10 Essential Things You Need To Know About Classic Ford Broncos
There are two distinct eras of the Ford Bronco story. One is the classic 1966 to 1996 period, and the other is more modern -- 2021 and beyond.
Even though the original Bronco was a very popular model, the rise of SUVs and the changing tastes of the general car-buying public forced Ford to retire it after the 1996 model year. However, as we all know, the Bronco never really left, and it remained popular with off-road enthusiasts, Ford fans, and all people who appreciated well-designed and tough off-road vehicles.
Its reputation, design, and rugged charm made the Bronco relevant and in-demand even years after its production stopped, with high prices reflecting its respected car history position. Thankfully, Ford decided to revive this proud nameplate for a new generation of off-road fans. If you're new to the Bronco game and want to understand this legendary model's magic, today we'll present you with ten essential things you need to know about it.
The Bronco Was One of The First Real SUVs
The Ford Bronco debuted in August of 1965 as a 1966 model and was immediately met with praise from the motoring press and interest from the buying public. It represented a brave step for Ford, which already had a successful pickup truck line, but had never made an SUV before. Back in the mid-'60s, the Jeep CJ-5 and International Scout were the only such offerings and they dominated the market, so the appearance of a competing Ford product was immensely interesting.
This was one of the first off-roaders which wasn't conceived solely as a rugged, military-grade vehicle, but wasengineered and designed more towards the civilian market. Along with the Jeep Wagoneer, the original Bronco was one of the first real SUVs ever manufactured.
The Bronco Was Almost Called A Ford Wrangler!
In the early '60s, when the idea of the small but off-road-ready vehicle emerged at Ford, the project still didn't have a name. After a few meetings with engineers and marketing people, even before the name "Bronco" was in use, the project was subsequently named "G.O.A.T," which stood for "Goes on Any Terrain."
However, after the Mustang's resounding success, the marketing team wanted to use a related name for the SUV, and "Wrangler" was seriously considered, but ultimately the Bronco handle won out. Jeep, of course, would go on to use the contemplated name as a replacement for its legendary CJ-5 model.
The First Generation Had Three Body Styles
The Bronco had unique chassis architecture, standard permanent all-wheel-drive, and was sold in three distinct body styles – Wagon, Half Cab, and Roadster. The wagon was sold with a removable hardtop and proved to be most popular with customers. The Half Cab was an attractive pickup model with two front seats and a small truck bed behind the driver.
However, the rarest of the three was the Roadster. Sold between 1966 and 1968, it was an open-top version without doors and with minimal convenience options. It was designed as a pure beach runabout, and due to the fact it had limited appeal to the average customer, Ford only made 4090 examples.
Ford Bronco Won the Baja 1000 In Almost Stock Form
While Ford's first showing of the 2021 Bronco in action took place in late 2019 during a racing event, the Bronco R wasn't really successful. From an historical perspective, however, the Bronco had already proved its worth in off-road racing, winning the Baja 1000 event while remaining almost unchanged from its stock configuration.
In 1969, Ford managed to win the prestigious Baja 1000 Mexican race beating two motorcycles and a buggy and setting a record time! The quality of the Bronco's construction, with smart modifications performed by Bill Stroppe, made the Bronco unstoppable. The famous mantra "Win on Sunday – Sell on Monday" proved right, and the model's racing success proved to have a significant effect on sales.
The Bronco Served in the Military
During the '60s, military Jeeps were the predominant light tactical vehicles in the US military's arsenal. However, the introduction of the 1966 Bronco inspired the military to give this Ford a chance, and the Pentagon ordered 120 military-spec Broncos, all painted in signature green color and divided amongst the Navy, Army, and Air Force.
Most of them were used for testing purposes in bases all over the country, but apparently, some were sent overseas. There are no official records if the Military Bronco ever saw combat, but it probably did, since some were shipped to Vietnam. Today, surviving examples are scarce.
The Second Generation Was Built on A Truck Chassis
Despite being introduced in a time of downsizing -- 1978 to 1979 -- the Bronco grew drastically in size and displacement. It was built on a shortened F-100 truck chassis and shared the model's mechanics, front-end design, and interior. The concept of offering several body styles that made the first-generation model so famous was abandoned in favor of one single body style – a 3-door SUV with a lift-off rear hardtop.
Although offered for just two years, the second-generation Bronco proved to be very successful, selling more 170,000 units in that unusually short period of time. The featured trim levels were similar to those of the F-Series truck, with the best known of them being the "Freewheelin" cosmetic package, with its bright graphics strips and add-ons.
The Ford Bronco Was Never Offered as Four-Door Model
All Broncos made between 1965 and 1996 were two-door models, and Ford officially never offered a 4-door version. This doesn't mean that you couldn't buy one if you wanted to -- just not from Ford. That market void was filled by several independent coachbuilders, which offered meticulously crafted and immensely practical Broncos with four doors. Over the years, these companies sold them successfully throughout America.
In the late '80s and '90s, the Bronco Was Offered in Luxury Trim.
With a new front-end design, modern interior, details, and trim packages, the Bronco looked fresh, although its shortened F-100 platform architecture stayed intact. Also, engine offerings remained the same as before, staring with a 300 ci straight-six as a base engine, followed by 302 and 351 V8s as the top-of-the-line engine choices.
During this period, Ford saw an increase in sales of the upscale trim levels, especially the Eddie Bauer edition, which was introduced as an option in 1985 and sold through 1996. This marked a marked SUV class shift. No longer were the bare-bones models in demand; buyers wanted the luxury trim similar to the Jeep Grand Wagoneer or Range Rover.
The Ford Bronco Was the World's Biggest Reality TV Star
In 1993, Ford had produced 32,281 Broncos, but one particular specimen had become world-famous as a "getaway" vehicle in one of defining moments caught on live TV. You can probably guess what it is -- the infamous 1993 Bronco that was the object of a slow-speed car chase down Highway 405 in Los Angeles. That white Bronco carried O.J. Simpson, who at the time was a prime suspect in a murder case. More than 95 million viewers saw the Bronco moving down the highway.