AJ's Car of the Day '69 Ford Ranchero

Car: Ford Ranchero

Year: 1969

What makes it special: Starting with the 1968 model year, the Fairlane line was supplemented by the new Torino, and the Ranchero followed suit, becoming the largest model since the full-sized 1959. The new Ranchero was not only bigger, but also more angular than before with its more horizontal grille and horizontal headlamps as Ford and other automakers were making a switch back to horizontal quad headlamps. Changes across the 1969 model line included a flatter three-piece grille less the horizontal crossbar and Ford crest, relocation of GT grille badging from the crest to the lower right corner of the grille. The interior was all new, sharing the Torino/Fairlane's distinctive four-pod instrument cluster, giving the illusion of an engine-turned dash.

What made it famous: Three trim levels were offered, beginning with the sparsely trimmed base Ranchero, the Ranchero 500 trimmed like the Fairlane 500, and the top-of-the line Ranchero GT with its Torino GT trim. Engine choices began with the 250 cubic inch I6 and ran to several V8 choices, with a 302 cu in with 2-barrel carburetor became the standard V8 in 1969. Two new upmarket engine choices were available, the 351 Windsor with 2- and 4-barrel carburetion. The powerful 428 cu in Cobra Jet, another FE derivative and the largest engine offered in the Ranchero to date, was a mid-1968 option. The FMX automatic was available with both, which was a variant of the old Cruise-o-Matic and was offered exclusively with either 351. The Ranchero could be had with virtually all of the same options, including air conditioning, bucket seats, center console, AM/FM radio, optional wheels, front power disc brakes, hood scoop (standard on the GT).

Why I would want one: Love the Ranchero. They have utility capabilities, but for me, they just make cool hot rod pickups.

Fun fact: A little-known and extremely rare offering in 1969 was the Rio Grande. Available on special order, this was essentially a GT in the so-called "Grabber" colors of "Wimbledon White", "Poppy Red" or "Calypso Coral", partially blacked-out hood with scoop, side stripes, bed rails, vinyl top, and unique "Ford Ranchero Rio Grande" wheel centers. Production figures are unclear, but may have been around 900 total units.