Showdown! Chevy El Camino v. Ford Ranchero
It’s actually called a “coupe pickup”
According to American legend, GM design chief Harley Earl first flew the coupe pickup idea back in 1952. The Aussies tell a different story, claiming that the notion came from a farmer’s wife who wanted a vehicle stylish enough to take her family to church on Sunday, but useful enough to take her chickens to market on Monday.
Regardless of provenance, Ford did it first back in 1957 with the Ranchero, and Chevy followed suit in 1959 with the El Camino. Over subsequent generations, each brand had highs and lows, making coveted classics some years and substandard stinkers in others. But for every year of either marque, there is a fan.
When talking about old cars, old terminology often rears its wizened head. Car fans of a certain age will remember “cid” as meaninig “cubic inches of displacement.” In modern terms, each 60 cubic inches is equal to one liter, more or less. A 200-cid engine is equivalent to a 3.3-liter, a 300-cid engine is equivalent to a 5.0-liter, a 400-cid engine is equivalent to a 6.6-liter, etc.
Average values are provided by Hagerty classic and collectible car insurance group and represent what cars in “good” condition actually sold for across the model range. Cars in “excellent” or “concours” condition can be expected to sell for far more, while cars in “fair” condition can be expected to sell for less. This information is provided as a guide only, not gospel. Learn more about Hagerty condition ratings.
Special thanks to GM Media Archives and Ford Motor Company Archives for their invaluable assistance.
1957 Ford Ranchero
Average value: $11,900-$13,100
The 1957 Ford Ranchero debuted in December of 1956. “More than a car! More than a truck!” read the advertising of the day, and with its six-foot bed and half-ton capacity, it could compete toe-to-toe with many small pickups of the day.
Trim levels ranged from the farm-ready base model to the night-on-the-town Custom. Four engines were available, from a 144-horsepower six-cylinder to a 212-horsepower V8.
Nearly 22,000 units were sold the first year, making the Ranchero a niche market success for Ford.+++
1959 Ford Ranchero
Average value: $13,500-$14,800
Restyled for 1959, the Ranchero now came in the upper Custom trim line only. Twenty-six color combinations were available, 11 solids and 15 two-tones.
Six-cylinder horsepower remained almost identical at 145, but the top V8 now produced 300 thanks to a big 352 cubic inches.
While sales of the ‘58 model were slow because of a struggling economy, over 14,000 were sold of the 1959 model.
1959 was the last year for the first generation Ranchero.+++
1959 Chevrolet El Camino
Average value (V8 models): $20,500-$28,600
The El Camino debuted for 1959 and shared the same wild styling as the rest of the Chevy lineup. Bat-wing fins, air intakes above the headlights, bullet grille, and cat-eye tail lights were the belle of the Jet Age ball, and the El Camino outsold the Ranchero by about 50 percent.
Unlike the entry-level Brookwood line on which it was based, the El Camino could be had with any full-sized Chevy drivetrain. Power ranged from a 135-horsepower six-cylinder to an brawy 335-horsepower V8. Two fuel-injected options based on the 283 cubic-inch V8 were also available, offering 250 or 290 horsepower, depending on spec.
Suspension was softer than the competing Ranchero, allowing the El Camino to ride level without a load. Payload capacity ranged from 650 to an advertised 1,150 pounds.
1960 Chevrolet El Camino
Average value (V8 models): $20,500-$25,000
The El Camino styling was toned down for 1960, but still retained the massive “Vista Panoramic” windshield that measured eight feet at the base.
The thrifty 135-horsepower six-cylinder was still offered, and the entry-level V8 was now detuned slightly for better economy. There were still six other engines to choose from, though, again with up to 335 horsepower. Fuel injection was gone, however.
Sales dropped by a third to just 14,163, and thus ended the first generation El Camino.+++
1960 Ford Falcon Ranchero
Average value: $9,600
Ford introduced an all-new Ranchero for 1960, based on the compact Falcon. The latest model was small, affordable, and thrifty. Though powered by an underwhelming 90-horsepower six-cylinder, the new coupe pickup could still carry 800 pounds. The much larger El Camino, even with three times the horsepower, could not compete when it came to pure practicality.
1961 saw the base 144-cid six-cylinder detuned to 85 horsepower, but a newly available “high-performance” unit with 170 cid upped the FoMoCo fury to a whopping 101 horses.
1963 Ford Falcon Ranchero
Average value: $9,900-$11,100
1963 saw a new Deluxe model added to the Falcon Ranchero lineup, with chrome exterior trim pieces, a white steering wheel with chrome trim ring, upholstery in either black and white or red and white, and a dome light that came on when the door was opened.
The big story was under the hood, though. Newly available for 1963 was a much-anticipated 260-cid V8 with 164 horsepower.
