With a simple sheet-metal swap, in 1967 Ford transformed the lowly Falcon-based Ranchero pickup into the more glamorous Fairlane Ranchero.
Our story rightly begins with the 1966 Ford Ranchero, above. (By the way, that’s Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, known to many as The Glass House, in the background.) Although the little pickup wasn’t marketed as a Falcon in ’66, simply as a Ranchero, like all Rancheros since 1960 it was closely based on the Falcon compact and carried essentially the same features and equipment.
However: When the Falcon and the Fairlane, its mid-sized corporate sibling, were redesigned for 1966, they were given a considerable amount of commonality in the chassis and exterior sheet metal, with the Falcon built on a 110-in wheelbase and the Fairlane a longer 116-in platform. But the Falcon and Fairlane station wagons used.9- the same 113-in wheelbase, interestingly enough, and the Ranchero shared the wagon floorpan.
This mix-and-match interchangeability in Ford products and components was spotted long ago by clever hot rodders and customizers. That’s how we see Edsel Skyliners and Edsel Rancheros at car shows, for example, when the Ford Motor Co. never produced such things. And sure enough, people who knew their way around the Ford parts catalogs were soon transforming their ’66 Falcon-type Rancheros into more glamorous Fairlane Rancheros by exchanging the front-end sheet metal, a simple nuts-and-bolts job. One or two of these hybrids even made it into the hot rodding magazines in 1966.
We wouldn’t know if the Ford product planners got their idea from the hot rodders—we tend to presume they probably already had it the pipeline. But for 1967, the Ranchero ditched the Falcon look and received the Fairlane sheet metal and trim, upgrading the compact pickup into the upmarket Fairlane Ranchero.
While they were at it, the Ford people presented the uprated Ranchero in three models: Fairlane, Fairlane 500 and Fairlane 500XL, with exterior trim and interior grades from their passenger-car equivalents to match. The 500XL included cloth-and-vinyl buckets and a center console with floor shifter (above left). A full range of Fairlane engines was also available, from the 200 cubic-inch six to a big-block 390 V8 with 320 hp, and a choice of transmissions, too. By checking the right order boxes, a buyer could create a genuine muscle Ranchero, sporting a 390 V8 and four-speed transmission.
Ford surely made the right move, as Ranchero sales leaped from only 9,480 in 1966 to 17,293 in 1967. (The snazzy 500XL is the rarest with just 1,881 produced.) And the higher price and additional equiment no doubt boosted the per-vehicle profit margins as well. For the rest of its production life, the Ranchero remained part of the Fairlane/Torino/LTD II family until it was finally discontinued in 1979.