Curbside Classic: 1966 Ford Ranchero – Viva Tijuana!

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(first posted 9/7/2016)    We’re a bit overdue for some Ranchero love. And to goose the hormones some, how about that one-year wonder, the 1966 version? Yes, 1966 was the last year that the Ranchero was technically still a Falcon (in the US) but it also had the new body that was really more Fairlane than Falcon. And in 1967, it got the genuine Fairlane front end. So this is a bit special; feeling the love yet?

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Shooting on a busy street in the blazing mid-day summer sun is my least favorite time and place, so these shots are a bit lacking. But the 1966 Falcon front end is obvious enough.

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Here’s the rather more interesting 1967 Fairlane Ranchero, with its stacked headlights and different trim.

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In a way, it’s a one-year wonder too, as by 1968, the Ranchero had of course also adopted the new horizontal front end of the ’68-’69 Fairlane/Torino. And just now looking at it, I realize the changes are more extensive than that; the cab has a slimmer C-Pillar, and lost its vent windows. I had assumed the cab was a carry-over.

Ford Ranchero 1966 ad

Strictly speaking, the Ranchero wasn’t always identified as a Falcon, although there were often references to its parentage in ads and such. Not in this 1966 ad, though. Maybe Ford was getting us warmed up for its step up into the Fairlane family.

Ford Ranchero 1967 Ad-01

The Fairlane name was on prominent display for 1967, along with “Thunderbird Power”, denoting the availability of the 390 V8.

Ford ranchero 1968 ad

Now I just had to go see if the Fairlane name was used for 1968. Nope; back to just Ranchero. So the 1967 really is a one year wonder too.

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This ’66 Ranchero looks like it may have paid a visit to Tijuana. Stephanie and I were just wondering today if all those semi-open air upholstery shops that were along the bumpy old gravel main road into town after crossing the border are still there . Probably somewhere, but not like they were back in the day. The transition from San Ysidro over the border into TJ back in the 70s was truly amazing, especially for the first time.

TJ Jai Alai

When I lived in San Diego in 1976-1977, we sued to go down fairly often, for a cheap meal and drinks. My GF had a bit of a betting gene, so we’d go to the Jai Alai palace and waste some money there. But watching the games was a lot better way to lose money betting than all those stupid machines that gobble up money nowadays.

TJ 1950s

In my trip back to vintage Tijuana via the Google time machine, I came across this image of what appears to be the border crossing back in the early 1950s. Quite a change from today. And I followed this image back to its web page, and it’s a blog by a certain Iowahawk. Is it the same Iowahawk that comments here regularly?

I’m guessing it might be, as he relates a story from a fellow hotrod pal from HAMB:

“Yeah, we made it to TJ more than once. Friend of mine had a ’56 ‘bird interior done complete less top for $110. I had a ’54 Chev hardtop lowered for $1.25. The most memorable was the night 4 of us went down in a ’55 Chev ragtop, 283 3 speed that ran fair good. All night long a carload of locals in a ’57 Century rag kept trying to race us. finally after half a dozen bars & beers, he decided to give it a shot just for the hell of it. Wasn’t a bad race, the Buick pulling the Chev by 1 car out on the outskirts of town. After the race, we pulled over to bullshit. They wanted to go again, but my bud said no,he didn’t think he could beat him. The Mexicans all agreed it was a good race, & then pulled badges, arrested us & had us follow them downtown where they stripped, searched,& relieved us of all our money, & then gave the driver back $5 to get us home. I’ll try to find Gene’s hometown in my bootcamp book.”

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Well, let’s get back to Willamette Street in Eugene, and this Ranchero. Ranchero; you see, there really is a connection to Mexico here. I’ve been wondering how we suddenly ended up in TJ, but it all makes sense now, right? More so than why Ford decided to switch from a Falcon front end to a Fairlane one.

Ford AUS Falcon XR 1966 ute

Since we’re all over the globe here, let’s not forget our friends in Australia, as they got a new “Ranchero” in 1966 too, in the form of the XR Falcon ute. Well, the similarities mostly end at the A-pillar, as the Australians tooled up their own version from there back. Since they didn’t do two-doors down under, the short four-door door was used, and a longer C-pillar to compensate.

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This composite picture clearly shows the divergent paths taken by the mothership in Dearborn and its distant offspring in Campbellfield, Victoria. Well, they used what they had at hand, meaning the station wagon body, which was modified to become the ute. A very utilitarian undertaking.

I’ve run out of connections to this Ranchero; maybe you can make some more.