Photos by Jerry Heasley
A muscle car/truck is certainly a daring way to be different. The Chevrolet El Camino and Ford Ranchero occupy a unique place in the world of muscle cars. These hybrids share almost everything except a back seat with their hardtop and convertible siblings. One very important thing that they donâ€™t currently share is a high price tag.
Itâ€™s surprising that El Caminos and Rancheros are priced so far below similar cars. Mechanically, the cars and trucks are virtually identical. The greater front-to-rear weight distribution puts El Caminos and Rancheros at a slight disadvantage on the dragstrip, but since few current muscle car owners actively race their cars, it shouldnâ€™t account for the price differential.
One big advantage for anyone wanting to make occasional dragstrip forays is that they can haul a set of mounted slicks, a floor jack, and a good-sized toolbox in the bed. Thereâ€™s no need for a separate support vehicle.
Style-wise the Sixties/early-Seventies El Caminos and Rancheros are probably some of the most handsome utility vehicles ever produced. Their solid flanks are far smoother than traditional cab and box pickups. The 1968-1969 El Camino is one of the sleekest of the genre. The pointed front fenders and similarly slanted rear roofline give the El Camino a sense of forward motion.
That motion can be quite swift when thereâ€™s a 375 horsepower 396ci big-block under the hood, as is the case with Wayne Davisâ€™s Dusk Blue Metallic 1969 SS 396. There was a running change that increased bore size from 4.094-inches to 4.125-inches. Displacement was bumped up to 402 cubic inches, but the vehicles were still marketed as SS 396s. Wayneâ€™s El Camino has the Muncie 4-speed manual transmission, which enhances the muscle car feel and image. This is a bench seat model, which pretty much negates the utility value of the middle seating position.
El Caminos could be ordered as very Spartan utility vehicles or as fully loaded gentlemanâ€™s pickups. The most collectible examples tend to fall near the two extremes â€“ a no-frills race truck or a luxury car/pickup hybrid. Either way (or anything in between), El Caminos and Rancheros are a different way to enjoy muscle car ownership at bargain prices.
Dare to Be Different! - Introduction
The Wide, Wide World of Muscle Cars
Dare to Be Different! - 1961 Ford Starliner
An excellent muscle car for any Ford fan looking for something different.
Dare to Be Different - 1961 Pontiac Ventura
A little known and often overlooked precursor to the Pontiac performance timeline.
Dare to Be Different - 1964 Pontiac Grand Prix
Different enough to be unique, but so handsome as to be universally admired.
Dare to Be Different - 1966 Dodge Polara 500
A competitor to the Ford Galaxy 500 and the Chevy Impala that demands a second look.
Dare to Be Different - 1968 Chevy Impala SS 427
A viable alternative thatâ€™s still daring and different.
Dare to Be Different - 1969 Chevrolet El Camino SS 396
A different way to enjoy muscle car ownership at bargain prices.
Dare to Be Different - 1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator
An excellent way to enjoy some of the finest engines Ford Motor Company ever produced.
Dare to Be Different - 1970 Dodge Swinger
Power-to-weight ratio makes this A-body a great choice.
Dare to Be Different - 1971 AMC Hornet SC/360
This a one-year wonder was a daring exercise for AMC.
Dare to Be Different - 1972 Ford Gran Torino Sport
Thanks to Clint Eastwood this overlooked muscle car is back in the spotlight.
Dare to Be Different - 1972 Buick GS 455 Stage 1
Is this one of the most underrated muscle cars ever?
Published Dec 7th, 2015