El Camino or Ranchero? Find ute nirvana with these 6 beauties


Strange, isn’t it? The car-based pickups, such as the Chevrolet El Camino and Ford Ranchero—and on a smaller scale, the Dodge Rampage/Plymouth Scamp and the Rabbit-based Volkswagen pickup—never quite caught on in the U.S. the way they did in, say, Australia. As the former owner of an El Camino (1969) and a Ranchero (1976), I find that a shame, since these “utes” served dual purposes very well—the comfort of a car, the utility of a light-duty truck, perfect for carrying my widowmaker Suzuki TM400 dirt bike to the track. Rancheros and El Caminos are sort of the opposite of a mullet haircut—business out back, party up front.

Unless it’s an SS model El Camino, the price of Rancheros and El Caminos are quite reasonable given their collectible status. Here are some examples, all $30,000 or under on Hagerty Marketplace, that would make for fun and useful vintage vehicles that could very well appreciate in value.

1966 Ford Ranchero

Asking price: $15,500

Here’s a mildly customized gold-and-black example that was used on a 5000-mile trip on Route 66, and the owner and the Ranchero returned home still friends. It has a 289 cubic-inch V-8 that has been updated with aluminum heads, Comp Cams, aluminum roller rockers, an Edelbrock four-barrel carburetor, plus electronic ignition with vacuum advance, so it should make all the right noises. The transmission is a C4 automatic, wheels are Cragar Street Pros with Michelin rubber. Inside, twin bucket seats. For that asking price, this strikes us as a bargain.

1969 Chevrolet El Camino

Asking price: $30,000

This ’69 El Camino, one of the most desirable years, already has a pair of fuzzy dice hanging from the rear-view mirror that match the handsome red Sikkens exterior paint, which has five layers of clear coat. “Lovingly cared for over the last 33 years by the current owner,” the ad says, and it looks it. The engine is a built 5.7-liter V-8 with a Turbo 350 automatic transmission. It’s not an SS, but it’s probably as close as you’ll get for $30,000.

1961 Ford Falcon Ranchero

1961 Ford Falcon Ranchero front three quarter
Marketplace/Allen Hejl

Asking price: $22,000

By 1961, Ford had downsized the Ranchero and moved it to the Falcon platform. This is another mild custom, with the original inline six-cylinder engine replaced by a 5-liter V-8, with a floor-shift C4 automatic. A bonus: It has working air conditioning. This two-tone beauty with custom wheels also boasts a very clean interior—it’s a rare little bird for $22,500.

1977 Chevrolet El Camino

Asking price: $11,500

The last of the big El Caminos before they were downsized for 1978, this example has a 5.7-liter V-8 that has been bored .30 over, an Edelbrock four-barrel carburetor, 10.5:1 pistons, and a performance camshaft, all coupled with a Hydramatic automatic transmission. The interior needs a little work, but that’s reflected in the $11,500 price. An underrated model year.

1968 Chevrolet El Camino

1968 Chevrolet El Camino front three quarter

Asking price: $13,000

This 1968 El Camino looks to be one paint job away from being a very nice vehicle. The interior is very clean, but there’s a little surface rust on the body and the paint is faded. Under the hood is a 5.7-liter crate V-8 that has a 650 Quadrajet carburetor, MSD ignition, and an Edelbrock intake manifold. The transmission is a B&M 350 Turbo with a Hurst floor shifter. The seller says the vehicle was built from the factory as an SS, and it has an SS double-vent hood.

1965 Chevrolet El Camino

1965 Chevrolet El Camino front three quarter
Marketplace/Ronald Elder

Asking price: $22,500

This is a pretty 1965 El Camino that the owner says sat for years until he got ahold of it, freshened it up, and had it painted. It has a 355 cubic-inch V-8 with a 750 Holley carburetor, and an automatic transmission. It has Chevrolet-correct Rally wheels and good tires, the owner says, and the interior has been updated with some new parts and pieces.

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    With cars like this for sale it makes me wish I had kept mine. I had an all original GMC Sprint SP [GMC version of a El Camino SS].

    It was a 1972 with the original big block still in it and a solid Tennessee car.

    The car needed nothing as it was complete and in great shape. I knew it was rare but I found out later I think it was 1 of 600 some made.

    I should have kept it but that is the way it goes. It was a daily driver and got horrible MPG. My 68 SS Chevelle with two 4 bls got better MPG.

    I agree with hyperV6 – this is less than an exciting lineup. The ’68 Elco might have some promise – hard to tell from just one picture. The ’61 Falcon is sorta desirable (to me), but I’m not crazy about the paint. That ’65 might be a decent car, but seriously? Cutting a large, round hole in the hood for an air cleaner? Totally ruined the looks, IMO. But I suppose that there are some folks out there who will see things just the opposite as I do. For them, there’s the ’66 Ranchero… 😉

    The Studebaker Champ pickup was sort of a ute. To compete with the Ranchero and El Camino, Studebaker mounted the front half of a Lark 4 door sedan on the frame they used for pickups.

    I had a forgettable and uncollectable 84 ElCamino, but once the 229 was replaced with a proper V8 (with all the smog garbage sadly) and the 2.41 gears swapped to 3.08s, it was incredibly capable and enjoyable.
    I rocked GM fullsize wagons for a long time for towing and keeping parts secure, but the ElCo was an amazing shop truck and decent date vehicle. A station wagon was creepy, even with the explanation.

    I always wanted a 68-72, mostly to complement the same era GM A body.

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