1964 Chevrolet El Camino
Average value (V8 models): $14,800-$17,400
The El Camino reappeared for 1964, based on Chevy’s brand-new mid-sized Chevelle. It featured a box that was taller and wider than the 1960 model, and with a wider tailgate.
Two trim levels were offered. The spartan base model resembled Chevy’s entry-level 300-series, and the Custom El Camino shared brightwork and hubcaps with the upmarket Malibu coupe.
Two six-cylinders were offered as standard fare, but the full line of Chevelle V8s could be ordered, from 195 horsepower up to a 300 as the model year progressed.
In March of ‘64, Chevy announced that the 365-horsepower version of the Corvette’s 327-cid engine would be available for the El Camino. It’s unknown if any were actually produced.
The new El Camino was a success, selling over 32,000 units. Ford’s Ranchero, restyled for ‘64, sold only 17,316.
1965 Ford Falcon
Average value: $9,800-$12,400
Ford squared off the Ranchero shape for 1964 and incorporated the spear running down the side. The new model was a bit larger than its predecessor and offered a new Deluxe trim line with two-tone paint and bucket seats.
Cosmetically, little changed for 1965, but engine sizes grew. The 170-cid six-cylinder was now the base unit, and the V8 grew from 260 cubic inches to 289, with 225 horsepower in top trim.
1965 was the last year for the Falcon-based Ranchero.
1965 Chevrolet El Camino
Average value (V8 models): $14,900-$20,100
The El Camino received a minor restyle for 1965, with a new grille, hood, and front bumper that came to a more pronounced, but still slight, point in the center, increasing overall vehicle length by 2.5 inches. Chevelle badges were dropped from the front flanks, replaced by engine ID badges on all models except for the base six.
Suspension was retuned for ‘66 and offered and quieter and smoother ride. Lower profile tires with a smaller external radius were used, resulting in a lower overall ride height.
A Corvette-sourced 327-cid V8 became available, with 350 horsepower on tap.
For the first time, an AM-FM radio could be ordered from the options list.
1966 Chevrolet El Camino
Average value (V8 models): $15,700-$21,400
The El Camino was restyled yet again for 1966, with all-new body panels from the beltline down. For the first time, “El Camino” appeared on the front of the vehicle, centered in the new grille.
The big news was the availability of the 396-cid “big block” V8, which first appeared in the 1965 Malibu. The new Turbo-Jet engine produced either 325 or 360 horsepower, depending on spec. Even better news was the mid-year appearance of the 375-horsepower version first seen in the 1965 Corvette.
Shoulder belts became available for the first time in March of 1966.
1966 Ford Ranchero
Average value: $10,400-$12,200
All-new for 1966, the Ranchero shared Ford Falcon sheetmetal up front, but was more closely related to the Fairlane in the rear. A 200-cid six-cylinder engine with 120 horsepower was the base offering, with the option of a 200- or 225-horsepower 289-cid V8.
A one-year-only model, the vehicle did not share the Falcon name and was marketed simply as the Ranchero.
Late in the model year, Rancheros began sharing a front clip with the Fairlane.
1967 Ford Fairlane Ranchero
Average value: $9,000-$16,200
The 1967 Ranchero was another one-year-only model, identifiable by its dual stacked headlights. It shared the front clip, trim, and interior with the Fairlane and was marketed as the Ford Fairlane Ranchero. The line was expanded and now included the 500, 500 XL, and GT trim levels above the base model.
The muscle car era was in full swing and the Ranchero had some seriously hot offerings under the hood. Three spec levels of the big 390-cid V8 were available, from 270 to 315 horsepower.
The high-performance version of the 289 was also offered in the Ranchero, and represents the top end of today’s collector market.
1968 Chevrolet El Camino
Average value (V8 models): $15,600-$20,800
Average value (SS 396 models): $21,800-$22,700
1968 saw yet another new El Camino. The new car shared a longer wheelbase with the Chevelle station wagon, and interior and exterior trim with the Chevelle Malibu.
Standard engines came in the form of a 230-cid Turbo-Thrift six-cylinder with 140 horsepower, a 307-cid Turbo-Fire eight-cylinder with 200 horsepower, and a big 396-cid Turbo-Jet eight cylinder with 325 horsepower. Five optional engines were also available, including a 327-cid with 275 horsepower and a 396-cid with 350 horsepower.
Most importantly, 1968 saw the formal introduction of the high-performance SS 396 model. Depending on spec, horsepower was either 325 or 350 form the big 396-cid V8, with the option of 375. A three-speed manual transmission was standard on all models, with the option of a four-speed or an automatic.
Sales rose 20 percent to nearly 42,000, a new record for the El Camino.
