All Original 1979 Ford Ranchero GT 351

By 1979, Ford knew that the writing was on the wall for the Ranchero. Tightening vehicle regulations and changing buyer tastes meant that it would mark the final year of production. However, it was a good party while it had lasted. Between the first example rolling out of the showroom in 1957 and the final one following suit in 1979, an incredible 508,355 buyers had given one of these classics a home. Our feature vehicle is one of the last Ranchero GTs built, and it remains unmolested. It is not perfect, but that leaves its buyer with a few options to consider. If the idea of owning a light pickup rests near to your heart, you will find this Ranchero located in Hickman, California, and listed for sale here on Craigslist. With an asking price of $5,500, it falls within the realm of an affordable classic. A big thank you has to go to Barn Finder rex m for spotting this GT for us.

There’s no arguing that this Ranchero isn’t perfect, and that leaves potential buyers with some decisions to make. Its overall presentation is by no means a horror story. That means that if someone wants to drive it as an original survivor, that would be a viable option. It would benefit from a fresh coat of paint and some new decals, but that could be something that happens as time and circumstances allow. The paint issue is straightforward, and the buyer can source a decal kit for around $260. One thing that strikes me with this GT is its lack of visible rust. The seller doesn’t supply a lot of information about the state of the floors or bed, but the panels appear to be clean. The rear bumper looks like it might have a slight bend in the center, but the remaining trim and the tinted glass seem okay. Rounding out this package is a set of Magnum 500 wheels. The finish on these has deteriorated, and a couple of center caps are missing, so these would benefit from a spot of TLC.

For potential buyers, the Ranchero’s interior provides a mix of both good and bad news. The upholstered surfaces generally look respectable. They would benefit from a deep clean, and the owner might be inclined to stretch the vinyl on the center armrests into place, but the impression is pretty positive. The carpet also looks good, as does most of the dash. However, things soon take a turn for the worse. Many plastic components have developed the dry and powdered look that can plague those items from this era. Some pieces may respond positively to an application of plastic paint, but I suspect that the buyer will be shopping for a few plastic parts. The story is much the same with the pad. It has cracked in several spots, and it may have gone beyond the point of no return. Glue-on caps are readily available for under $170, but a complete cap will lighten the buyer’s wallet by around $460. There are other alternatives to consider, like visiting a pick-a-part or keeping an eye out online for items to pop up on eBay or Craigslist. Beyond that, the buyer will score themselves a vehicle equipped with air conditioning, power windows, a remote driver’s mirror, and what appears to be an AM/FM stereo radio.

The original owner ordered this GT with the 351M V8 engine, a three-speed automatic transmission, power steering, and power front disc brakes. The 351M was no fireball by 1979, but it still produced a reasonable 162hp and 270 ft/lbs of torque. While it didn’t provide the “shove in the back” performance of a muscle car, it was still considered respectable in an era when engine power had gone AWOL. Beyond the supplied photo, there’s not much that we know about the Ranchero’s mechanical state. However, it appears that the owner is approachable, so interested parties could ask all of the difficult questions and possibly negotiate an in-person inspection.

While it didn’t exactly go out in a blaze of glory, Ford managed to sell 25,010 examples of the Ranchero during its final production year. Of those, 12,159 were the GT derivative like our feature car. How many survive today is open to guess because it’s a fair chance that many joined other vehicles from this era in finding their way to the scrapyard when their useful life was over. Returning this one to its former glory should not be difficult, and the buyer would be slipping behind the wheel of a vehicle that would turn heads. There is also the option of retaining it untouched, but there’s a third option that I haven’t mentioned. That V8 under the hood is a heavy lump that is short on power. These engine bays are enormous, and the thought of dropping a later 5.0-liter injected “HO” motor would be tempting. This is a lighter unit, and it would offer an instant power boost to beyond 225hp. That would liven proceedings and could be a viable option if originality isn’t crucial to the next owner. Which path would you choose?


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  1. Chris Webster

    Needs more front overhang!

    Like 12
    • Mike

      Yeah, they need to chop of at least 1 1/2 feet off the front. If the bed was the same height as the hood, it could be a push me-pull you.

      Like 4
  2. wuzjeepnowsaab

    If it drives and stops, 5500 isn’t a bad ‘asking’ price for this. These are full-sizers on LTD platforms so should be a good ride to the lumber yard

    Like 9
    • CCFisher

      Though beyond full-sized by today’s standards, Rancheros were built on Ford’s mid-sized platform from 1968-1979. There were no full-sized Rancheros built after 1959. Then again, a 1979 Ranchero is a foot longer than a 1959 version, so….. I’m confused.

      Like 2
      • wuzjeepnowsaab

        Not exactly. The LTD was built on what was Ford’s full size platform in 1979. So while it was a “down sized” version of what was once a larger chassis, it was still classed as a full size car. From 1977 through 79 the Ranchero was built on this down sized full size platform

        The mid size Ranchero was built on the Torino platform in years prior to this upgrade

      • bone

        This is a midsize chassis , the sedan/coupe/wagon version of this would have been the LTD II , and was out at the same time the full size LTD was out . The Ranchero and the LTD II was a Torino/Elite with a different header panel and tail design. The doors, quarter panels and rear gate are the same as the Torino based Ranchero

  3. Gary

    I never really realized before how mid car the cockpit actually is. Sure is a long way from the front of the vehicle to the driver’s seat.

    Like 5
  4. Sam Shive

    Front tires match, Rear tires, MIS MATCH. I had a 76 Elite. Nice Hi Way cars. but that 351M was a HOG around town and a slug when it came RED LIGHT TO RED LIGHT.

    Like 1
  5. Dwayne

    Man oh man, memories of the way we were….
    Bought a 79 GT back in 84 for a sum of 3600 off the dealer lot. I’d put dual exhaust on it and run thru the alleyways in a Chi town suburb and rattled the windows for a block. I had the black ft with grey velour interior 351 Windsor the way I remember telling it was that driving at night with instruments cluster all lit up I felt like I was a pilot in a cockpit. I’ve thought a bit of picking another one up as there are a few in my area that come up for sale occasionally but no I ain’t going that path again but if I could get back my 68 camaro convertible that be a hoot.

    Like 3
  6. Bick Banter

    Is it just my eyes or is the hood just as long as the bed? It has a “caboose” look.

    Like 3
    • man ' war

      Hear that before.

  7. Bill Hall

    Eons ago I got a semi junk 73 Ranchero and fixed it up including a lousy rebuild of a motor. THe motor was the best most enjoyable thing about it, 351C FOUR BARREL. With what I know about motor rebuilding now it would really fly. The one advertised is nice and rare but no cash.

  8. Merrill Newman

    The 1972 Ranchero was the first of this “last” Ranchero body style. It was also the best looking, being the only year not requiring any sort of Federal front bumper or crush zone.

    My ’72 GT was a beauty; white with orange graphics and that neat satin black hood treatment. Last I knew, it was owned by a retired Ford Motor Company fleet sales manager in the Albuquerque area.

    Like 2
    • nlpnt

      None of them required it, as a light truck they were exempt from the 5 MPH bumper law. Ford kept the Torino and later LTD II face on it out of tradition, inertia and cheapness. On that latter point I wouldn’t be surprised to see the bumpers held up by simple cheap angle-iron brackets rather than the expensive hydraulic struts used on the cars.

    • Motorcityman Member

      Some guys called the 72 the fish mouth version.
      I had a 76 GT with a 400 and a 73 base model with the 351 4 bbrl last year……sold em both for other cars.

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