I haven’t seen nearly as many Rancheros as I have El Caminos. Stumbled across this one not long back, and it marked my first ever 1972 Ford intermediate in the flesh. A special moment for me.
To make up numbers I’m throwing in some Australian utes, some concepts and a South African Ranchero 500.
Scratch an Australian and you’ll get the ute story. We invented the ute. No wait, we invented the coupe ute.
Truth is, the person who invented the ute was the guy or gal who put a flatbed behind the front seats of a car chassis. Probably happened sometime before the Model T. Somewhere anywhere in the world.
We did get in on the ute thing early; JohnH tells it here. In short, thanks to Lew Bandt ours became distinctive for their five-window treatment.
This format became the norm over here from 1932 and continued after the war.
As soon as the 1949 single spinner hit the ground, we turned it into a coupe utility.
Lovely rear, somewhat marred by that wheelarch thingy.
Our large Ford pickup continued through the 1950s into the Customline range, known as the Mainline Utility.
Looking at what was being done downunder, and inspired by the stylish 1955 Chevrolet Cameo Carrier/GMC Suburban, someone at Ford US decided a fullsize pickup would be just the thing.
It came in 1957, followed by El Camino et al.
Essentially a roofless two-door wagon, the 1957-59 Ranchero featured longer doors than the sedan’s.
We didn’t get these models here via the factory.
Nor did we get the second gen, which shrank considerably while still retaining the longer tudor doors.
We got a bespoke body with less rear and a tighter cabin using sedan doors, the format used by GM on their Holden models since 1948. Three-window not five.
The Falcon was a last minute decision for this market, and we didn’t get the two-door on its introduction in 1960 although we did get the fastback coupe a couple of years in.
Hence in the name of cost savings, the ute was four-door short. We were given a nice pressing in the c-pillar instead.
What comes into play here is the mama’s pasta effect. This version of the ute is the natural state of being for me because this is what I grew up with. Just like my mama’s pasta is the best because that’s what I grew up with. To me, the Ranchero is someone else’s mama’s cooking. Never the same.
For many of you, it’s the opposite.
This one used to live near me. Got replaced by a 66 stang. Then that disappeared too.
1966, the last of the Falcon Rancheros. It was a new generation model, and the mingling of Ford compact and intermediate continued. Simply replacing the front clip with Fairlane stacklights for 1967 changed the whole feel of the offering.
We got the sedans pretty much as is, but the two-door was not taken up locally. This is one of two I’ve caught recently and is actually converted to RHD, which is becoming less of a thing for imported cars now LHD is registerable.
The roofline and c-pillar profile from the 1960-65 XK-XP utes was retained for our next generation, known here as XR and XT. No fancy pressing, though.
We went further out on our own with the subsequent XW and XY.
This is the latter, the easy tell being the chromed strip bisecting the rear lights. It belongs to occasional CCorrespondent AVL, who has taken it off the road, stripped it down and is bringing it back to lustre without being too precious.
These models chunked out the details of the 66 Falcon, the distinctive round taillights being dropped without much rancour. XW had the three lens rear light units.
And with burgeoning confidence in its indigenous styling team, Ford Australia also put together a concept ute – the 1969 Surferoo.
1969 also saw a Ranchero concept in the US called the Scrambler. Face and tail were based on the 1969 Super Cobra Sportsroof. Name came from the twin Rupp Scrambler dirt bikes sitting out back.
According to Mac’s Motor City, the Scrambler showcar subsequently received a nose from the 1970 King Cobra NASCAR effort that never raced.
I don’t think it’s this one, which has a rear bumper unlike the showcar. But the closer I look, the more genuine that nose appears. At a guess – an informal Ford skunkwork effort.
Those concepts were nothing compared with what hit the street in 1972.
This single year for the Torino marks a highpoint in US styling.
The sheer audacity of that nose is perfectly met with the mastery of its rendering. You can fault these cars for failing to strip away the excess, but it is in their very excess that they excel. In the language of mostness, this is poetry.
The side sculpture too is utterly compelling. On the sedan, notchback and wagon, perhaps a bit too much.
On the Ranchero, an effective counterbalance to that extended front overhang. Something the 70/71 was lacking.
I met the owner of this beauty at the Bendigo swap meet. An elderly gentleman in similar condition, this GT with 429 is his regular ride. And I just love its park-in-the-streetable patina.
To my eyes, Ford’s use of side sculpture had the same effect on the fullsizers.
