Thursday, July 13, 2017

1972 Ford Ranchero - Which Came First? The Chicken or the Egg?

Like the age old question about the chicken and the egg and which came first, the answer to the question as to whether or not the Ford Ranchero and its competitor, the Chevrolet El Camino, were trucks or cars is just as confounding. For the record, these things are classified as trucks although we all know that they're two door, 2-3 passenger station wagons with the rear roof taken off. Our subject is a 1972 Ford Ranchero.

Combining all the creature comforts of a car with the utility of a truck makes all the sense in the world, doesn't it? So what went wrong? Well, the biggest problem with these vehicles was they didn't appeal to pickup truck buyers nor did they appeal to fans of two door cars. Sporty or otherwise. What they were left with was potential buyers who liked these "coupe utilities" for what they were. Holy niche marketing, Batman. Amazing that these things stuck around off and on for thirty years. Chrysler, incidentally, got into the action in the early '80's with a truck bedded variation of their K-car based Charger they called the Dodge Rampage. It came and went very quickly.

The idea of a utility based car was nothing new when Ford came out with the first Ranchero, which means "rancher" in Spanish, in 1957. As far back as the days of the Model T, Ford sold some sort of utility based vehicle that could be best described as a pickup car. It's an apt description given that most of the car was a pickup truck bed. Just like our delightfully whimsical '72 here. Thing is, though, these vehicles were not meant to whimsical but rather to be taken seriously as "hybrids" for the lack of a better term. I never understood what these things were and, our 1972 Ranchero the rarest of exceptions, never cared for them. I like this 1972 Ranchero for the wonton styling exercise that I find it to be vs whatever Ford portended it to be.

They'd probably have sold better had they used the entire passenger compartment from the wagons these are based on but then the bed would've been that much shorter. Putting a bed this long onto a four door wagon would mean these pickup cars would've been as ungainly looking as one of today's four door, extended cab/long bed pickups. Sorry, not a fan but then again I grew up 10 minutes from Kennedy Airport. The hell do I know?

There is something viscerally appealing about the 1972 Ford Ranchero, though. Our subject here is the mid model "GT" model that was a performance vehicle of some sort. I'm as confused looking at this thing as I am looking at one of today's over powered, sporty looking cross over SUV's. I sorta/kinda like them but I'm not sure why. Can you be all things to all people all the time? These days apparently so although years ago that was certainly not the case. That massive 429 was somewhat emasculated by 1972 but it could still smoke the rear tire or tires with little to no provocation. Party up front and all business in the back.

Of all of the "coupe utilities" that sprang up between Ford and GM between 1957 and 1987, the '72 Rancheros are perhaps the only ones that I'd find a place for in my Jay Leno inspired, multi floored classic car garage. I love this "boxed off" hexagon of a grill that has been described as a fish mouth. Spotters note, this front end was exclusive to 1972 Rancheros and Torinos.

Experts agree that it was two different types of birds that created the chicken so, sorry to ruin a conundrum that may have been bugging you for years but the chicken came first. Much like the Ranchero came first too. It also left the market first. Ford pulling the plug on their "pickup car" or "coupe utility" after the 1979 model year. GM produced the El Camino and GMC Sprint through 1987. 

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