Vintage CL Road Test: 1966 Ford Ranchero With 289 V8 – “A Delightfully Capable, Nimble And Responsive Vehicle”

This is a somewhat different Road Test from previous vintage ones. In practice, it is more of a long-term test rather than a typical review of the new ’66 Ford Ranchero. As Car Life’s text explains, their sample was on a long-term loan and staffers had plenty of opportunities to hop on the vehicle and try it in daily life. No mention of how long a period that was, but it was an extended one.

As such, it’s a better setup to try and test a model’s strengths and weaknesses in the real world. In the case of the ’66 Ranchero, all time well spent as the vehicle left a very good impression on those who used it.

Some will notice the magazine refers to the vehicle as the Falcon Ranchero, which had been the model’s name from ’60-’65. Regardless of carrying the ’66 Falcon’s front clip, Ford would officially drop the ‘Falcon’ part when referring to the ’66 Rancheros. A sign the ’66 Falcon-Rancheros were going through a transition. A natural move, since the new the new models now shared much of its platform with the mid-size Fairlane. That connection resulted in a more substantial Ranchero (and Falcon), with the car moving up the ladder in options, size, and comfort.

Whenever a vintage Ranchero (or El Camino) has appeared on our pages, comments often mention that these utility vehicles seemed to have much favor with single and active men. An idea Car Life’s text seems to support. After all, users found the car awfully appealing for its convenience, maneuverability, and power delivery. As for its 2-seat packaging, they felt it made the Ranchero very personal, and almost “sports like.”

About those sporty pretenses, they were not lacking in Car Life’s Ranchero. The test vehicle was a Custom model and carried Ford’s 289 with 4-barrel carburetion. Shifting was via a 3-speed automatic, and brakes were drums all around; power-assisted. Interior arrangements were nicely fitted, with full instrumentation, bucket seats, and a console.

Under use, the Ranchero “was sprightly enough” for daily use. Being a unitized vehicle, users felt that against El Camino, the car was a more solid vehicle without sacrificing ride comfort. Handling was found to be good, with “no problems in proper control.” A result of Ford’s revised suspension geometry for the models.

Unladen, weight distribution was considered better than first glances would indicate. With the back end doing a fairer share of the work than expected. Braking was only average, with resistance to fading but showing occasional rear wheel lock.

The 2-passenger cabin was a cozy environment, that along interior fittings, provided a sporty ambiance. There were the usual quibbles on ergonomics; the bucket seats being too flat and complaints about Ford’s seating position. That, plus the usual, minor issues about fit and finish. But overall, a feeling that Ford had improved in all those areas with the ’66s.

In all, reviewers were very pleased with the Ranchero’s overall execution. “The Ranchero had enough charm about it make one forget he was… only riding a pickup truck… There was an exhilaration about the Ranchero, not form a wind in the face sportiness, but in a delightfully capable, nimble and responsive vehicle…”

Finally, the ’66’s Falcon front clip would be a one-year event. For ’67, the Ranchero would adopt the Fairlane’s face. A sensible decision, since after all, the new ’66 Ranchero was an upgraded vehicle “of virtual Fairlane standards”.


Related CC reading:

Curbside Classic: 1966 Ford Ranchero – Viva Tijuana!