On The Tube: More Than a Car. More Than a Truck.



April 09, 2012

What happens when styling and profiling are combined with hauling heavy loads? Coupe utility vehicles are half-and-half creations that really defy classification. Check out where American muscle and automotive functionality first began to merge in these classic commercials preserved on YouTube.

The idea for a car that was part pickup first took shape in Australia. As the story goes, a letter was written to Ford by an Aussie farm wife, asking if they could produce a vehicle that would allow you to go to church on Sundays and haul pigs to the market on Mondays.

In 1934, Ford Australia released the first coupe utility. But it wasn’t until 1957 that the company took a chance on the design here in America with the Ford Ranchero. For the next 30 years, American drivers had a number of choices when it came to vehicles that combined the hauling ability of a pickup with the comfort and drive of a car; among them: the Ford Ranchero, Chevrolet El Camino, VW Rabbit Pickup, Dodge Rampage/Plymouth Scamp, and the Subaru BRAT. Take a look at some of these old commercials and then head on over to the HVA’s Facebook page and tell us what you think: Is this a “hybrid” design that deserves to make a comeback?

More Than a Car! More Than a Truck!

Offering truck drivers the cabin comfort, stability, and drive performance of a car is a major selling point in today’s truck market. Arguably, it all began in the late 50s when Ford created a whole new category of vehicle in America with the introduction of the Ranchero.

The Ranchero would go through a number of transformations from 1957 to 1979. In the beginning, the Ranchero was marketed to farmers and Southwest ranchers looking for a car with the utility and hauling capacity of a standard, half ton, F-Series pickup. By the late 1960s, the Fourth Generation Ranchero entered the muscle car arena with its clean, straight lines, dual stacked headlamps, and plenty of power. In 1967, engine options for the Ranchero started with a 200 cubic-inch, straight-6 and went up to a 390 cubic-inch, big-block V8 giving 315 hp.

Who’da Thought a Pickup Could Look This Good

Motivated by the success of the Ranchero in 1957, Chevrolet tried going head-to-head with the competition two years later with the shamelessly Spanish-sounding El Camino. Based on the Impala, the El Camino survived for only two years before orders plummeted, forcing designers back to the drawing board. The El Camino reappeared in 1964, this time based on the Chevelle. SS versions of the El Camino debuted in 1968, the year that firmly established the model as a premier muscle car. From 1978 through 1987, El Caminos shared chassis components with the Malibu and, for the first time, were available in a V6. 

While full size coupe utility vehicles are no longer for sale in the U.S. market, a Chevrolet-badged Lumina Ute is still sold in South Africa and the Middle East. This particular model—save for some minor changes necessary to make it available in the U.S.—has long been responsible for rumors that GM may one day bring the El Camino back to America.

America ’s Lowest Price Fun Car

First introduced in 1978, the Subaru BRAT (an acronym for Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transporter) had fuel economy and a price point that will make modern car buyers weep. (Just check out the commercial.)

The most famous BRAT owner, President Ronald Regan, owned a 1978 model that he kept at his Santa Barbara ranch. But the BRAT could not compete with the rising popularity of small trucks in the early 80s, and the model was finally discontinued in North America in 1985.

Subaru was the last to dabble in the American coupe utility market when in 2003 they introduced the 4 door, all-wheel-drive Baja. But owing to its poor fuel economy at a time when drivers were beginning to feel pinched at the pump, the Baja did not sell well and was discontinued in 2006.

 

Comments

  1. Warren Bury United States

    come back, but only chevy.

  2. johnny gladewater,tx

    i have a 1980 gmc caballero and i love it. i think they should bring them back

  3. john thompson deptford nj

    What about the Falcon , and the falcon van that were half car half truck?

  4. Joe Essid Richmond, VA

    Call me a nut, but I love these vehicles. They have it all...a car's ride, a bed for light hauling, and funky looks. They'd still be viable if the ride of modern trucks had not improved so much.

  5. Wallace Mitchell Frankenmuth, MI

    The 1937 Studebaker Coupe Express should certainly be a part of this story

  6. Jeren Corsaul murphys, california

    In 1933-34 GMC produced a coupe called a roundabout. 2 doors, bench seat and a bed instead of a trunk. That's a bit ahead of the Aussies. I wud like to search for a picture of that.

