1978 Ford Ranchero 500
8-cyl. 351cid/144hp 2bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
An industry buzzword in the mid-1970s was “downsizing”, so the Ranchero was restyled and trimmed down. The Torino that it was based on was replaced in 1977 by the LTD II, which was slightly smaller and lighter. The new design yielded a more squared off and cohesive look than the previous generation from 1972-76 that had “coke-bottle” body contours that accentuated its size.
Things also happened in threes for the Ford Ranchero in 1977. There were three V-8s available, all with two-barrel carburetion. These were the 302 with the 351M and 400 optional. There were also thee trim levels available. The standard Ranchero 500, the luxury-themed and simulated woodgrain trimmed Ranchero Squire, and the sporty Ranchero GT made up the Ranchero range. 1977 was also the era of a growth in the interest in trucks more as personalized vehicles over utilitarian workhorses. As such, Ford offered a number of Free Wheelin’ packages for the Ranchero.
While sales improved over previous years, it was becoming obvious to Ford that the Ranchero wasn’t a profitable vehicle. With economies of scale in large production numbers, the 23,041 Ranchero’s built in 1977 were something of a bottleneck on the assembly line. With the introduction of what was to eventually become the LTD II’s successor of the unibodied Ford Fairmont in 1978, rumors began to circulate that the Ranchero’s days were numbered.
Only minor trim and option changes were made between 1977 through 1979. The final year Rancheros also saw the deletion of the 400 cubic inch engine as an option, but near the end of the model year saw a Limited Production package. Offered in three color themes, they were essentially parts bin cleanout specials, using components from other cars that also shared the platform, including the Mercury Cougar and the Lincoln Continental Mark V. While rumors have persisted since the last Ranchero rolled off the assembly line that it would be back in production, the 1979 edition remains as the last year for the Ranchero.