Hooniverse Asks: Why Is the El Camino More Venerated Than the Ranchero?

Let’s just get this out of the way, the first pickup trucks were car-based and that makes the Chevy El Camino and Ford Ranchero the defacto inheritors of the form’s traditional lineage. Today, Ford’s F-series trucks may claim the title of best-selling vehicle in the U.S., but that proprietary pickup platform didn’t even arrive until 1948. 
By the fifties however, cars and pickups had made their split. At the same time that schism arose, so too did the era of the “lifestyle truck.” Betoken examples were the likes of the Chevy Cameo and the subject of today’s discussion, the Ford Ranchero and the Chevy El Camino, which reunited car and truck forms. There have been a number of other car-based pickups since then, mostly smaller and FWD, while in places like Australia they make an entire industry even today, but the Ranchero and El Camino are considered the progenitors of them all.
Now, with that in mind, the status of each is not equal by a long shot today. While the El Camino has long been the standard bearer or the form, the Ranchero seems to be a perennial also-ran. Both car-trucks seem to have had equal support by their makers throughout most of their lives, and the Ranchero comes from the same company that considers great value in the sales of their trucks. Why is it then that the El Camino has long been more popular than the Ranchero?
Images: Hemmings /UniqueCarsandParts

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45 responses to “Hooniverse Asks: Why Is the El Camino More Venerated Than the Ranchero?”

  1. P161911 Avatar

    Same reason that the Chevelle is much more popular than the Ford Torino. These things are much more car than truck. And mainly darlings of the muscle car crowd.
    Also, I get really tired of “Ford trucks are the best selling trucks”. Most years, Chevy and GMC sales combined beat Ford. So really GM trucks are the best selling trucks.

    1. GTXcellent Avatar

      I was 10 minutes to late today to give the exact same answer.
      Also, Ford considers their ENTIRE F series when puffing out their chests and boasting about sales. What’s the old saying about figures never lie but liars figure…

  2. Hillman_Hunter Avatar

    Because El Camino is THE Camino. Ranchero is just Ranchero.

    1. crank_case Avatar

      What happens when you cross a LaFerrari with an ElCamino I wonder? Despite abuse of two latin languages of course..

      1. Hillman_Hunter Avatar

        I think the result is the panzerotti, which is both delicious and almost certainly fatal when eaten in large quantities.

      2. Alff Avatar

        A transgendered exotic with ample cargo space for a wardrobe.

        1. crank_case Avatar

          the closet comes out of it?

      3. outback_ute Avatar

        The Smith Road

  3. Ol' Shel' Avatar
    Ol’ Shel’

    Why is the Prowler more venerated than the Chevy SSR?
    Oh. wait. Nevermind.

  4. Alff Avatar

    Because history shows over and over that groups make worse decisions than individuals.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      I owned a 1979 Ford Ranchero in about 2006 or so. It was not a good car and not a good truck. The 2bbl carb didn’t help. I had grown up on wheezy malaise era V-8s, but those had been Chevy small blocks with a 4bbl carb, you eventually got a little shove when the secondaries kicked in. The Ranchero never got the extra power.

      1. Alff Avatar

        My serious answer to this question is twofold. Old Chevys in general fetch better prices than Old Fords and outside of their bloaty fourth generation, Caminos were better looking.

      2. outback_ute Avatar

        With the road hugging weight you would never know anyway?

  5. Harry Callahan Avatar
    Harry Callahan

    I believe GM reaped many rewards from Bill Mitchell’s design department. Never underestimate the importance of a car’s visual appeal. Rancheros, in my opinion, are not as good looking as El Caminos. It’s that simple.

  6. neight428 Avatar

    Agree on the looks, some of the Ranchero models (mid to late 70’s especially) the original car design was hideously disproportioned in the process of becoming truck-ish. It also died earlier while the El Camino lingered on, un-loved and ridiculed in its last days. Nostalgia usually starts as a kind of hipsterism, an embrace of what was once rejected. Rancheros were simply forgotten, El Caminos were the last holdout of a design that was too narrowly focused to make any money.

  7. mdharrell Avatar

    What the hell are you all talking about? The 1959 Ranchero is the finest example of this type of vehicle ever produced. The El Camino/Sprint/Caballero is nothing more than a very distant second.
    Disclaimer: Since June 1986 I have never been without at least one 1959 Ford, so I may have developed a certain bias. I mean, honestly, I’ve never even owned a Ranchero.

    1. Victor Avatar

      Class and style,nice old cruiser.

    2. 0A5599 Avatar

      Ever give thought to unbolting the rear deck and hinges from your Skyliner? That would make it pretty much a Ranchero. It already has a box in the back. Just ask the hardware store to cut all your plywood down to 3′ by 3′ so it will fit.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        You’re giving me far too much credit. The rear deck and all of its associated mechanisms have never been bolted back into place since the car was painted, which was about 25 years ago. I’ve never had a luggage tub for it, either.

    3. outback_ute Avatar

      Ironically 1959 was when Ford Australia stopped building ute versions of the US cars.

  8. Sjalabais Avatar

    ….but that proprietary pickup platform didn’t even arrive until 1948
    It’s amazing how the American customer manages to embrace such a newfangled line of products so quickly.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      Actually Diamond T and others were making non-car based pickup trucks back in the 1930s.