We got the sedans here as LTD mostly, so all gussied up with that very helpful rocker trim. The blisters alongside don’t seem to do much, but once seen they become sorely missed. When I look at a 69/70, the shape just feels undercooked compared with the 71/72.
The Torinos were all-new for 1972, so the sculpture was more integral to the form.
I mean, just look at that. Even if you have an aversion to shiny cars, that is still a magnificent view.
We toyed with the Torino look for our 1972-introduced XA Falcon.
We also considered a ute that had a c-pillar very much like the new Holden’s.
Instead, we went the Ranchero route and borrowed from the two-door.
Again, the mastery of Fomoco 1972. Fuselage with cokebottle, nubbier than the 70/71 Torino but also tougher, more purposeful. Unlike stateside, clean sides prevailing.
My favourite ever Australian ute.
The concurrent HQ Holden was also very nice, but sedan doors.
When I caught this example years ago, I thought this badge was just some fun.
But no, it was a South African Ford CKD-XA Ranchero. Everything the Australians got, plus a faux intake behind the doors and Ranchero script on the grille and flanks.
I’ve never seen that intake and it looks airbrushed on in this photo. So does the grille script. As far as I can tell, neither made it to the showroom floor. This one does have the XA Fairmont wheelcovers, probably a hangover from the sedans which were sold as up-spec cars and badged Fairmont in that market.
Chevrolet SA made more of an effort. Their versions of the Holden ute featured grilles unique to the territory.
In place of the Ranchero script sitting in the grille, there appears to be a Ford oval – not done here IIRC. Callouts are for the 351, the SA models were available with 250 and 302 as well.
The XA was to have a Bunkie-beak of sorts, but that feature was saved for the senior models. The bread and butter range looked best, those clean horizontal strips with slight V sitting nicely inside the extrusion cavity.
The South African Ranchero continued with the XB, but this one’s a Falcon.
Not just any Falcon though. Those Fairmont hubcaps would appear to be original spec, as would its tombstone seats, deeper pile carpet and other niceties. It has interesting provenance too, being purchased by a transport magnate for use on his farm. A Fairmont in all but name.
With a Mustang face.
If I can’t have an XA, I’d take an XB in a heartbeat.
The end-of-body XC is also a nice effort.
The front end was heavier than the XA and XB, but still handsome.
Early proposal for its successor, when the range was considered as an evolution. Can’t unsee.
The actual replacement arrived in 1979. XD square.
And with it the return of the five-window format for the ute.
As with the El Camino, my tastes in Ranchero are changing. For as long as I can remember, the 72 has been the best looking of the bunch for me.
But this 68/69 has taken me in. I caught it years ago and haven’t seen it since. This photo seems to catch it in the ideal light, falling on the body to emphasise its extruded-clean profile. I love its smaller-diameter period wheels. I love that wafer-thin c-pillar. Love.
Got my own. A plastic Tonka that originally came with the metal car carrier I received as a child. That car carrier was the best toy I ever had and lasted years, but as soon as I got it for Christmas the dog ate the Ranchero and accompanying Mustang. Found this one since.
Aussie Ford had the Zephtyr ute that had a double skinned floor using the sedan and convertible floorpans in sandwich form they are immensly strong exactly the opposite of the Falcon after all the expense and effort Ford OZ went to on the MK2 Z car with its unique wagon and coupe utility models you can see why the Falcon was a last minute thing Zephyr utes continued production but not in any real official capacity with a quantity of MK3 models being produced in New Zealand by Hutchenson Motors in Christchurch enough for one at each dealership throughout the country a surprising number still survive nobody bothered with the awfull MK4 we just bought Falcon utes.
I still can’t understand why the concept never caught hold here in the US. With our love of high performance and lust for anything with a bed in the back, I would think our roads would be filled with the things.
I love these deep dives of yours, Don. I don’t know how you hold your breath for so long!
That silver XC is my favorite of the Australian utes. A bit more restrained than the ’72, which I have come to appreciate more with time (and your encouragement). But I will never be able to see how those ones with the short doors are anyhting bit visually a bit painful. But then I used to eat things my mother cooked that I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole now.
FWIW, Ford in the US offered a “Runabout with standard pickup body” in 1926.
Nice work as always, Don.
I think they chose the short doors for the early Aussie Falcon utes for two reasons:
1. It’s what they had around.
2. It allowed a longer tray, considering the shortened rear overhang compared to the Ranchero.The local utes were more work-oriented than their US brothers so the size of the work area was important.
As for the stumpy looks, a sacrifice for practicality.
Definitely the case. The Falcon-Rancheros had the spare tyre behind the seat, which pushed the load bed further back too.
