Ronnie Schreiber takes us down memory lane in search of Ford's peculiar Canadian-market heritage.
You really never know what kind of arcane automotive trivia you'll find. While browsing the deepest, darkest corners of the web for information on the Mercury Cougar Eliminator, I found a photo from the 1971 Chicago Auto Show of the Mercury Sportshauler concept. The Sportshauler was based on the midsize Montego, Mercury's version of the Ford Torino.
In this case, Ford took a Torino based Ranchero, gave it a Montego front end with its pronounced proboscis, made the tailgate into a ramp for an ATV, and put a tonneau cover over the bed.
I thought, "cool, a Mercury Ranchero, I wonder if Ford ever made a Mercury version of the Ranchero for sale."
So I started using my famously mad internet skillz and found out that Ford indeed sold a Mercury branded cartruck, just not in the United States.
Some of the cars that attract specialist collectors are Canadian cars, cars made or branded specifically for the Canadian market. Things like Chevys with Pontiac sheet metal (or vice versa) and names rarely if ever seen on the American market: Parisiennes, Acadians, Allures, Saratogas, Windsors and Fargos.
It turns out that in the 1950s, Ford marketed a Mercury version of the Ranchero in Canada under a sub-brand called Meteor. Actually Ford had two Canada-only sub-brands, Meteor and Monarch. Between import taxes and a more price sensitive market, Lincoln-Mercury dealers in Canada were given the Meteor brand, essentially Ford bodies with Mercury features, to broaden their product lineup in a downmarket direction.
To keep Canadian Ford dealers happy, they in turn got upmarket Monarchs, which were essentially Mercury clones. Like GMCs at non-Chevrolet General Motors dealers, Lincoln-Mercury-Meteor dealers also got to sell rebranded Ford trucks.
When Ford started to develop the original Ranchero, since sedan delivery models (essentially two-door sedans with no back seat, used by many businesses instead of panel trucks) were marketed in Canada under the Meteor brand, it was decided that the somewhat commercially oriented Ranchero would be branded for L-M-M dealers as a Meteor as well.
Meteor Rancheros (pictured above), were produced in Ford's Oakville, Ontario assembly plant, alongside Ford Rancheros for the Canadian market, and they went on sale in March of 1957. Neither vehicle sold particularly well. Frugal Canadians didn't regard it as a serious truck. Only 558 Ford Ranchero Customs and 300 Meteor Ranchero Niagaras were made for the shortened 1957 model year. Though the Rancheros received a complete restyling for 1958, along with the Fairlane on which they were based, the serious recession of 1957-58 saw Canadian Ranchero production plummet to 86 Ford Rancheros and only 52 Meteor Rancheros. If you think a Lincoln Blackwood is a collectible FoMoCo truck, try to find a 1958 Mercury Meteor Ranchero. After the 1958 model year, Ford gave up on selling cartrucks in Canada and decided to stick with their many workhorse commercial pickups.
Ford would go on to use the Meteor and Monarch brand names on other products, including some in the United States. The Ford Granada sold in the US in the 1970s had a Mercury twin marketed as the Monarch. Ford would?' would never again make a Mercury cartruck in either country. Well, for sale that is. The Montego Sportshauler concept, though, seems as much of an artifact of a particular era as the miniskirts and white boots of the ladies working the Mercury booth that year, and it obviously never went into production.
The Ranchero is gone. The Meteor brand is long gone. Even regular Mercurys are now "orphan" cars. With the "One Ford" imperative at Ford Motor Company these days, we're also not likely to see any special brands just for Canada. Oh, Canada may get U.S. models with different names or the occasional Canada only import like the Nissan X-Trail or Chevrolet Optra, but don't look for any new brands to hit the maple leaf country any time soon.
By the way, the Chicago Auto Show has a marvelous archive of photos from over a century of shows here.