1957 Ford Ranchero Custom. Photos courtesy Mecum Auctions.
Early Ford Rancheros have inched up in value in the past few years, and current valuation guides put the price of a concours-quality ’57 Ranchero Custom between $35,600 and $52,500. One top-flite restored example, a 1957 Ranchero Custom, has crossed the block twice in recent years, selling for a fee-inclusive $60,500 in both 2011 and 2014. Last Saturday, a different but equally well-restored 1957 Ford Ranchero Custom crossed the auction block in Houston, where it sold for an impressive hammer price of $100,000.
In period literature, Ford described its new-for-1957 Ranchero as “More than a car… more than a truck… the Ranchero is a new idea in motor vehicles.” Actually, it wasn’t; instead, it was a repurposed idea from Ford Australia, which had been building coupe utility vehicles (utes, for short) that combined the versatility of a light-duty pickup with comforts of an automobile since designer Lew Bandt created the first example in 1934.
For American tradesmen and small business owners seeking a do-it-all vehicle, the Ranchero held quite a bit of promise. Engine choices ranged from a thrifty 144-horsepower, 223-cu.in. six to the Thunderbird’s 292-cu.in. V-8, rated at 212 horsepower. The six-foot cargo bed, with its double-thickness steel floor, could carry up to 1,190 pounds and, with the tailgate lowered, offered up a full eight-foot bed length. Best of all, perhaps, was that the Ranchero looked more like a car than a truck, and range-topping Custom models were offered with bright body side molding and Style-Tone two-tone paint schemes that looked equally at home in a suburban driveway or a busy lumberyard.
Inside, even base Rancheros were well-appointed, but Ranchero Customs were downright luxurious. Ford’s 1957 truck brochure boasted, “The Custom Ranchero’s interior trim is like that of the ’57 Ford Del Rio Ranch Wagon. Behind the split seat back, there’s roomy parcel space. And this is the first and only pickup to give you the handling and riding ease of a ball-joint front suspension.”
For a non-mainstream product, the Ranchero sold reasonably well for Ford in its debut year, with consumers taking home 6,418 base models and 15,277 Ranchero Customs. Its success would ultimately prompt a response from General Motors, which introduced the Chevrolet El Camino for the 1959 model year.
The 1957 Ford Ranchero Custom that crossed the auction stage in Texas on Saturday was fully restored at some point in the not-too distant past, and fitted with modern amenities such as an aftermarket under-dash air conditioning system; an AM/FM radio conversion; and a quartz clock conversion. Equipped with power steering and the 292 V-8 mated to a Ford-O-Matic three-speed automatic transmission, the Ranchero made do with crank-operated windows and standard brakes instead of the optional power-assisted brakes.
Given the Ranchero’s deviation from stock form, its six-figure selling price (which we believe to be an auction record for the year, make and model) was impressive indeed, and proved that valuation guides are of little use when two (or more) bidders decide they want to take a particular lot home.
1970 Chevrolet COPO Chevelle LS6.
The Houston top-10 list included a 2006 Ford GT Heritage Edition, which sold for $425,000; a 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 429 fastback, which sold for $270,000; a 2006 Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, which sold for $205,000; a 1970 Chevrolet COPO Chevelle LS6, which sold for $170,000; a 1997 Lamborghini Diablo VT Roadster, which sold for $162,500; a 1967 Shelby GT500 fastback, which sold for $155,000; a 1958 Chevrolet Corvette, which sold for $138,000; a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette convertible, which sold for $125,000; 1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda, reportedly unrestored with 16,800 miles, which sold for $120,000; and a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette convertible, which sold for $117,500.
This 1964 Ford Fairlane street rod changed hands for $8,000.
More affordable lots included a 1977 Roll-Royce Silver Shadow sedan, which sold for $4,250; a 1976 Alfa Romeo Spider, which sold for $5,000; a 1960 Jeep CJ-5; which sold for $6,000; a 1928 Ford Model A “barn find,” which sold for $6,000; a 1963 Plymouth Belvedere sedan, which sold for $6,500; a 1974 Chevrolet C10 pickup, which sold for $7,000; a 1969 Ford F100, which sold for $7,000; a 1968 AMC AMX, which sold for $7,500; a 1964 Ford Fairlane street rod, which sold for $8,000; and a 1960 Ford Thunderbird street rod, sold to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of El Paso, which sold for $8,000.
For complete results from Houston, visit Mecum.com.