Great stuff Don! Goes to show the things that can be found around the inner suburbs where there isn’t a lot of off-street parking to hide these cars away.
Looking at all of these, one constant is the trapezoidal rear quarter. The ’34 Ford already showed it. An American ’34 coupe looks the same from door-hinge forward, but the rear quarter and roof are much rounder. After that, the same shape appears all the way through, never shared by US coupes or sedans.
Smooth sides are another constant. American makers were considering it during WW2 but didn’t get there until the Ranchero. (Except for the ’47 Crosley!)
I was under the impression that what separated the ’32 Coupe Utility from its “sedan with a bed” predecessors was that the bed sides were physically and stylistically integrated with the coupe body.
But I suppose that delineation falls apart with the advent of what I believe is called a “trayback ute”. (Is that terminology correct, Aussie friends?)
Yes that is the case, and there were many other descriptors used for earlier versions eg buckboard, light delivery, etc.
Post the ‘proper’ ute the term is still in common use for all light pick-ups. Interestingly for a time Ford was calling the Ranger a truck in advertising (might still be?) and I doubt even dealership or perhaps head office staff do that. The 99-on Falcon that had a separate bed was still called a ute, official terminology style-side bed (SSB), but the flat tray version would most likely be known as a one-tonner by way of distinction.
When I had scrolled down to the South African Ranchero XB, before reading the caption, I thought to myself, ‘Australia got a Plymouth Barracuda Ute?!?!? No Way!’
The resemblance is uncanny…
When I first saw an XB the bumper, fender edges and (GT)hood instantly reminded me of the 71-72 Mustangs, but overall I see a lot more Barracuda. Even painting the grille surround argent
And also fairly uncanny, the XC with the quad round headlights looks strikingly like the pre-facelift MK-1 scirocco
yeah nar. XC has the broad bump in the grille whereas the Scirocco’s is flat. Makes all the difference.
That’s an amazing resemblance. Who wouldn’t want a ‘Cuda Ute?
My knee-jerk reaction was similar, and if that was truly the case, I was about to have a new favorite ute! Even though it turned out to not be a Barracuda Ute, it’s still a sharp looking car.
That’s what I thought when the first scoop photos of the XB hit the magazines.
I had that exact thought too.
great call Rick
Outstanding Don! I am on the same page as you (as I often seem to be). I will take a ’72 from the US, but an XA or XB from down under. Is that ’72 fastback a recent import? I know of one just like that that went down under in the last couple of years.
The 68-69 Ranchero is nice too, much better balanced than the 70 to 71 ‘Chero with its extra overhang.When it comes to the cars though, I much prefer the 70 to 71 over the 68 to 69, but they had longer wheelbase which helped. I agree with Paul, I can’t say I will warm to the short door variants.
I just saw you did an El Camino article too. I will have to read that one too.
Yep, had a chat with the fastback’s owner and believe it was a recent purchase. Very enjoyable to come across.
The ‘faux intake’ is the tare/gross weight decal placard.
My faux pas. hehehe
You’re welcome – or was that a hook & line?…the tropical gold XB does appear to be well optioned. The left side mirror, factory aerial attend to that. Post ‘75 all Falcon 500 were equiped with black rims with full wheel cover. It also appears to have the (shortened) protection pack strips. Compulsory front overriders with that option have gone walkabout. 1976 model – no engine call out, black door knobs – impressive find / L
Thanks for the extra info, Luke. Next time I see the owner I’ll pretend I already knew all that. hehehe
Outstanding journey into Ute-Land. Since these are all essentially unknown to me, I have no Mama’s Pasta bias… and after looking at all of these examples, to my eyes the Falcon XB ute looks the best. Great combination of style and utility. But of course I wouldn’t turn any of these down!
Fabulous Don! Great pics, wonderful words, love your articles, thank you. The ’72 Torino’s front end is so much better than later versions – the shapely bumpers, the grilled shape…all rather delicious.
I didn’t realise the South African Falcon utes were badged Ranchero, an interesting bit of info to file away. I see the photographed example is missing the little reflectors inboard of the headlights that SA cars have. The scoop behind the rear wheels looks like a weight sticker too – EDIT I see Luke just noted this too.
XB for me, best exterior of the XA/B/C and best interior – that wraparound dashboard is awesome, especially in fully-instrumented GS/GT form! Caveat: the XB bonnet needs to have the air intakes and the grille needs the optional spotlights, but when these two things coexist the bonnet/grille combo is my favourite Falcon front-end ever.
