Debunking the most common old wives’ tales IT’S A FRENCH 4X4
It’s easy to believe that the Rancho had four-wheel drive. But despite the black plastic wheel arches, swivelling spotlights in front of the windscreen and generous ground-clearance, it was actually front-wheel drive. That said, contemporary reports said that it performed well on mud and wet grass, thanks to its light weight and long-travel suspension. And owners did benefit from an off-roadstyle sump guard to protect the car’s underside on rutted tracks.
IT’S A ROOMY METAL BOX
This is half-right. The floorpan and front half of the body was indeed steel, and came from the Simca 1100 pickup. However, the rear passenger compartment was made from glassfibre. The built-in roofrack and black plastic trim along the sides, together with matt black window surrounds, disguised the joins. The Rancho was spacious in the back, with the rear seats 10cm higher than the front ones; later models also came as seven-seaters with two extra seats for children facing to the rear. Power came from a 1.5-litre engine allied to a four-speed gearbox.
IT WAS A JOKE AND A FAILURE
People have poked fun at the Rancho for years, but the Range Rover was pretty much the only other off-road passenger car you could buy in the late 1970s, and it cost twice as much to buy and its running costs were enormous. The Rancho, on the other hand, was no more expensive to run than a family hatchback. Buyers wanted the 4x4 image more than the occasional benefit of four-wheel drive, just as for today’s ‘crossover’ cars. Matra originally planned to build 20,000 Ranchos but actually sold 58,000 when manufacture ended in 1985.
Join between steel front and GRP rear is disguised by plastic trim.