The Chevrolet El Camino classic cars and Ford Ranchero classic cars are known as coupe utility vehicles in the automobile industry and their origin goes back to Australia in the 1930s when Ford first substituted the rear seat in their Model T and Model A cars for an open bed to carry cargo. As the story goes, the first coupe utility vehicle was created in answer to a farmer's request for a vehicle they could go to church in on Sunday and haul hogs to market in on Monday. Ford was first to address the need in modern times when they introduced the Ranchero in 1957, and GM followed two years later with the El Camino.
The first Ford Ranchero body was put on a full sized platform that was used for their two-door Ranch Wagon station wagons. It was built on the car assembly line but sold through the truck division. Initially there were two models: a basic model that was marketed as a glorified pickup truck and a fancy model that had most of the options offered with full-size cars, and could be ordered with any engine in the Ford lineup. It was called a "Meteor" in Canada and it was an instant hit with consumers in both countries. Then the economic recession in the 1950s put mid-sized and compact imports in the forefront and in 1960 Ford followed suite by putting the Ranchero on the mid-sized Falcon chassis and rebranding it as a Falcon Ranchero. Then in 1966 Ford combined the Falcon and Fairlane lines on the same platform, giving it the look of a Fairlane and the Falcon name was dropped. In 1968 Ford replaced the Fairlane with the Torino and the Ranchero was redesigned to fit the larger chassis. Then in 1970 the Ranchero received another makeover on the same platform and both the Torino and Ranchero were redesigned again for the 1972 model year.
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When Ford pulled the plug on the Torino in 1977 the Ranchero was put on the Thunderbird platform with a body that resembled the Ford LTD II. However since emission requirements were less stringent for light trucks than cars Ford dropped the Ranchero line of vehicles in 1979 in favor of the Ford Ranger pickup truck, which came on the market a few years later.
General Motors also saw the potential for a coupe utility car back in the 1930s and their first venture into a modern day version came in 1955 when they introduced the Camero Carrier pickup truck, which had a standard truck type cab with a dressed up bed and could be dresses up further with car-type options. However when GM realized how successful Ford's Ranchero was they followed with the classic El Camino we think of today.
The first generation was built on the Brookwood station wagon platform and could be purchased with any of the Chevrolet drivetrains. However sales fell significantly the following year so GM stopped production. Then in 1964 GM tried again by using the Chevelle platform, with limited drivetrain options, and continued that trend through 1967. The 1968 El Camino was again modeled after the Chevelle but this time they used the two-door station wagon version which had a longer wheel base and that lasted until 1973. Two more generations of the El Camino followed with upgraded components, such as the energy-absorbing hydraulic from bumper system, but the bodies were not much different. The line was finally cancelled in 1987.