Australia has had its “ute” for decades — iconic vehicles that look like cars converted into pickup trucks. American automakers experimented with a “gentleman’s pickup” for years, but they were not as well-accepted as the ute was Down Under. In the mid-1930s and early 1940s, Hudson offered Terraplane and Hudson pickups; Studebaker followed with its Coupe Express from 1937-39. All were nice-looking vehicles that used car body panels to break away from the farm-truck look. Stylish though they were, neither model survived for long, but that didn’t stop Hudson from trying again after World War II. Again, public acceptance was not sufficient to encourage continued production, so the “gentleman’s pickup” concept was laid to rest for a decade or so. In 1957, Ford Motor Company introduced the first-generation Ranchero, a vehicle based on a short-wheelbase, full-sized Ford chassis. Picture it as a two-door Ford station wagon with the back part of the roof removed. In 1959, General Motors jumped into the fray with the El Camino, but only for two years before the model was resurrected from 1964 through 1987.
The second-generation Ranchero continued from 1960-65, but it was based on the smaller Ford Falcon chassis. Third-generation Rancheros were slightly larger, based on Ford’s newly combined Falcon/Fairlane chassis for 1966-67. The next three generations were based on the new, larger Ford Torino line, running through 1976. In 1977, the seventh-generation Ranchero assumed a Thunderbird/Ford LTD II platform, which was the end of the line for the Ford Ranchero.
In 1957 Ford sold 21,696 of the first-ever Ranchero, a figure that wasn’t surpassed until the 1966 model year. In fact, Ford’s 1957 automobile line was extremely successful across the board, even outselling Chevrolet. Three years ago, a friend on Maui alerted Joe Adric about a ‘57 Ranchero for sale. An original California car, the owner moved to Colorado before retiring to Maui, and he was thinning out his car collection. Adric couldn’t resist the sleek, torch red and black Ranchero. With the large, round taillights and nifty angled fins, the ‘57 exhibits the popular space-age theme so often utilized during the Sputnik era. Another feature not seen on today’s cars: a 3-speed column shifter—“three-on-the-tree.”
Adric’s Ranchero is powered by a 215-horsepower, 292 cubic-inch “Y-Block” V-8 which is dressed up with finned aluminum Thunderbird valve covers. Manny’s Repair installed a Pertronix ignition system, but other than a valve job and some new shock absorbers, the Ranchero hasn’t needed much work. That’s not much for a vehicle that is more than 55 years old, but then, the Ranchero only has a little over 37,000 miles on the odometer.
Original wheel covers top the original 14-inch wheels. The bias-ply wide whitewall tires really stand out against the red and black paint. The interior of the box is painted white, much to Adric’s chagrin.
As much as he likes his Ranchero, Joe’s dream car is a turquoise and white 1956 Chevy Bel Aire two-door hardtop. If you want to get on hiss good side, let him know when you find a nice one for sale.
• Wheels in Motion is a weekly feature showcasing interesting island vehicles and the people who own them. Email email@example.com to suggest a vehicle that should be featured.