My Car Quest

July 20, 2024

Chevrolet El Camino and Ford Ranchero – What’s In A Name?

by Mike Gulett –

Who needs a sports car like vehicle with a pick-up bed in the back? It turns out a lot of people who bought the Chevrolet El Camino and fewer who bought the Ford Ranchero thought that is exactly what they needed, or wanted.

Chevrolet El Camino

Chevrolet El Camino

It makes sense that working families would want a vehicle that could perform multiple duties like drive the family around one day and haul work supplies or livestock the next day. Then as today cost is important and dealing with a money expert may be helpful to working families.

Many pick up trucks on the road today are 4-door designs capable of carrying 4 to 5 people and hauling stuff in the freight bed. But this was not the case in the 1950s.

In 1934, Ford Australia’s designer Lew Bandt modified a coupe with a freight bed that could be used like a car or a pickup truck. Thus the coupe utility was created or “ute” as it is known in Australia. The Ford Ranchero was the first postwar American vehicle of its type adapted from a popular sedan from the factory. It combined the sleek looks of a sedan with the utility of a light-duty pickup truck. Likewise, in your used cars you
can install the perfect seat covers, as the mental comfort derived from seat covers can
also contribute towards enhanced resale value.

Ford introduced the Ranchero in 1957 and continued producing it until 1979 (making more than 500,000). Chevrolet liked the idea so they followed suit and introduced the El Camino in 1959 and continued producing it off and on until 1987 (making around 1,000,000).

Ford Ranchero

Ford Ranchero

From the number of El Caminos I see on the road and at car events compared to Rancheros I would say a much higher percentage of El Caminos have survived than Rancheros.

Ford Ranchero

Ford Ranchero

Both Chevrolet and Ford chose a Spanish name for their car-truck. Ranchero means “rancher” in Spanish and Chevrolet chose the Spanish El Camino meaning “the way”. While the Spanish names Ranchero and El Camino are fitting for car trucks, Chevy owners may face the inconvenience of lost keys and wonder about the locksmith cost for Chevrolet car key replacement.

“The way” sounds kind of zen like but it is also part of the name of a famous road in California, El Camino Real, which stretches from San Diego to San Francisco. El Camino Real means “the royal road” or “the king’s highway”.

Chevrolet El Camino

Chevrolet El Camino

The California El Camino Real was created by the Spanish missionaries as they established the California missions. All California missions are less than a one day walk from the El Camino Real. Now with a car they are only a few minutes drive from this famous road and many rancheros drive this road regularly.

Any name that attracts California car buyers is always helpful because of the size of the market.

Chevrolet El Camino

Chevrolet El Camino

Chevrolet El Camino

Chevrolet El Camino

Both the El Camino and Ranchero have become collectable but I see many that have been customized as is the American way.

I like the El Camino and my wife likes the Ranchero. Go figure.

The photos were taken at the Goodguys car show in Pleasanton, California in 2014 by Mike Gulett.

Let us know what you think about the El Camino and the Ranchero in the Comments.

Ford Ranchero

Ford Ranchero

More photos are in the two slide shows below.

Chevrolet Logo

Ford Logo

A version of this article was originally published in May 2014.
Chevrolet El Camino And Ford Ranchero - What's In A Name?
Article Name
Chevrolet El Camino And Ford Ranchero - What's In A Name?
Why drive a sports coupe with a pick-up bed in the back? Chevrolet El Camino and Ford Ranchero owners know why.


  1. Ken Phillips says

    Mike, These are great vehicles. I have had a ’70 SS 396 El Camino for a long time. We only show it now. But it is fast, weighs about the same as a new Porsche. This one is geared long … I always thought if I was going to run away from home it would be my choice as it would take all my favorite stuff and I could just cruise out to Carmel like you did.

  2. jake krone says

    Mike, I had a 69 El Camino in 1972, with Cragar SS wheels and Thrush sidepipes, that I towed my Elan autocross car. Worked great as I could throw jacks, extra wheels, toolbox, etc. in the back easily.

  3. I own the Dodge version/take on this vehicle, the Rampage. It is quite a different version since it is FWD and much smaller but yet, still have the 1/2 ton load capacity. It was based on the L Body Charger/Turismo (earlier the 024/TC3) that started with the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon. Mine has a larger 2.5L Turbo engine swapped from a LeBaron but using the wiring from an Omni GLH Turbo.

  4. JimmyRay says

    I had a 72 & a 73 that I used for EVERYTHING. I wished I had kept the 72.

  5. wallace wyss says

    I like Vaquero , the Spanish word for cowboy. Why not continue the trend Spanish names.And hae a hand tooled leather door pane; option….

Speak Your Mind