Introduced in December 1956, three months after the traditional September model year start-up, the Ranchero was based on the standard and new-for-1957 full-size Ford platform, specifically the short wheelbase Custom sedan, two-door Ranch Wagonstation wagon and utilitarian Courier sedan delivery.
Essentially a Courier with an open, reinforced bed, its own unique rear window and integrated cab and cargo box, the Ranchero was initially offered in two trim levels and, throughout the model run, was built on the corresponding automobile assembly line but sold as a truck through Ford’s truck division.
There was an extremely basic standard model, marketed to traditional pickup truck buyers such as farmers, and the Custom which picked up most of the options and accessories available on the Fairlane line, including stainless steel bodyside mouldings and two-tone paint.
Upscale models were badged both as a Fairlane and Ranchero, with a stylized representation of a longhorn as the symbol for the model located on the tailgate. Indeed, print advertising of the time played on the theme of the American Southwest that the Spanish model name and longhorn symbol were meant to evoke, showing artistic representations of the vehicle being used in ranching and outdoor activities, proclaiming it as “More Than A Car! More Than A Truck!”
The Ranchero was a hit with both the automotive press and the buying public, filling an untapped market niche for vehicles with the utility of a light pickup with the ease of operation and riding characteristics of a car. In fact, the Ranchero had a marginally higher cargo capacity by about fifty pounds/23 kg than the half-ton F-Series pickup. Both standard and Custom could be ordered with any engine available for Ford cars, all the way up to the 352 cu in (5.8 L) “Thunderbird Special.” In Canada, the Ranchero was also available in the Meteor line-up. Seat belts and padded instrument panels were optional.