Until World War II, American pickup trucks were simply passenger cars with a rear load bay and drop-down tailgate. Following the war, manufacturers phased in purpose-built pickups that were far more truck-like, lacking any pretension to passenger car civility. The final Ford passenger car-based pickup was the 1947 model.
While a majority of buyers embraced this new direction, there remained a segment of consumers who missed the classic car-truck hybrid. Ford answered this yearning with the Ford Ranchero of 1957. Based on the rakish styling of the new longer, lower and wider ’57 Ford, the suave new pickup caused quite a splash. Ford described the Ranchero as having the ability to handle half a ton of cargo or an evening out with equal grace.
Chevrolet responded for 1959 with the similar El Camino. Ford was not standing still however and for 1960 moved the Ranchero to the just-introduced Falcon platform.
The new model featured unitized construction and a new Falcon inline-six in 144 (2.4) or 170 cubic inch (2.8 litre) displacements. For 1964, the Falcon and Ranchero received new exterior styling and by this time were available with two larger engines including a 260 cubic inch (4.2 litre) Ford Challenger V8.
A 1964 Ranchero was employed as a work truck at Goldfinger’s Aurik Stud Farm in Kentucky. It was finished in Dynasty Green metallic with a Palomino vinyl interior and was equipped with white-sidewall tyres. Lack of V8 badging indicates it was powered by one of the aforementioned six-cylinder engines, or the larger 200 cubic inch (3.3 litre) inline six.
The script called for the Ranchero to transport the remains of a compacted Lincoln Continental containing $1 Million in gold bullion along with the corpse of the late Mr. Solo from the scrapyard back to Goldfinger’s compound. Unfortunately, the maximum payload of the 1964 Ranchero was only 800 lbs (363 kg).
On the other hand, a 1964 Continental weighed in at 5,200 lbs (2,359 kg), and the gold (at 1964 pricing) would have added an additional 1,954 lbs (886 kg) for a total of 7,154 lbs (3,245 kg), nearly nine times the load capacity of the Ranchero.
In reality, the engine and transmission were removed off-camera (in accordance with normal pre-crush protocol) and there was a complete absence of gold bullion in the trunk; real or otherwise, which resulted in an actual weight of about 4,300 lbs (1,950 kg), still more than five times the recommended Ranchero payload.
Art director Ken Adam was on location outside Miami watching the crushing scene and suggested to director Guy Hamilton that the load might be a bit excessive. Following a brief discussion it was decided to use a reduced-size crushed cube for the scene of the ex-Lincoln being extracted from the crusher and dropped into the Ranchero.
When the load was lowered into the bed, the vehicle still dipped noticeably at the rear, yet the footage of the Ranchero cruising back to the farm shows it at normal ride height. It appears that for this journey, a prop cube was used as it is not only apparently lighter in weight, it is visibly less tall than the cube seen in the bed when Oddjob departed the salvage yard.
When we see the Ranchero returning to Aurik Stud Farms with its precious cargo, it appears as heavily-laden as it was at the scrap yard. This scene was shot at Pinewood Studios using a locally-crushed payload and a different Ranchero, this one lacking the optional white-sidewall tyres.
A more appropriate Ford to have actually undertaken the mission of transporting a crushed Lincoln Continental bearing 72 LBMA Good Delivery-specification gold bullion bars would have been an F-500 or C-550. Neither of course would have done the job with as much flair as the svelte and stylish Ranchero.
The Falcon-based Ranchero was produced through the 1965 model year, after which it migrated to a larger platform and lost the Falcon nomenclature.
Little more than 100,000 Falcon Rancheros were built during a six-year production run, and the remaining survivors are popular with collectors. In fact, one can think of the 1964 and 1965 Rancheros as Mustang Pickups. They shared the same chassis, and the Ranchero was available with the early Mustang’s most popular drivetrains: the dual-throat carburettor 260/289 (4.2/4.7) V8 fitted to the T-10 4-speed gearbox or (in ’65) a 3-speed Cruise-O-Matic transmission.