Find a Chevy El Camino or Ford Ranchero at a car show, and inevitably, you’ll hear someone ask why carmakers don’t offer such car/pickup combos anymore. Those two rivals emerged in the late 1950s, with the Ranchero lasting until 1979 and the El Camino surviving through 1987.
Along the way, other car/pickups came and went, but if you’re wondering why the idea died, look to SUVs and pickup trucks. Both became more civilized and passenger-focused through the 1980s, and today some pickups rival luxury cars for comfort and amenities – and pricing, too.
Ford revived the pickup/car idea with its ‘57 Ranchero, combining the low-line Custom model with a pickup bed based on the two-door Ranch Wagon. Ads promoted the Ranchero as “More than a car! More than a truck!” Ford sold just under 46,000 Rancheros in its first three years and also built the model in Canada as the Meteor Ranchero.
For 1960, Ford introduced its dramatically smaller and lighter second-generation Ranchero based on the Falcon compact. Design mirrored the Falcon’s, although the 1966 Ranchero was based on the longer Fairlane wagon platform and then for 1967 picked up the Fairlane’s front-end sheet metal. With the transition, Ford offered engines all the way up to the 390-cid V-8, along with upscale GT trim.
Across town, Chevy had attempted to infuse car styling and comfort into a pickup truck with the 1955 Cameo Carrier. The far greater success of Ford’s car-based Ranchero, however, spurred Chevy to field a direct competitor for 1959, also with a Spanish-derived name, El Camino