Rancho History & Specs
Rancho was a result of Matra's growing confidence from being under the corporate wing of Chrysler. The Bagheera had been well received by the press and buyers, alike, the company decided that it was ready for expansion. Whatever it produced it had to reflect the forward thinking and imaginative philosophy. However, Matra also needed to develop a car that would fit neatly into the Chrysler range but also attract new buyers into the fold. The mechanical parts of the new car would naturally come from Simca, Matra's industrial partner.
The idea of basing the new Matra on the front wheel drive Simca 1100 platform made commercial sense. It was produced in large numbers, the French public loved it, and its mechanical bits were tried and tested. It also meant that the new car could be developed within a limited budget.
The Rancho soon found favour with buyers, especially in its native France, who appreciated its huge interior space and fashionable style!
In 1979, the Rancho was offered with a low compression petrol engine, the idea being to allow lower octane petrol to be used which was useful for support exports to those countries where petrol was generally of a lower grade than that available in France. This engine option was not offered to British buyers.
In October 1980, the Rancho gained electronic ignition, a special economy tune carburettor, a slightly lower differential ratio to enable better 4th gear acceleration, new cloth trim and a fitted radio.
The Rancho Grand Raid was launched in 1980, intended for use over rougher country than the standard model. It featured a limited slip differential to try and mitigate the limitations of front wheel drive only in slippery conditions. Other additional equipment included floor protection, and a front mounted electric winch capable of hauling a 1,200kg load and 2 spare wheels (one cab-roof mounted) with off road tyres. The Grand Raid, which was never sold in Britain, was offered in matt green only with safari beige trim.
Also announced in 1980 was the Rancho X, a more luxurious model with metallic paint, alloy wheels, tinted glass and luxury trim. The limited edition Midnight, a special model available only in black, was announced during 1980. This model had an expensive sound system and was the only Rancho to feature chrome trim, to the door handles, bull bar, window frame and the side rails of the cab-based roof rack. Only a hundred were made. Neither the X nor the Midnight made it across the Channel.
There was a special French market only the AS version, designed to exploit French tax laws that smiled favourably on utility vehicles. It had the rear seats removed and cargo fixings, giving more load space, and was marketed as a commercial/business vehicle. The Rancho Découvrable appeared in 1981. It featured roll up canvas sides to the rear compartment in an attempt to create a more Jeep-like vehicle. Two colours were offered - green or brown. Seats were vinyl trimmed rather than the cloth used on the fully enclosed versions. Less than six hundred examples were built, most winding up on the Mediterranean coast and in the Greek islands.
Various limited editions were also developed including the Loisir a weekend car for leisure pursuits featuring an additional roof rack with fixings for bikes and sport body graphics The Jeanneau Wind was finished in white body colour featuring water sport graphics with blue vinyl upholstery and a rack for your wind surfer A winter sports model named Davos after the resort came also in pure white with snow chains and a rack for fitting skis.
After that, changes were minor. The original mirrors and the chrome-plated window handles were replaced in 1982 with black plastic units. The cloth interior patterns and colours updated as were the body finishes reducing the choice to white, red, silver, and bronze. Just fewer than 56,700 Ranchos were built between 1977 and 1984. Unfortunately, none of them were particularly well protected against rust. As a result, there are surprisingly few Ranchos left running either in Britain or in Europe. Although the rear section, being made of fibreglass, lasts well, the same cannot be said of the rest of the car. Areas to check for corrosion are the floor, wings, front doors, bulkhead, windscreen surround, rear and front chassis members The engines and transmissions last well and are easy and cheap to fix.
In Britain, the car was priced to compete with much bigger cars. In 1978, when it was launched, the Rancho was priced at £5,650 - which put it up against such competition as the Volvo 245 DL at £5,357 and the Citroen CX2400 Safari at £5428. At the end of the scale a Range Rover would have cost £8,528.
Sales of the Rancho were more than the double the forecasts. Thanks to comparatively low development and production costs Rancho was also the most profitable Matra until the Espace. However, Peugeot took a fair slice of the profit on each car and had of course turned down Matra's next big idea. Matra took a strategic decision to end production of the Rancho in 1984 and concentrate their efforts on the Espace