The Ford Ranchero was born just after the launch of the 1957 model year, in December of 1956 and was the first such vehicle produced in the United States. But this type of combination car/truck was born as a variation of the Ford Model T and a similar model to the 1957 Ranchero was made by Ford of Australia since 1936.
The Ford Ranchero was so successful that General Motors decided to assemble a copy of it and launched the Chevrolet El Camino in 1959.
Initially the Ranchero was based on the full size Ford sedan platform. It looked like a truck, with a two-seater cab and a cargo bed but the main difference was that the cargo bed was integrated in the body and not separated like on a regular pickup truck. But it was a car and it rode like a car.
The Ford Ranchero is rare not only as all old trucks are rare but also because such vehicles do not exist anymore. Today’s small trucks are real trucks with a frame and a cargo bed specifically made for cargo. This cross-over type of vehicle, a car transformed into a truck with a cargo bed integrated to the body isn’t made in America anymore. You can find this kind of small truck still being assembled in other countries, but not here, except for the Subaru Baja which is not entirely American, but a Japanese design.
The idea Ford had behind the Ranchero was of a comfortable truck that was ideal for the ranchers and cowboys of the American Southwest where the Mexican influence was significant. Hence the Spanish name Ranchero (Rancher). At the time when we posted this, this red 1966 Ford Ranchero was being sold on eBay for US $27,000.
Ever since it came out it was hailed as a great idea and it sold very well. More than 500.000 Rancheros where made from 1957 to 1979 when the last model came out of the production line. Today they are well-loved, like all old trucks.
A version of the Ford Ranchero was also produced in Canada under the Mercury brand name. Some of them had big and powerful engines.
A proof of the success of the Ford Ranchero was the birth of the Chevrolet El Camino in 1959, two years after the Ranchero came on the market. The first El Camino was based on the full size model of the two door Chevrolet Biscayne Brockwood station wagon.
Production started in 1959 and stopped one year later because sales didn’t make the brass happy at GM. But the El Camino came back in 1964 and was produced without interruption until 1987. The most popular model was based on the Chevelle Malibu platform and some hot models were put on the market like the SS 396.
Old trucks like the Chevrolet El Camino have the advantage of parts availability. You can find anything you need for a Chevrolet and you can restore any particular one of these old trucks to their original condition or make them even better than they were.
To this day most people refer to the Chevrolet El Camino as a “car”. But the legislation in the United States treats this vehicle as a truck and it is licensed as a truck.
Although half a million Ford Rancheros were sold and in spite of the fact that it was one of the most popular models made in America today it is hard to find one of these old trucks around. There are great restorations and you may find one for sale here and there but they are rare nonetheless. And rare means expensive.
The classic Chevrolet El Camino, however, is found everywhere. Many of them are daily drivers and are well-kept.
Once in a while a rumor is fed through the grapevine telling of the rebirth of the Chevrolet El Camino. In fact, General Motors produced a concept vehicle in 1995 which was called El Camino and was based on the full-size Chevrolet Caprice station wagon. But it never materialized and we are still waiting for the new El Camino.
The Ford Ranchero would certainly be welcomed back too!
Links with more information about the Ford Ranchero:
Links with more information on the Chevrolet El Camino: