The Ford Durango is the Fox-bodied pickup truck you forgot existed: holy grails

The Ford Durango is the Fox-bodied pickup truck you forgot existed: holy grails

Decades ago, American car buyers had access to a truck that combined the best features of a truck with the best parts of a car. The coupe had a practical bed like a minivan but it was also a car you could use while you were going into town. Today, the ute is a dying breed, and appears to have been replaced by minivans. Ford pulled out of the USA in 1979 with the end of the famous Ranchero. However, people were still buying coupes, so someone else would wear the Blue Oval. That year, Ford and National Coach Products produced the Durango, a Ford Fairmont Futura coupe converted into a truck. Yes, there was a Fox Body pickup, and depending on who you ask, only a few hundred were ever built.

Last time on Holy Grails, we jumped on a boat and set sail for Europe, somehow finding ourselves back in the 1980s along the way. I have to stop booking these time trips. While we were at it, we took a look at the Peugeot 309 GTi 16. Some motoring journalists today say that the Peugeot 205 GTi was one of the best hot hatches ever. Others say the 205 GTi stole the show from its slightly larger, but still competent, siblings, the 309 GTi and 309 GTi 16. With its 160bhp 1.9-litre engine from the 405, the Peugeot 309 GTi 16 was technically faster than the 205 GTi, but He always lived in the shadow of that car. Depending on where you live, a 309 GTi 16 may be very rare.

Vidframe minimum down

This week, I found myself unable to fix my time machine, and we’re stuck in the 1980s for a little while longer. Fortunately, I was able to convince an airline that my 21st century luxury money was legitimate and got us some plane tickets back to America. I’ve taken refuge in sunny California for the time being.

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eBay via Barn Finds

The 1980s were an interesting time for coupes in America, as Ford was exiting the pool while the Chrysler brands were getting their feet wet. GM vehicles were in a new generation while competition was coming from the likes of the Subaru BRAT and Volkswagen Rabbit Pickup. Then, by the end of the decade, it was all over. The El Camino faded away in 1988, long after Ford, Dodge, Plymouth, Volkswagen and Subaru had thrown in the towel on their own. Since then, car-based pickups have become a rare sight, interspersed with Subaru Bajas and Chevrolet SSRs. You could say that this type of vehicle is making a comeback today with pickup trucks like the Ford Maverick and Hyundai Santa Cruz.

American Ford coupe

Rancheros huevos

In the early decades of motoring, you could buy cars that had truck beds. A good example of this is the Ford Model T, which you could get with a bed. There was also the versatile Roadster, which combined a sleek roadster with a utility bed. Ford Australia reportedly responded to farmers’ calls when Ford Geelong engineer Louis Bandt created a two-door body with a tray at the rear and mounted on a Ford Model A chassis.

In the decades since, automakers around the world have come up with their own interpretations of the same concept. Here in America, we experimented with coupe facilities in the 1930s, such as the Chevrolet Coupe Delivery and Studebaker Coupe Express.

For this piece, I won’t be reviewing Ford Australia’s work on the ute. Instead, we focus on what Americans were able to buy. The Ford Ranchero is part of its illustrious truck history.

1957 58 ford classic trucks

When Ford unveiled the Ranchero in December 1956, the F Series was in its third generation. Ford marketed the Ranchero as more than just a car while it was also more than just a truck. The premise was that the Ranchero was a charming car and a hard-working truck in the same package. Ford also noted that the Ranchero’s payload of more than a half-ton was greater than that of some trucks on the market at the time. In fact, the pickup bested the half-ton F-Series by about 50 pounds of payload. Ranchero seems to be the best of both worlds. It was lowered, allowing for easier bed loading and better handling. Ford also boasted the Ranchero’s car-like appearance, meaning it could be welcomed in places where a work truck couldn’t. Today, Ford calls the Ranchero its first compact pickup.

It was the first Ranchero based on the 116-inch wheelbase Ranch Wagon and Courier Sedan Delivery. The pickup truck featured a reinforced bed and at launch, the smallest engine available was a 223 cubic inch six-cylinder making 144 horsepower while the largest was a 292 cubic inch V8 making 212 horsepower.

Farm owners

Ranchero will evolve over the years. In 1960, the car shrank before growing into a muscle car in the 1970s. Rancheros eventually found themselves containing firepower like 360 ​​hp 429 Thunder Jet and 370 hp 429 Cobra Jet engines. The latter had a “Shaker” air scoop. You can also outfit your Ranchero with a big-block 460 V8.

Unfortunately, although the ranchero filled a niche, it was not as successful as it was in other countries. Ford sold 508,355 units over 22 years. Officially, the Ranchero died in 1979 as a variant of the 220-inch wheelbase LTD II. like You migrated He notes that the Ranchero came first, but Chevy’s El Camino was more popular and lived a little longer. Ultimately, Ford decided to focus its pickup truck efforts on the upcoming Courier and Ranger models.

the cup

National trainer products

That’s not where the ranchero story ended. As I said before, the Ranchero’s contemporaries continued into the 1980s. according to Mac Motor City Garage And 1981-82 Durango: The replacement that should have been the Ranchero, In an article in the February 1995 issue of Collectible Automobile magazine, Ford designer Dick Nesbitt decided to put together an alternative to the Ranchero.

