'70–'71 Ranchero GT 429: Remembering Ford's Ultra-Rare, High-Performance Workhorse

1070 Ford Ranchero GT 429 18 photos
Photo: Mecum
1970 Ford Ranchero GT 429 CJ1970 Ford Ranchero GT 429 CJ1970 Ford Ranchero GT 429 CJ1970 Ford Ranchero GT 4291970 Ford Ranchero GT 4291970 Ford Ranchero GT 4291970 Ford Ranchero GT 4291970 Ford Ranchero GT 4291971 Ford Ranchero GT 429 CJ1971 Ford Ranchero GT 429 CJ1971 Ford Ranchero GT 429 CJ1971 Ford Ranchero GT 429 CJ1971 Ford Ranchero GT 429 CJ1971 Ford Ranchero GT 429 CJ1971 Ford Ranchero GT 429 CJ1971 Ford Ranchero GT 429 CJ1971 Ford Ranchero GT 429 CJ
Long before the F-150 and Ranger Raptors, Ford mixed practicality with tire-shredding performance in a car-based pickup that's still fascinating half a century later.
The story of the Ranchero starts in December 1956 when Ford added a pickup version to its 1957 model year full-size range.

The first generation lasted on the market until the end of the 1959 model year, when it was discontinued due to poor sales.

However, the model didn't disappear, and from 1960 to 1965, an all-new compact Ranchero was available as part of the compact Falcon line.

From 1966 to 1967, the Ranchero moved to the intermediate Fairlane platform, and from 1968 to 1976, the fourth and fifth generations were part of the Torino lineup.

Finally, the 1977–1979 Ranchero, which became Ford's last car-based pickup offered on US soil, was based on the new LTD II intermediate.

Of the seven distinct Ranchero generations produced throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, the GT-trimmed, 429-equipped fifth gen went down as the most impressive, and it remains a fascinating member of the golden age of muscle 54 years after it was unleashed on public roads.

Arguably the most badass-looking Ranchero of them all

1970 Ford Ranchero GT 429 CJ
Photo: Bring a Trailer
For 1970, the model year that gave us some of the most insane factory-built, high-performance machines of the muscle car era, the Blue Oval released a refreshed Ranchero.

Based on a station wagon chassis, the fifth-gen Ranchero received the same coke bottle styling as the second-gen Torino, which was now Ford's primary intermediate nameplate.

From the windshield to the rear bumper, the model featured a rather unique design, but the pointy and aggressive front end was shared with the Torino.

Equipped with the GT trim and visual options such as hidden headlamps, laser stripe graphics, or the iconic shaker hood, the top-of-the-line Ranchero GT was aimed at the performance crowd, and few can disagree that it went down as the most badass-looking Ranchero ever built.

The look was carried over to 1971, albeit the laser stripes and front grille received a mild redesign that didn't affect the pickup's awesomeness.

Three available 429s, including one with superpowers

1971 Ford Ranchero GT 429 CJ
Photo: Colin’s Classic Automobiles
The 1970 model year was the pinnacle of the factory-built performance war ignited by the Pontiac GTO in 1964, so, naturally, the Ranchero GT was available with a series of potent V8s that backed up its aggressive looks.

Though the standard GT engine was a  220-hp two-barrel 302-ci (4.9-liter) Windsor V8, followed by the two-barrel and four-barrel 351-ci (5.8-liter) Cleveland rated at 250 and 300 hp, respectively, the big news for 1970 was the addition of three versions of the 429-ci (7.0-liter) 385 Series big-block V8 to the optional engine list.

The first 429, available for the 1970 model year only, was a 360-hp Thunder Jet.

Next in line was the 370-hp 429 Cobra Jet, available with or without the functional Ram Air induction system, while the top engine choice was the 375-hp 429 Super Cobra Jet, which could be had by checking the Drag Pack box on the order list.

Known for giving the cars it was fitted in superpowers, the SCJ came with a series of high-performance hardware, including four-bolt mains, forged aluminum pistons, beefier connecting rods, a hotter cam, solid lifters, an oil cooler, higher-flow exhaust manifolds, and a 780-cfm Holley 4150 carb that sat atop of a high-rise intake.

Underrated performance figures

1970 Ford Ranchero GT 429
Photo: Mecum
Customary back then, the regular Cobra Jet and the Super version were purposefully underrated to dodge high insurance rates.

According to the era's reports, a 429 CJ made around 380 to 390 hp, while a bone-stock SCJ exceeded 400 ponies. Add some simple bolt-on upgrades to the latter, drag-oriented motor, and one could easily unlock a 500 hp+ output figure.

Hooked to a Toploader four-speed manual or the heavy-duty C6 three-speed auto, either one of the venomous 429s helped the Blue Oval's muscular workhorse to run the quarter mile in the mid-15-second range at 86 mph (138 kph).

By 1970 and 1971 standards, those figures weren't all that impressive, but with some aftermarket hardware, the Ranchero GT could be easily transformed into a 13-second street and strip legend.

Overshadowed by its rival

1971 Ford Ranchero GT 429 CJ
Photo: Colin’s Classic Automobiles
Though it was introduced first, the Ranchero had always struggled to outsell the El Camino, and things weren't much different in 1970 and 1971 when those who wanted the most lethal combination between a muscle car and a pickup chose the El Camino SS 454 over the Ranchero GT 429.

With the top LS6 454 rated at 450 hp, the El Camino SS didn't need tuning to be a 13-second drag weapon.

Moreover, even the LS6-powered SS 454 had a more than respectable 360-hp factory rating, and it, too, provided a solid platform for those who wanted more power with a few aftermarket upgrades.

Taking all that into consideration, the fifth-gen Ranchero GT 429 didn't stand a chance against its rival, and even today, it's far less popular.

The Ranchero GT 429's value today

1971 Ford Ranchero GT 429 CJ
Photo: Colin’s Classic Automobiles
Ford sold nearly 8,000 Ranchero GTs in 1970 and 1971. Of those, less than 5% were equipped with a 429 engine.

With such low production figures, a highly original, 429-powered, fifth-gen Ranchero GT is an extremely rare find these days, and when one does pop up at an auction, it usually racks up high bids.

A pristine example with the 360-hp 429 under the hood fetched at a Mecum auction for $45,100 in 2022, while the Ram Air 429 CJ-equipped 1971 Ranchero GT shown above was sold for $55,000 by Colin’s Classic Automobiles in Milwaukee.

As for a Super Cobra Jet 429 survivor, we were unable to find any recent listings, but current estimates put it well above the $70,000 mark, especially if it's a highly original, low-mileage example in good shape, like the one featured in the YouTube video below by MuscleCarOfTheWeek.

Though it was part of an atypical type of muscle and got outsold by the more popular El Camino SS 454, the fifth-gen Ranchero GT 429 remains one of the most capable high-performance intermediates that Ford unleashed on public roads during the golden age of muscle.

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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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