step chrome bumper. I mean, who said that pickups have to be tacky? By Warren Brown; Warren Brown writes for the Business & Finance section of The Washington Post.