If you ever lacked for proof that history repeats itself, and that we are never free from the errors of the past, but rather condemned to repeat them, endlessly, until the end of time, then you have the proof you wanted in the Matra Rancho, produced by Chrysler in Europe in the 70s and 80s.
It’s not that this little pre-SUV non-pickup was bad; it wasnt; it had decend acceleration, fuel consumption and creature comforts, and was reasonnably priced, too. The Matra Rancho was marketed (by the geniuses at Chrysler, no less, in a sign of things to come) as a rugged wanna-be Land Rover, when in fact it was nothing of the sort.
You know what? I must admit that it works. I look at it, even *knowing* that it’s nothing more that a truck body on a car, and the front grille and top rack, as well as the extra lights, make me think that I’d be OK driving that through the desert, or the Serengeti, or wherever.
The fact is that the Mantra Rancho had no extra ground clearance, no extra-low gears or anything else to distinguish it from your average family car, except appearances. It was powered by a 1.4 liter four-cylinder engine good for 80 horsepower, which drove the front wheels through a 4-speed manual transmission. This engine/transmission configuration let the Rancho reach a top speed of 90 miles an hour, and boasted (that’s a generous term) a 0-to-60 acceleration time of 14.9 seconds. Hardly stellar.
If all you wanted was to drive around town looking rugged and you lived in the late 70s and early 80s, then the Matra Rancho was for you. It wasn’t a bad drive, either. Just don’t leave the tarmac.