Saturday, November 28, 2009

Crossover Ancestor - 1975 Ford Ranchero 500

1975 Ford Ranchero - copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009


Since this post has proven to be quite popular, and I know I have some British readers, I was wondering, do you have a term for a vehicle that's a car in front and a lorry in the back? With an open bed, I mean, not like the Mini Clubman>

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I find car-truck hybrids to be intriguing vehicles. I have always been puzzled by even their limited popularity.

It seems like almost every manufacturer has tried selling one of these mutant machines at some point, no matter how impractical or how bizarre the bodywork needed to stretch around a car front and a pickup bed. These cars are the automotive equivalent of a mullet haircut, but the party’s out in front, work in the back.

1975 Ford Ranchero 02 - copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

You could see them as the predecessor to the SUV in that they bridge the gap between a material hauler and a people hauler, and are poorly suited for either task.

1975 Ford Ranchero - front end - copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

But because this Ranchero was built on a car chassis, if it were built today it would be categorized as a “crossover”. Strangely, it took more than two decades for the open pickup bed to get a roof.

When this Ranchero was built, pretty much the only people who drove pick-up trucks were people who needed to actually haul stuff. Farmers, trades people, lumber jacks.

So, why would anyone buy a car that looks like a pickup truck but isn’t robust enough to pull a big trailer or haul a ton of manure? As you can see from the silhouette of this Ranchero, they did not buy it for its vast cabin. And the bed, being open, is not really even suitable for the groceries.

1975 Ford Ranchero - hoodline - copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

1975 Ford Ranchero - hoodline closer - copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

1975 Ford Ranchero - roof pillar - copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

My theory was always that the buyers of Rancheros and El Caminos were strictly trying to make a statement. I have just never been sure what it was.

I did not have the opportunity to visit with the driver of this pristine example, with its classic Crager S/S wheels. However, I’m guessing from the fact that I came across it dripping with morning dew after it had spent the night beside the sand volleyball court outside a large tavern near Rock Island, IL, that its owner might have had surfboards in mind. It’s all I can think of.

1975 Ford Ranchero - rear quarterpanel - copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

Despite the Ranchero’s long history (1957-1979,) built on the Fairlane, Falcon, Torino and finally the Thunderbird platforms, with a total of a half a million or so delivered, the Ranchero lived in a tiny patch of the shadow cast by its true truck cousin, the ever-massively-popular Ford 100 Series pickup, which has so far been the choice for over 32,000,000 Ford buyers. Who actually needed to haul stuff.

1975 Ford Ranchero - bed - copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009

All words and images copyright Jeffery Blackwell 2009


  1. I would simply love to drive that! Looks great.

  2. These vehicles always reminded me of a centaur, the half-man half-horse from Greek mythology.

  3. Beautiful car. If you want to see some modern half car have pickup check out Australia's utes (utility vehicle). A country where fuel is not so cheap caught onto the ute to haul stuff without the huge fuel bill. It is an icon there. Goto and scroll down to the Ford utes

  4. Anon -

    That Falcon Ute is really a good looking car. You get some very nice machines there in Australia! I wish Ford would bring the Falcon over here!

    Thanks for the comment and the link.

    - Jeff

  5. The ranchero's are more practicle than you think. My brother and I have a 1970 Ranchero (No chevys for us) and we have used it for anything from hauling lumber to moving about 1000lbs of junk from our house. They are very roomy for two people and are very fun to drive. There are bolt on rear airbag kits alowing you to haul more than 2000lbs in the bed. Even with a small V8 they car a great vehicle and very fun to drive. With a reliable engine in one they can be drove cross country easily. We have an AOD transmitioin and get about 19-20 with a 302

  6. Anon -

    Sounds like you guys find plenty to love about the Ranchero. I can imagine it would be a sweet ride for a two-guy camping trip! Funny how gas mileage or tight quarters are so irrelevant when you are cruisin' out to the country...

    Thanks for the comment!


  7. Yeah, ours got really good gas milage for a 1970 and it was not as small inside as it looks. my comment from yesterday
    - Andrew


Thanks for commenting! Double clutch!!