For those waiting for decades to see the return of the Ford Ranchero/Chevy El Camino, your wait may soon be over. We’ve heard rumors for a while that a car-based Ford pickup truck was on its way, and now, it appears there are leaked documents confirming exactly that.
If you live in Australia, the car-based pickup, known as a “Ute” was a common sight. Both Ford and GM’s Holden division built them for forever. Unfortunately, Australian auto manufacturing ground to a halt in 2017, and with it, the Ute. In the states, the El Camino died in 1987 and the Ford Ranchero in 1979, meaning we’re long overdue for the return of a car-based Ford pickup truck.
With the popularity of pickups and crossovers, it has been puzzling that there have been few crossover pickups. Honda has the Ridgeline, and Hyundai is set to release its Santa Cruz crossover pickup next year. But the companies that pioneered the car-based pickup in the US have been silent.
Small Ford Pickup Truck
Now, a heavily camouflaged car being tested in Australia has been posted by Whichcar, which has more than images. Whichcar claims it has top-secret documents detailing a ute planned with a conventional passenger car suspension, codenamed P758, that’s allegedly based on a Ford Focus C2 platform.
The documents go on further to say this ute is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder on gasoline and hooked behind it is an 8F24 eight-speed automatic transmission. Ford currently produces a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, which can be backed by an all-wheel-drive transmission as one of its variables. That engine has been used in the Ford Edge and the Escape crossovers.
More documentation shows testing is ongoing with the chassis from a Soviet-based Ford C2 platform. This mule was assembled to test the suspension and chassis components. Ford recently announced they are abandoning the eastern-block market, selling the assets to Sollers.
New Ford Courier?
Ford has been evaluating building a car-based unibody pickup in Mexico, with export possibilities for both North and South America. Brazil looks to be getting it first in 2021 if those plans are still active. The name “Courier” has been floated around. The US had a Ford mini-truck called Courier throughout the 1970s, and Mazda also marketed an identical version. Just to add some fire to all of this Ford applied to trademark the Courier name in the US.
Ford currently builds a Courier for sale in Mexico and Brazil. Whether the suggested ute would compete internally with Ford’s Ranger is probably being hotly debated within Ford.
In the US Volkswagen had a Rabbit-based unibody FWD pickup in the early 1980s. Subaru had a four-door version called Baja and two-door they called Brat, and Dodge had the Omni-based Rampage also in the early 1980s. None of these sold particularly well in the Us, but then America wasn’t truck-crazy like they are today.
What might have held back sales could have been that there were no back seats in the VW or Dodge and they were both FWD in a time when conventional powertrains were the norm. The Subaru Baja was a four-door based on the Outback. The two-door Brat was a four-wheel-drive mini sold from the late-1970s to the early-1990s.
With market conditions quite different from the 1970s in the US and with the acceptance of both FWD and smaller, turbocharged engines in trucks, we may see more of these El Camino and Ranchero-like unibody trucks entering the market in the future.