The 1957-1959 Rancheros were based on full-size Fairlanes. They offered a wide range of engines, including the “Thunderbird Special” 352-cid V8, that could be ordered. Only two trim lines were offered - Standard and Custom. Customs included bright metal body side moldings, more accessories and richer upholstery. Two-tone paint schemes, in contrasting bright hues, were the rule, rather than an exception.
In 1960, Ford released its Falcon compact. The Ranchero was transferred to the smaller Falcon platform to better differentiate it from Ford's full size F-Series pickups. The little car-truck was a great combination. It could haul 800 pounds of freight, deliver 30 mpg from its 144-cid six and provide dual-purpose “town and country” utility with smooth, low-slung passenger-car styling. For Americans moving to the suburbs, a Falcon Ranchero was a sensible choice.
In mid-1963, the Falcon Ranchero got an optional 260-cid 164-hp V8. Bucket seats, vinyl trim and a 4-speed gearbox could be ordered. The 1964-‘65 Ranchero used a new, squarer Falcon body. Ford’s 289-cid small-block V8 was offered in 1965. A rare two-tone paint scheme was available on Deluxe models. The 1966 Ranchero was a one-year-only hybrid on the longer 113-inch Fairlane station wagon wheelbase with Falcon body lines. Coil springs were used in front and leaf springs at the rear. Three engines were offered: a 200-cid 120-hp six, a two-barrel 289 V8 with 200 hp and a four-barrel 225-hp 289.
In 1967 the Ranchero changed architectures again to the Fairlane platform, growing larger in the process. Its styling featured stacked dual headlights, a one-piece aluminum grille and rectangular taillights. The base pickup was $2,514 (a $300 increase). Also available was the $2,611 Ranchero 500 and the $2,768 Ranchero 500XL. XLs had extra moldings. This car-truck came with all Ford engines up to a 390-cid 320-hp V8. This sporty truck is the probably the most collectible Ranchero. It was carried over in 1968, but the 500XL was renamed GT.
GTs included a V8 and C-shape body stripes. The ’69 followed the same pattern, but replaced the 289 with a 302-cid 220-hp V8. Other options included 351-cid 290-hp, 390-cid 320-hp and 428-cid 335-hp. The 428 came with a heavy-duty suspension, aluminum valve covers, bright engine parts, an extra-cooling radiator, an 80-amp battery and “428” badges. In 1969 Ford also offered a new Ranchero trim package, called Rio Grande. Ford considered Rio Grande Ranchero's 'Special Performance Vehicles' and added a hood scoop, side stripes, bed rails, a vinyl roof top, and custom wheel caps.
In 1970-‘71, the Ranchero continued to be based on mid-sized unit-bodied Fairlanes and offered standard, 500, GT and Squire models. The GT was sporty and the Squire promised “ultimate luxury” with carpeting and wood trim inside and out. Production hovered in the range of 20,000-23,000 units per year.
Between 1972-‘76, the Ranchero reverted to body-on-frame construction. It grew larger and more popular. The front had the “fish-mouth” styling of the mid-size Torino. These Rancheros were very luxurious. The basic trim level became the 500. GT and Squire packages remained available for upscale buyers. In 1972, production zoomed to over 40,000, but it would taper to 16,100 in 1976.
The Ranchero’s final restyling came in 1977 after Ford Torino production ended. Based on the Ford Thunderbird, revisions included stacked rectangular headlights, a neo-classic cross-hatched grille, new doors and revised quarter panels. The same trim levels were available. Ford’s 302 was base V8 and GTs came with the 351. Final year production in 1979 was over 24,000 units.