The designer, who had a portfolio that included the Mustang II and Carousel, saw potential in the Fairmont Futura. Just the previous year, the Fairmont had been one of the first cars to ride on the then-new Ford Focus platform. As I’ve written before, the Fox platform was meant to be a kind of “One Ford” platform where the brand could build all kinds of cars worldwide on just one platform. Ford will reduce its production costs and eliminate redundant and unnecessary models with a single platform. That didn’t happen, but the Fox rig has become a versatile platform for Mustang fans and rod enthusiasts alike.

Ford via eBay

The Fox platform has been used for a variety of body styles from coupes to sedans and wagons. If you want a Fox Body truck? Well, you only have one choice, the Ford Durango. LTDScott, a reader with a number of Grail suggestions, dropped this one in a comment in the story about a 1993 Ford SVT Mustang Cobra R:

Reminds me of the Ford Durango (which would be a good candidate for the Holy Grail here too). It was a Ford Fairmont Futura coupe that the coachbuilder cut off the rear section and installed a fiberglass bed to create a newer Ranchero. My friend had one and when he pulled out the fiberglass bed, he was surprised to see the rear seat belts were still attached underneath.

This car was mentioned briefly about a week ago in a roofing article, and I think it deserves its own separate article.

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eBay via Barn Finds

like Mac Motor City Garage He writes, Nesbitt saw the lines of a Fairmont Futura coupe and envisioned it as a B-pillar pickup truck at the back. Nesbitt created a Futura sports truck and gave it to Ford Brass. Obviously, Ford refused to put it into production. That didn’t stop Barris Kustom shop alum Jim Stevenson and his son Bill Stevenson. The men, with the help of others, tore off the back of the Futura coupe and replaced the back end with a fiberglass mold that forms a small bed. A person claiming to be Bill Stevenson explains some of the work that was done on the construction:

The original “Durango” was built in our own shop in Sylmar, California with the intention of serving as a replacement for the Ford “Ranchero” after it was dropped from the production line. Among those who helped me were my older brother, Jim, George and Katie Judy of G&K Fiberglass (they also designed funny car bodies for many famous names of the day), and George Price, a very talented “body man”, did it. Most finishes work on the original plugs used to make the bed molds. He was one of the best Bondo men in the business.

I did a lot of the metal work on the bed and helped design and build the tailgate and hinges. The metalwork I did was used to make fiberglass mold plugs for production parts.

The tailgate turned out to be one of the most difficult design problems we encountered. There was no good way to move the taillights to the rear quarter panels because they were too narrow and it was too expensive to create a recognizable taillight, so we used the factory taillights in a fiberglass tailgate and had to have it swing out and away from the bed so it was level with Bed floor when opened.

National trainer products

The team took the prototype to National Coach Products, a builder based in Gardena, California. The national trainer is said to have continued the southwestern ranchero theme by naming the resulting car the Durango.

The Fairmont Futuras will be converted and sold through participating Ford dealers. Reportedly, design work was completed in 1970, but Jim Stevenson suffered from kidney failure, which led to the project being neglected for nearly two years. The majority of Durangos were built in 1981 and production ended in 1982. A few quirks came with the conversion. As LTDScott says above, at least one example still appears to have rear seat belts mounted under the fiberglass bed. The truck’s taillights were also on its tailgate. Therefore, you cannot drive the truck with the tailgate open unless you find some way to redirect the taillights.

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eBay via Barn Finds

In addition to the steel trunk and double-walled fiberglass, National Coach announced Durango-specific features such as a hidden under-bed storage compartment, trunk lid, bed liner, and fiberglass camper cover. Other goodies included an optional pop-up sunroof, custom wheels, air-adjustable shocks, cargo bars, and tie-downs, as well as an opening rear cab window. As a truck, the Durango has a payload capacity of 1,450 pounds, the national trainer said.

According to an archived brochure, the Durango was available with a 2.3-liter four, a 3.3-liter straight-six, and a 4.2-liter V8. Most Durangos were reportedly powered by a 3.3-liter Thriftpower Six engine and an automatic transmission. This was supposed to be good for 88 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque. A larger 4.2-liter V8 is available with 115 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque on tap.

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Screenshot (628)

No one seems to know how much was sold. Ford doesn’t even mention the pickup truck in its history. Most estimates place production somewhere around 212 units. Myron Verniss had a 1979 Durango as a shop truck! The Ford Durango also seems to be one of those vehicles whose rarity doesn’t translate into value. I haven’t found a single example for sale, but archived listings indicate that if you can find one of these for sale, you can likely get it for under $10,000.

Today, crossover-based pickup trucks seem to have replaced the utility coupe concept. Ford Maverick About to buy a new Ranchero. Four decades ago? It was a different story. Perhaps the saddest part is that the Ranchero and Durango died quietly in the night; No celebration of the Ford car and truck combo. If you’re lucky and find one, the party isn’t necessarily over.

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National trainer products

However, if you owned or owned one of these, what was it like?

Do you know or have Car, bus, motorcycle or anything else Does it deserve to be called the “Holy Grail”? Email me at or drop it in the comments!

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