Curbside Classic: 1977-79 Ford Ranchero- No Curbside Love For This One!

 Front-3-Quarter-2

Based on the reader’s comments in last week’s 1969 Ranchero article, I know there’s little love for this last generation Ranchero. Based on some personal experience with the Torino platform, I’d say your disdain for this truck is well deserved. This generation Ranchero suffered a painful reskin in 1977, and carried powerplants that were both thirsty and feeble. Add in the limitations of the underlying Torino platform, and you have a product that is far removed from it’s intended purpose.

Initially designed to be a handy sized truck for the working man, this example might best be described instead as a “clown car.” In addition, the owner’s wheel and tire choice only adds to the joke. In the future, I suggest the owner follow the advice of that classic medical creed and “First, do no harm.”

Rear-3-Quarters

I found this Ranchero in Curbside Classic central. In this location, I’ve also photographed a Dodge 400 (it is in fact visible above the cab in this picture) and a Ford Pinto about a block down the street.

The taillights and tailgate in this photo give away this truck’s ugly secret. Unchanged from the taillights offered on the 1972 Ranchero, these recycled parts warned knowledable buyers that Ford had phoned in their 1977 redesign. The basic layout of the cowl, cab and bed remained unchanged despite the new sheetmetal.  During this quickie restyle, the stylists simply flattened the rear flanks and modified the front clip. This new sheet metal extended the nose about 2″, making the previous nose heavy design even more ungainly. When it was all said and done, the ’77 through ’79 Ranchero carried forward the weak elements of the ’72 redesign, while bringing new sins to the table.

72-Ranchero

Speaking of this truck’s roots, here’s a brochure shot of the 1972 Ranchero. The Torino was all new that year, and replaced the previous unibody model with a larger car using body on frame construction. In doing so, Ford hoped to knock out GM’s intermediates by offering better road isolation. At the time, this appeared to be the right move, as the Torino initially outsold the Chevelle. However, a reputation for rusting and the arrival of the oil crisis worked to take the wind out of the big Torino’s sails. Over the next few years, Ford repackaged and renamed the car several times (remember the Elite, LTD II, and Thunderbird?).

The Ranchero did not change names over this time span, but did get saddled with sheet metal based on these “new” cars. In addition, the ’72 Torino platform never translated well into a “Gentleman’s Truck” since its curvaceous styling led to inefficient packaging.

Having said that, I actually like the ’72 version of the Ranchero, but it did NOT age well. Perhaps if Ford had used the front doors from their station wagon, it would have offered better utility and a better silhouette. But given the extreme length of the ’72 Torino front clip, any truck using this platform was destined to go through life with too much hood, too little bed.

InteriorPaul has noted several times that a car’s windshield provides a critical clue to it’s parentage. The same can also be said of the dashboard. While the edges may change a bit model to model, HVAC vent placement, HVAC control placement and the gauge opening generally remains the same year to year. Anyone familiar with the ’72 Torino dashboard will recognize the linage of this Ranchero. In addition, the door panel and view over the hood also hearken back to the truck’s Torino roots. Not the worst workspace in the world, but also a dated look that did not match the formal lines of the new ’77 exterior.

Front-3-Quarters

This view of the Ranchero shows some of the issues I have with the truck’s design. When Ford bolted the LTD II front clip up to the Ranchero, the squared off fender lines forced them to remove the curved side window opening and concave rear fenders of the previous design. In addition, this new clip bore a strong resemblance to Chevy’s Monte Carlo, creating a copycat design that arrived late to the party. In addition, the tall, square front end only emphasizes the length of the hood, and the new side glass line visually shrinks the cab even more. Overall, this Ranchero lacks the sporty feel of the previous model, an important design feature in this market segment.

Hood-Nacels

This close up of the hood really demonstrates where Ford missed the boat. I’ve complained about square headlights before, but this Ranchero demands an additional bitch session! I’m not opposed to square headlights on all cars, but I hate it when stylists paste them onto existing designs that did not begin life with rectangular headlights.

Back in the day, manufacturers promoted square headlights by promising lower hood lines and more aerodynamic body lines. In some cases that happened, but not here. Not only are the headlights stacked vertically, eliminating any possibility of a low hood line, but the hood includes two blisters designed to raise the hood surface up to meet the elevated headlight buckets!

I’m sure this article will bring forward a few Ranchero defenders, people who prefer this restyle to the original. I welcome positive comments, but ask those making them to do one thing for me-

Before posting your comments, please carefully examine this misshapen hood. Stare at that awkward blister behind the headlight, and take in the grille stolen off the Granada. If you can still post a positive review in the light of such undeniable sin, I can only raise you up to the ranks of the true believer.