The 1957-1958 Ford Ranchero and Courier were pioneering sedan-pickup designs that sent the other major automakers scrambling to catch up.
Ford Rancheros are among the most collectible artifacts of the 1950s, right up there with 45-rpm records, pink and turquoise furniture, and Philco Predicta TV sets. Unlike some of those, its influence was far reaching.
Sparked by the success of the combination car-pickup Ranchero, Ford and Chevy offered sedan-pickups for another 20 years or so.
In essence, the Ford Ranchero was a two-door Ranch Wagon with the rear roof section cut off and a bed liner slipped over the floor pan. Though reminiscent of the old Hudson sedan-pickup and 1937-1939 Studebaker Coupe-Express, its roots lie "Down Under."
Ford of Australia introduced the concept in 1932, calling it a Utility or, affectionately, a "Ute": a roadster with the body section behind the driver replaced by a fleetside bed. In 1957, the open-bed Ford Ranchero joined Ford's wagon lineup and was joined by the more wagon-like Ford Courier Sedan Delivery.
Marketed by Ford Truck Division, built on the shorter 116-inch wheelbase, they shared Ford's spiffy new 1957 styling. Semi-elliptic rear springs with six leaves (instead of four) and other suspension improvements provided a variable-rate effect and stiffer action.
Engines were regular 1956 fare: a standard 223-cid six and optional V-8s (272-cid in the base Ranchero, 292-cid in the Custom). The 1957 Ford Ranchero followed the main 1957 line by two months, introduced at the New York Auto Show in December, and made its musical movie debut in April Love, with Pat Boone.
It caught GM and Chrysler off guard. Dodge hastily cobbled the entire rear section of a passenger wagon onto a pickup to create the finny Sweptside; Chevy and GMC merely continued their Cameo and Suburban, but Chevrolet caught up in a big way with the El Camino in 1959.
So the spectacular Ford Ranchero was all alone in 1957. The 1958 Ford Ranchero'...