      1. outback_ute Avatar

        I haven’t done enough research to find a definitive point of divergence, but I think Ford did a unique pickup cab in 1930 (possibly earlier) compared to earlier “light delivery” type vehicles that simply had an abbreviated cabin, and from 1932 the pickup was distinctly different to the regular passenger range. Not sure about GM. I’m not counting things like the Ford Model TT here, perhaps I should?
        By comparison here in Australia pickups weren’t so much of a thing due to the smaller market not supporting​ the cost of extra models, so there were car-based models and then proper trucks. The postwar pickups definitely came but cost more than utes so sold in fewer numbers.
        The popular history is that Ford “invented” the ute in 1934 (as in closed cab, smooth sided integrated bed), but there were a few examples prior to that as evidenced by local newspaper ads for Chevrolet and Pontiac.
        As for Ranchero vs Elco, I’m going with sold more and were built for longer on the El Camino front.

  9. crank_case Avatar

    Had an odd thought that I’m gonna throw this one out there.. both are dead, the new Ranchero/Camaro is actually the Honda Ridgeline..think about it… http://buyersguide.caranddriver.com/media/assets/submodel/7055.jpg

    1. P161911 Avatar

      A truck for people that don’t like trucks?

      1. outback_ute Avatar

        In a world where midsize pickups are rated to carry 2300lb plus, the car-based utes offer a significant advantage in comfort as well as handling and grip. I imagine they have softer springs in North America, but I expect that the Ridgeline still drives better.

        1. CraigSu Avatar

          Since the Ridgeline is built on the Pilot (car) chassis and not a truck chassis it definitely has better handling. Virtually all of the reviews have pointed out how smooth and controlled the ride is. Unfortunately, given how expensive it is and how well it holds its value (even the first-gen models) I’m better off getting a used Chevy Avalanche, Cadillac Escalade EXT, or even a GMC Yukon XUV.

      2. CraigSu Avatar

        Or, the truck for people who would love the utility of a truck every now and then but prefer a car-like ride.

        1. crank_case Avatar

          Bingo.. right from the start the Ranchero was marketed this way, and is probably one of the earliest examples of marketing a pickup as a lifestyle accessory and not just a commercial vehicle. I think the Ridgeline fits pretty the original Ranchero concept. Of course we don’t get it over here, hell we can’t even buy the Skodamino anymore. http://pickupand4x4.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/felicia1.jpg

    2. salguod Avatar

      Ranchero / Camaro? I’m sure you mean El Camaro, but I’m not sure what it has to do with the Ridgeline.

      1. crank_case Avatar

        An El Camaro is inevitable as gravity.

  10. jeepjeff Avatar

    No idea. The Ranchero is clearly the superior platform for building racecars.

    1. 0A5599 Avatar

      “No idea. The Ranchero is clearly the superior platform for building $500.00 racecars.”
      Fixed it for you.

  11. CraigSu Avatar

    Because -amino sounds infinitely better than -chero every time. Duh.

  12. Batshitbox Avatar

    Because Fords don’t go fast or look goo- OH DEAR GOD THEY’RE MAKING THEM AGAIN!!!

    Is This the New Ford Ranchero?

    Well, maybe not making them yet, but there’s been rumors of a new Ranchero since 2015.

      1. crank_case Avatar

        I’ve never understood why GM never did the whole Pontiac Sport truck thing in the US. I know no-one bought the G8/SS (for shame), but I could see people going for these.

        1. Rover 1 Avatar
          Rover 1

          If you know the right people and have a rear-ended Pontiac (last) GTO, G8 or the newer Chevy SS you can make your own or have someone do it for you…. Get yourself to Denver and Left Hand Utes USA Ltd. http://lefthandutes.com/ . They’ll do you a wagon as well for those who want a new Pontiac Safari.

          1. crank_case Avatar

            I’m in Ireland, much easier to just import a Holden 😉

          2. Rover 1 Avatar
            Rover 1

            I’m in NZ. Can I export you one?

          3. crank_case Avatar

            Maybe a 30 year old Holden (classic tax) in a few years. €1900/€2350 a year motor tax (what you’d call rego) is a bit hard to swallow unfortunately. 🙁
            One of these was one of favorite matchbox toys as a kid (the dirt bikes had long gone missing), wouldn’t mind a real one..

          4. Rover 1 Avatar
            Rover 1

            That appears to be a HJ to HX later variant of the HQ Holden Ute which ended up as the WB range. They’ve started to reach the stage where the few left are getting expensive.And memories of driving them when they were new is of an abiding crudeness, but that from the HZ onwards the steering was much better.
            Here’s a few. http://www.trademe.co.nz/motors/used-cars/holden/auction-1299415023.htm
            And an HZ

          5. crank_case Avatar

            Prices don’t seem too bad, 10,000 NZD is about 5-6000 euro. Are utes or saloons cheaper or around the same?

          6. Rover 1 Avatar
            Rover 1

            They seem to be about the same. With the last model, the WB, there are only utes as this model was to compensate for the new Commodore sedan range not having a ute variant. WBs finished production in 1984 and the first Commodore based utes appeared in 1990 based on the VS Commodore. Check out the prices on Trade Me, our local online auction site.

  13. Maymar Avatar

    Because people love ’88 Grand Voyagers, and thanks to the Black Keys, subconsciously pass that love along to the El Camino?
    Really, people seem to care more about ’70 Chevelles than ’70 Torinos, (and *obviously* 1970 was the summit of automotive development), and as such, are going to care more about its pickup equivalent as well.

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