  7. Richard Reel Laporte,In.

    Iowned a Brat with rollbar,skid plate, rollbar lights, running boards, wide rims and tires and a leather bed cover. It was the most fun vehicle i'v ever owned.

  8. Mike Sheahen Hickory, NC

    Even as successful as the sales of "compact" and "mid-sized" pickups such as the Chevy S-10 & Colorado, the Dodge Dakota, and the Ford Ranger have been, the concept and the times may be prime and ripe for a return of "coupe utilities"/"car-trucks" in the U.S. However, because of government impositions which are causing cars to become ever smaller and lighter (thus driving up the injury and fatality rates) amorphous, plastic, computer-controlled capsules on wheels, such could make the sales of "coupe utilities"/"car-trucks" here in the U.S. "disappointing" enough to make their "return" short-lived, especially since compact, mid-sized, and even full-sized pickups (of which more have been sold than cars) have become like "cars with pickup boxes" anyway.

  9. Kevin Pottorff Madill, OK

    I owned a 1979 Subaru BRAT for fifteen years. It was a really good all-road (not off-road) automobile and it would take me skiing in any weather in the Sierra Nevadas. With its interior cockpit styling and the seats in the rear, it also made an excellent drive-in movie car - just pull into the slot backwards and with a cooler at your feet, sit back and enjoy the movie. And here comes the old familiar lament: I wish I still had it. Should the manufacturers build modern versions of the Ranchero? It may come to that when it takes $80 to $100 to fill the tank every week in a full-sized pickup. It would probably be a new body design, though. I can't think of any modern sedan body that would adapt cleanly to a rear hauling bed.

  10. Kevin Pottorff Madill, OK

    I owned a 1979 Subaru BRAT for fifteen years. It was a really good all-road (not off-road) automobile and it would take me skiing in any weather in the Sierra Nevadas. With its interior cockpit styling and the seats in the rear, it also made an excellent drive-in movie car - just pull into the slot backwards and with a cooler at your feet, sit back and enjoy the movie. And here comes the old familiar lament: I wish I still had it. Should the manufacturers build modern versions of the Ranchero? It may come to that when it takes $80 to $100 to fill the tank every week in a full-sized pickup. It would probably be a new body design, though. I can't think of any modern sedan body that would adapt cleanly to a rear hauling bed.

  11. Jim Hogue Coloma, MI

    In 1940 Hudson produced a Business Coupe with a box that slid out of the trunk. There is a beautiful example at the Hostetler Hudson Museum in Shipshewana, IN. Pictures can be found on the web.

  12. Jericho droidnoid is right! I live in switzerland and have oreerdd a mustang GT. will be a 2012 model and arrive in may. can't wait! one reason why I oreerdd it is certainly that I always wanted to have an american car with a V8 cause for me these are simply the best sounding engines in the world. but besides, these cars just offer so much value for the money! even though I pay much more here for it then in america, a european car offering the same power would cost me like $ 120'000. go mustang!!

    droidnoid is right! I live in switzerland and have oreerdd a mustang GT. will be a 2012 model and arrive in may. can't wait! one reason why I oreerdd it is certainly that I always wanted to have an american car with a V8 cause for me these are simply the best sounding engines in the world. but besides, these cars just offer so much value for the money! even though I pay much more here for it then in america, a european car offering the same power would cost me like $ 120'000. go mustang!!

  13. Andrea D Fayetteville, TN

    My husband just restored his grandfather's 1971 Ford Ranchero and we absolutely love it. His father also owns a 1986 GMC Caballero that's in great original condition. His family owned a few versions of these over the years, and they were well used vehicles. I personally would love to see these type vehicles make a comeback!

  14. Andrea D Fayetteville, TN

    My husband just restored his grandfather's 1971 Ford Ranchero and we absolutely love it. His father also owns a 1986 GMC Caballero that's in great original condition. His family owned a few versions of these over the years, and they were well used vehicles. I personally would love to see these type vehicles make a comeback!

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