Carburetors boasted Ford's new low-silhouette design, necessary to clear the lower hood, while the oil bath filter finally gave way to a more modern cartridge filter. A new two-barrel carburetor designed to give better performance in the low- and mid-speed ranges was standard for the 272 and 292. Surprisingly, it had more venturi area than the 1956 four-barrel unit. The 312 retained a four-barrel setup. V-8 distributors were improved and the crossover pipe on all V-8s with a single exhaust system was replaced with a more efficient Y-system. Dual exhausts came standard on the 312, optional with the 272/292. And finally, Fordomatics were water-cooled.
If anybody should get the credit for the Ranchero concept, it is the late Gordon Buehrig. Frankly, Buehrig has been given more credit for Ford designs than he deserved, but the Ranchero came out of his original 1952 station wagon designs. Buehrig did not design the 1950 Crestliner or the 1951 Victoria hardtop. He was only the body engineer of the 1956 Continental Mark II. He was the father of the all-steel Ford station wagon. When Buehrig joined Ford in 1949 his first assignment was to come up with something better than the 1949 Ford woody. This pleased him greatly because he despised the wagon that the surfers loved. Going from a 1952 sedan clay, he designed two wagons, a two-door Ranch Wagon and a four-door Country Sedan. According to Buehrig, the wagon he did was a two-door on one side and a four-door on the other.
The former then became the basis for the Courier as well as the Ranch Wagon. In addition, it became the Utility, but only marketed in Australia with the characteristic two tiny windows added at the rear. His four-door became both the Country Sedan and Country Squire. Buehrig's original 1952 lineup served as the basis for all wagon marketing throughout the decade, and evidence suggests Buehrig did the 1957 Ranchero later by adapting his original 1952 concept to 1957 Ford wagon styling.
The Ranchero came out two months after the introduction of the 1957 Ford line. It was formally introduced at the National Automobile Show, which opened at the New York Colosseum on December 8, and made its debut to the world in the musical motion picture April Love. Pat Boone sang the title song to Shirley Jones as they drove a blue and white Ranchero Custom through the Kentucky blue grass country. Actually, the Ranchero played a major role in the film, which had a host of 1956-1957 Fords in supporting roles.
Evidently, GM and Chrysler were caught off guard when the Ranchero came out. Dodge hastily cobbled the entire rear section of its two-door six-passenger station wagon onto the back of its standard pickup truck to create the finny Dodge Sweptside. Chevrolet and GMC merely continued with their Cameo and Suburban models, then Chevrolet caught up in 1959 with the El Camino, which was based on the same concept as the Ranchero.
The Ranchero was a beautiful camouflage of the Ranch Wagon, and with full parts interchangeability. A metal bed liner covered up the wagon's subfloor; it simply screwed in and could be easily removed. Many owners hinged the rear section of the liner so they could stow the spare tire in the wheelwell where it was kept in the wagons. On factory-equipped Rancheros, the spare stowed behind the seat, right where it had been on the Aussie Utes since 1940.
To find out about the design of the 1957-1959 Ford Ranchero, continue on to the next page.
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