By on February 3, 2020

1961 Ford Falcon Ranchero in Denver junkyard, RH front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAs anyone who follows this series knows, Detroit sedans from the 19461975 era still show up in cheap selfservice junkyards all the time (really, I photograph several every month). What might not be as well-known, however, is the frequency with which classic cartrucks (or truckcars, if you prefer) end up in such yards.

Here’s an early Falcon Ranchero that worked hard for many decades after its New Car(truck) Scent faded away, photographed in a Denver yard just a few days ago.

1961 Ford Falcon Ranchero in Denver junkyard, fender emblem - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars
Prior to becoming the main Washington bureaucrat behind the not-so-successful Vietnam War, Robert McNamara served as President of the Ford Motor Company. Under his watch, the Edsel — selling poorly partly due to a nasty recession and partly due to being an outdated-looking dinosaur — got the axe, while the new compact Falcon got a huge sales push from the company. This means Edsel fanatics hate McNamara the way Corvair fanatics hate Ralph Nader, and we can presume that most of them hate the Falcon and its cartruck sibling, the 1960-1965 Falcon Ranchero, just as much.

1961 Ford Falcon Ranchero in Denver junkyard, LH rear view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe Falcon name went away for the Ranchero’s 1966 model year, and by 1968 the Ranchero cartruck went onto the larger Fairlane platform. By the late 1970s, the Ranchero got huge, and I have documented plenty of these luxurious cartrucks.

1961 Ford Falcon Ranchero in Denver junkyard, rust - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThis one got used hard for at least the later part of its life, and it has plenty of body filler, rust, and low-budget modifications to show for those tough years. I’m guessing that it put in plenty of service as a scrapper’s truck, patrolling the alleys of Denver for saleable metal.

1961 Ford Falcon Ranchero in Denver junkyard, engine - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe build tag on this cartruck says it started life at the Kansas City assembly plant on June 18, 1961, with a 144-cubic-inch straight-six engine rated at 85 horsepower. This looks like a somewhat later six, and it might well be the 11th engine to power this truck.

1961 Ford Falcon Ranchero in Denver junkyard, taillight - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe data plate also shows that the original exterior color was Laurel Green, with beige/brown interior.

1961 Ford Falcon Ranchero in Denver junkyard, seats - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThat interior is long gone, replaced with junkyard door panels, random chunks of household carpeting, and a couple of pretty decent bucket seats out of some much newer vehicle.

1961 Ford Falcon Ranchero in Denver junkyard, interior - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe remnants of a three-on-the-tree column shifter may be seen in this photo, but someone has swapped in a floor shifter with homemade gooseneck extension, making this a three-on-the-floor car (like the first car I remember riding in as a child, though that Ford had a factory floor-shift rig).

1961 Ford Falcon Ranchero in Denver junkyard, gas receipt- ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI found some 2008 receipts inside, so I suspect this cartruck broke down 12 years ago and finally took that last tow-truck ride when nobody proved willing to rescue a rusty, bastardized six-cylinder cartruck.

1961 Ford Falcon Ranchero in Denver junkyard, radio - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsAt least it had tunes at the end.

The first-generation Falcon proved to be an enormous sales success in the United States, not to mention Argentina (where production continued into the 1980s) and Australia. Naturally, Australians loved the ute version of their Falcon.

If you’d like to see 1,800+ more Junkyard Finds, head over to the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

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13 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1961 Ford Falcon Ranchero...”

  • avatar

    Cool, kind of surprised to see this “classic” in a junkyard, I’ve seen cars like this selling for a couple of thousand on I don’t know if anyone’s buying them, but that’s what they’re asking

  • avatar

    Wow, what a time machine. Looks like somebody took the pedal box.

  • avatar

    This is what a thoroughly used up used car looks like.

    I really wish the “small car-truck” or “Ute” was a more popular vehicle style in the US. It would be nice to have car dynamics and economy with a bed for occasional use for DIY stuff or putting the bikes in the back without needing a carrier.

  • avatar

    Never did have any experience with the Ranchero/El Camino, but my mother did have a Falcon station wagon, light blue in color, which is probably what color this Ranchero was when it left the factory. The only thing I can remember about it was taking a long vacation in it, and my dad having to patch the luggage rack up with Scotch tape, as it started disassembling itself 1000 miles from home.

    I know there’s a lot of nostalgia for these cartrucks (truckars?), but I’d rather see pickups the size of Japanese trucks from the 80’s make a comeback. They were fairly useful and of a convenient size for suburban use. The current “mid sized” trucks are still to effin big for daily driver use.

    • 0 avatar

      My mother’s recollection of her parents’ Falcon is ambivalent, but that’s colored heavily by its having had a broken heater and their living in a cold climate. It would’ve been bought used, and who knows if it could’ve been readily fixed.

      I’ve never ridden in one and haven’t seen one in the flesh in ages, but I admire the three-box simplicity of the ’60-’63 originals. They’re a real contrast to American cars of the late ’50s and to CUVs of the 2010s.

      One of the more disappointing YouTube series of the past few years was Regular Cars’ hot rodding of a stock and intact ’60 Falcon. The whole enterprise ran counter to the channel’s purported raison d’être.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I wouldn’t mind having this if it had a little less rust. This would be a perfect size for using as a weekend suburban truck. I wonder if this engine would turnover. I am willing to bet the transmission is still good. This still might be worth restoring because of its rarity and as a truck it could still be used.

  • avatar

    It would be worth rescuing if it weren’t so rusty and beat. A great uncle of mine had a black ’60 model for a long time, that he won new in a charity raffle; he towed a little john boat and trailer with it.

    It’s been a long time since I saw a Sparkomatic radio. Wow.

  • avatar

    I’m amazed the bed floor isn’t all dented up and the tail gate looks good too .

    Agreed, Utes were sold in the U.S.A. in the 1930’s and 1940’s as “Coupe Utilities” but few bought them… too bad .


  • avatar

    Lol — just yesterday I was behind a red Falcon sedan in Tucson traffic. Rarer than Chevy Vegas.

  • avatar

    Weren’t the first gen cab-over Econolines based on the Falcons too? And of course the Mustang. Ford sure got their money out of that platform.

    • 0 avatar

      Wow, I didn’t realize the Econoline was based on the Falcon platform. Wikipedia (grain of salt) says it is. Certainly it would have been a more radical reworking than the Comet, Mustang, etc.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised the rack is still on it. I’ve been looking for something similar and have found well used examples to be both surprisingly hard to find and stupidly expensive.

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