1969 Ford Ranchero
Average value: $8,200-$18,000
In 1968 the Ranchero was updated yet again. Larger than the outgoing model, the new pickup was still based on the Fairlane and closely followed its trim levels. There was the base Ranchero, the mid-level Ranchero 500, and the Ranchero GT which corresponded to the Torino GT, a sporty, top-of-the-line version of the Fairlane.
Multiple engine choices were available in six or eight cylinders, including a big 390. Mid-year, the 428-cid Cobra Jet was offered.
1968 was the last year for the 289-cid V8, most famous for its appearance in Mustangs. It was replaced by the 302 for 1969.
That year also saw the addition of two new 351-cid V8s and, most famously, the Super Cobra Jet was added to the lineup, making 360 horsepower from 428 cubic inches.
1970 Ford Ranchero
Average value: $8,200-$16,600
Another year, another new Ranchero.
The curvaceous new shape added the Squire trim package for 1970, with upmarket amenities and the distinctive woodgrain appliques as seen on the Country Squire station wagon.
A six-cylinder was still the base engine under the hood, but the variety of V8s now included the massive 429-cid Super Cobra Jet with up to 375 horsepower, depending on spec.
Buyers could show off that massic power with either of two sporty hood designs. The Ram Air had an scoop as part of the hood, and the “shaker” had the air intake mounted directly to the carburetor and vibrated with the engine.
1972 Chevrolet El Camino
Average value: $14,400-$20,600
1970 was a high water year for El Camino muscle. Not only could the SS 396 be had with a range of power specs, the SS 454 burst onto the scene with either 360 or a monstrous 450 horsepower.
In 1971, the 396-cid big block engine was replaced by a 402-cid unit, though the SS 396 designation remained. An SS 350 also became available.
1972 marked several milestones for the El Camino. Sales soared to 57,000, a new record. It was the last year of the Coke-bottle body stye that had won fans since 1968. The big block (402 and 454) engines would disappear.
The age of the muscle car was coming to a close.
1972 Ford Ranchero
Average value: $8,000-$11,400
The Ranchero grew for 1972 and, for one year only, shared an oval “jet intake” grille with the Torino. Engine compression was lowered across the range to improve emission standards and horsepower suffered. The 429-cid made just 205 horses, and even the 351-cid Cobra Jet made only 248.
The Cobra Jet was discontinued in 1974, and catalytic converters appeared in 1975, lowering horsepower even more. The biggest engine of that year was 460 cubic inches, but it made just 216 horsepower. It 1976, it made just 202 horsepower.
The front end was redesigned in 1973 to meet new front impact standards and incorporate 5 mph-rated bumpers. The designed changed little after that until its final year, 1976.
1973 Chevrolet El Camino
Average value: $8,800-$10,200
The styling of the 1973 El Camino was well-received, but the era of elephantine muscle was over and horsepower dwindled. The 454-cid big block had been downgraded to 245 horsepower in 1973, and would sink to 233 before being discontinued entirely for 1976. A 400-cid model was introduced in 1974, only to be cancelled for 1977.
1975 brought catalytic converters across the GM range, lowering emissions but also power. It was also the last year of round headlights.
1976 saw the introduction of rectangular dual stacked headlights and a rather wheezy 305-cid V8 with 140 horsepower, barely bettered by the 350cid with 145.
Nonetheless, this generation (1973-1977) is popular with collectors because of low prices and ease of customization. An unmolested example today is a rare prize.
1979 Ford Ranchero
Average value: $7,000-$9,000
With the Torino now discontinued, the 1977 Ranchero was based on the Ford LTD II, a midsized car for the era. The 500, 500 GT, and Squire models were still available, but Ford was deep in the Malaise Era and performance was abysmal. The 400-cid engine made just 173 horsepower that year, and 166 in 1978. The last year of Ranchero production, 1979, saw a maximum of 144 horsepower from 351 cubic inches.
The 1977-1979 Ranchero does have a cult following, however. The front clip is interchangeable with some Ford vehicles from the same era: the Ford Thunderbird, and the Montego and Cougar models from Mercury.
1978-1987 Chevrolet El Camino
Average value: $8,000-$9,300
The El Camino soldiered on long after the demise of the Ranchero. Its final form was based on the Malibu and featured a variety of Malaise Era engines, from a 95-horsepower V6 in 1978 to the 190-horsepower V8 offered in 1986.
A few special editions were offered over the years, such as the Black Knight and Royal Knight, but they were largely decal packages. SS packages were also available, but were mostly cosmetic and offered little performance advantage.
Quad headlamps were adopted in 1982, but little else changed. Still, last generation El Caminos are affordable and easily customizable, making them an increasingly popular choice with collectors.
This article was oringally published by Motoring Research and is reprinted with permission