Haven’t seen a standard XD ute for a few months (ex-BIL has one rotting away) although there are XF/G/H utes still around. The XD you’ve pictured shows the design up well – square yes, but so clean, so crisp, especially in appliance-white. I think the 5-window shape came about because they used the XA-C inner B-pillar structure (which became the C-pillar on the XD), so when they switched to the shorter sedan doors the inner rear roof structure was still for the longer XA-C doors and they needed to fill the gap between the old door opening and the new.
I’ve seen more XA utes than XD. Plenty of XE+ around in use, but none of the first squareby. I think the greenhouse works best with dark trim, hiding the b-pillar. S-Pack came like that but what are the chances of finding a nice orange one with red decals now?.
Well funny you should mention it Don it, but ex-BIL’s XD ute is factory orange…! V8 too, but no decals, and having sat in a paddock for a year or three now it’s definitely not nice… Almost-CC-effect: met one of our neighbours for the first time this weekend, he has a white XH ute. The XH nose definitely doesn’t suit the XD body when painted white… Hubby, who has no interest in cars whatsoever, looked at it and said “What is that old thing? It looks so dated”…
I can see that UTEs were very popular down under. Were there light full size pick ups, 1/4 ton, also available? While I think that the UTEs and Caminos /Rancheros have their “utility” they are not as good as carrying loads as a real truck. Of course, Today’s trucks are just as smooth and posh as any car ever was. And they can still work, if you don’t mind getting them a bit dirty.
Over here, utes are more of a coupe with tax-benefits and long open trunk. No-one’s really using those beds for dirt, but many have treadplate cabinets for tools added. Theft of tools from utes is a big problem over here, as I imagine it is in the US.
Jose, full-size pickups were assembled by Ford here until the early 90’s, GM sold some in the late 70s for a few years and Dodge and IH had them as the bottom of their truck lines up to the 70s. Ford also brought in F250 & F350 from Brazil where they were built in RHD in the early-mid 2000’s.
There has always been a market for third-party RHD conversions, including more official versions sold by FCA & GM dealers in more recent years. However the cheapest Ram 1500 (4-door V8 4×4) starts at AUD$80k, which is about US$55k. They sold 2609 1500’s last year.
“This single year for the Torino marks a highpoint in US styling.”
Agreed wholeheartedly re the ’72!
A man who worked at my father’s store bought a new Ranchero GT that year. Red, silver/black/white stripes on the side.
I was smitten then, and still am today.
My favourite would be the XA in Lime Glaze with the GS stripes. This is a 1/32 scale diecast.
Sweet. Was once offered a one-owner Superbird in that colour, still on its cheese cutters. Had my Fiat 130 Coupe then so passed.
Yes very good Don, Getting rare here now but there was a time when 70s Falcons were everywhere I had a few mostly sedans a GS wagon and a van XBs other than a liteweight XA the rust had a real hold of that one on wet roads water came in it didnt have to be raining there must have been a few more cents alotted to underbody paint on the XBs because none of mine did that, yeah they are the best looker thats possibly why I kept buying them and the 250 sixes were pretty tough, I had a XB wagon in GS 302 yellow with the stripes and scoops on the bonnet it looked the part lots of gauges inside T bar auto eletrics with minds of their own passengers window activated the wipers and so forth nice cruiser.
My XA had the 250. Never had a problem except starter motor something.
Great post Don, you can always come up with rare pictures, I have had quite a few Ford Australia history books over the years, but have never seen the ones you have shown here.
The XA ute is the best looking Aussie car in my opinion, would love to have one one day, they were serious rusters though. I drove a few back in the day, very solid heavy feeling cars.
They had Australias best looking instrument panel as well.
Thanks jonco. That view is so familiar.
Great article, I didnt realize how many Falcon varieties were out there. South Africa only got a handful. While they were popular the high cost of petrol blunted their sales volumes.
Perhaps I am slighted biased; as this one is now occupying a driveway spot today…..but of all the 5 1960 thru 1979 Ranchero models I have owned this ’66 model is my favorite.
Always liked the 68-69 Ranchero’s the best, probably biased by a off-road one that I believe was built by Hot Rod magazine possibly for Baja race. I wanted to build one and drive it to Alaska.
I thought the 72 was butt ugly but the 73 sure changed that!
My favorite 68-69 Ranchero’s also were the half-sisters to those fabulous fastback Torino stock cars.
I think the 68-69 Chargers and Torino’s were the best stockcars before the silly Daytona Chargers and Superbirds showed up. Butt ugly then and now. You can throw the Super Cobra in with them too.