Junkyard Find: 1961 Ford Falcon Ranchero

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 1946–1975 era still show up in cheap self–service 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 Under his watch, the Edsel — selling poorly partly due to a nasty recession and partly due to being an outdated-looking dinosaur — got the axe, while the new compact Falcon got a huge sales push from the company.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.

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