The Ford Ranchero was a coupe utility produced between 1957 and 1979. Unlike a pickup truck, the Ranchero was adapted from a two-door station wagon platform that integrated the cab and cargo bed into the body. A total of 508,355 units were produced during the model's production run. It was adapted from full-size, compact and intermediate automobiles by the Ford Motor Company for the North American market. Variations based on the original 1960 US Falcon for home markets in Argentina and South Africa were produced through the late 1980s. It sold well enough to spawn a competitor from General Motors in 1959, the Chevrolet El Camino.
With the Torino ending production after 1977, the Ranchero needed a new platform. This was found in the somewhat unlikely guise of the Ford Thunderbird personal luxury coupe, which was undergoing a reincarnation that year also, and sharing features with that year's Ford LTD II mid-size car. The same three models available since 1968 were still offered and the Ranchero could be ordered in quite luxurious form. Engines fitted went up to the 400 cu in (6.6 L), a small-block despite its large displacement. Production ceased in 1979 with, among the traditional choices, a commemorative "1979½" model. Although the LTD II was not produced for many model years, this body style with stacked rectangular headlamps is among the most popular among collectors.
Cars were getting smaller and increasing government restrictions, and requirements on a car-based pickup truck made such a vehicle less and less attractive from a manufacturing standpoint. Meanwhile, purpose-designed light trucks had to meet much less stringent requirements for emissions and fuel economy. Ford saw the way the market was going and decided small light trucks were the wave of the future, beginning with the Mazda-built Courier pickup. This vehicle would be a "stepping stone" during which time Ford would develop their homegrown replacement,the Ranger.
Source: Wikipedia, 2011