Less memorable than the 1957 Ranchero was the 1958 facelift. That year, Ford tried unsuccessfully to copy the 1958 Thunderbird. The Ford's grille/bumper, for example, aped the T-Bird's, but it was just different enough that the styling failed to come off. One reason was that to hold down the cost the unit was a two-piece affair instead of one. The quad headlamps were strange looking and the hood air scoop phony. The roof was fluted to add body strength and the rear attempted to copy the Thunderbird with a deep crease in the decklid and quad taillamps. The Ranchero deviated from 1958 Ford styling by retaining the large round 1957 taillights (as did the Courier), probably because the inner pair of the quad lights would have been located on the tailgate and therefore easily vulnerable to damage.
Chassis changes included a three-piece stabilizer bar, plus improved shock absorbers and front suspension. Horsepower was up a meager one on the six, and the 292 was down to 205. The 272 was dropped in favor of a 352 cranking out 300 bhp. And apparently a few 312s and 240- or 265-bhp 332s were installed, though they weren't officially listed. The best news for 1958 was Cruise-O-Matic, Ford's optional new three-speed automatic transmission, which was available at first only on Fairlanes, Rancheros, and wagons. It had two "Drive" positions, D1 and D2. In the latter all starts were made in second gear (usually for better traction), but in D1 a low-gear start provided quicker acceleration.
As in 1957, the Ranchero was available in standard and Custom versions. This year, however, the latter was called Custom 300 (though Ford itself often referred to it simply as the Custom) because it received the gold anodized side trim inserts as on the Custom 300 cars. The Custom's upholstery came in light and medium blue, light and medium brown, light and medium green, and red and white. Again buyers could opt for Colonial White with a bevy of other colors for sporty two-toning.
The standard Ranchero, which now sported a dash of bodyside brightwork as on the Custom sedans, was pegged at $2,170, while the Custom 300 listed at $2,236. The Mileage Maker Six with a three-speed manual remained the base power package. Alas, 1958 Ranchero output skidded to 1471 standard models and 8479 Customs -- a reflection of both the Eisenhower recession and the lack of public acceptance for the 1958 products from Dearborn (T-Bird excepted).
To read more about the 1959 Ford Ranchero, continue on to the next page.
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