The Ford Ranchero is a coupe utility that was produced by Ford between 1957 and 1979. Unlike a standard pickup truck, the Ranchero was adapted from a two-door station wagon platform that integrated the cab and cargo bed into the body. A total of 508,355 units were produced during the model's production run. Over its lifespan it was variously derived from full-sized, compact, and intermediate automobiles sold by Ford for the North American market.
During the 1970s, the Ranchero name was used in the South African market for a rebadged Australian Ford Falcon utility. Shipped from Australia in complete knock down (CKD) form, these vehicles were assembled in South Africa at Ford's plant in Port Elizabeth. In Argentina, a utility version of the locally produced Ford Falcon was also called Ranchero.
The original Ranchero sold well enough to spawn a competitor from General Motors in 1959, the Chevrolet El Camino. Introduced in December 1956, three months after the traditional September model year start-up, the Ranchero was based on the standard and new-for-1957 full-sized Ford platform, specifically the short-wheelbase Custom sedan, two-door Ranch Wagonstation wagon, and utilitarian Courier sedan delivery. Essentially a Courier with an open, reinforced bed, its own unique rear window and integrated cab and cargo box, the Ranchero was initially offered in two trim levels, and throughout the model run, was built on the corresponding automobile assembly line, but sold as a truck through Ford's truck division. An extremely basic standard model was marketed to traditional pickup truck buyers such as farmers, and the Custom picked up most of the options and accessories available on the Fairlane line, including stainless steel bodyside mouldings and two-tone paint. Upscale models were badged both as a Fairlane and Ranchero, with a stylized representation of a Longhorn as the symbol for the model located on the tailgate. Indeed, print advertising of the time played on the theme of the American Southwest that the Spanish model name and Longhorn symbol were meant to evoke, showing artistic representations of the vehicle being used in ranching and outdoor activities, proclaiming it as "More Than A Car! More Than A Truck!" The Ranchero was a hit with both the automotive press and the buying public, filling an untapped market niche for vehicles with the utility of a light pickup and the ease of operation and riding characteristics of a car. In fact, the Ranchero had a marginally higher cargo capacity by about 50 lb (23 kg) than the half-ton F-Series pickup. Both standard and Custom could be ordered with any engine available for Ford cars, all the way up to the 312 cu in (5.1 L) "Thunderbird Special". In Canada, the Ranchero was also available in the Meteor line-up. Seat belts and padded instrument panels were optional. The 1958 version remained largely unchanged under the skin save for the new front sheet metal (shared by the big '58 Ford and inspired by the Thunderbird) and its new four-headlamp arrangement. The 1957 rear end and tail lights were reused on the 1958 Ranchero.
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