Five Most Influential Broncos Ever Made
From 1965 to 1996, Ford produced over a million Broncos in five distinct generations. Although the number itself is impressive, it's still far below the overall production numbers of some of the other successful Ford cars, like the Mustang, which debuted just a year and a half before Bronco and has remained in production ever since, with over 10 million vehicles sold.
However, the impact of the Bronco on the American and global automotive landscape is enormous, and this off-road SUV really did change the world and profoundly influenced the industry. Just look around you; every SUV you see -- and you will see dozens -- has a little bit of Bronco in its DNA.
But not all Bronco generations are of equal importance when it comes to leaving their mark on the collective consciousness. Some were so memorable that they helped define the very concept of the SUV or introduced the characteristic boxy shape as the default design for any off-road vehicle. Others became a symbol of poor engineering and big business cover-ups, such as the ill-fated Bronco II.
That's why we decided to present you the five most significant Bronco models ever made. These all-terrain icons collectively created the Bronco legend that has endured until today. So, let's go.
First Generation Bronco (1966 to 1977)
The Ford Bronco debuted in August of 1965 as a 1966 model and was immediately met with praise from the motoring press and enthusiastic interest from the buying public. It represented a brave step for Ford, which already had a successful pickup truck line but had never manufactured an SUV before.
The Bronco had a unique chassis architecture, standard permanent all-wheel-drive and was sold in three distinct body styles – Wagon, Half Cab, and Roadster. The sheer importance of First-Gen models is easily understandable. This off-roader defined the SUV segment and its design cues, established a loyal customer base, and introduced the concept of the SUV to the mainstream American car buyer.
It's an essential part of Ford Bronco lineage in the eyes of millions of car fans.
Second Generation Bronco (1978 to 1979)
Although the late '70s were generally a time of automotive downsizing, the 1978 Bronco grew drastically in both size and displacement. It was built on a shortened F-100 truck chassis and shared that model's mechanics, front-end design, and interior.
The concept of offering several body styles that had made the first-generation model so popular was abandoned in favor of going with just just one body style – a 3-door SUV with a lift-off rear hardtop. Since this Bronco used the F-Series truck chassis, Ford gave it a 351 cubic inch V8 as a standard engine, with a 400 c.i. V8 as an option. Both engines had similar power outputs of 156 and 158 hp, respectively.
This was the first "big Bronco" model that was based on the F-150 platform, which Ford would end up using for the model right until the Bronco's temporary hiatus. This generation's success provided proof that American buyers liked big SUVs -- it was among the best-selling generations of the Bronco, although it was offered for just two years.
Big Oly Bronco
The Big Oly Bronco started as an evolution of the Baja-winning Stroppe's Broncos from the late '60s. It turned out to be a highly influential and revolutionary vehicle in its own right and was the predecessor of today's TT off-road racers.
Bill Stroppe (its creator) realized that he could only do so much with the standard Bronco chassis, so he decided to build an entirely new one, made out of steel tubing, that was lighter and stronger than any produced by Ford. He also moved the engine to the center of the vehicle, creating perfect weight distribution.
With a very powerful 351 V8 engine, a revised suspension, and brakes, Big Oly Bronco, in the hands of renowned Ford ace Parnelli Jones, dominated the 1971 and 1972 seasons. This vehicle also just broke a record, becoming the most expensive SUV ever sold, fetching a winning bid of 1.7 million dollars at the recent Mecum auction!
Big Oly Bronco was the first massively successful racing Bronco and helped establish off-road racing scene as a mainstream sport.
Fifth Generation Bronco (1992 to 1996)
By the early '90s, SUVs had become a new trend, and customers wanted modern design, luxury features, and the comfort of a passenger car. In contrast, despite looking suitably contemporary, the Bronco was an old-school off-roader with a live rear axle, combined with durable but somewhat unrefined mechanics, and driving dynamics.
It was evident that its time was up. Its overall platform remained the same as the previous generation, as did engine choices -- the only changes were in the areas of aesthetic design and the interior. Those late Broncos, especially in Eddie Bauer trim, were world-class off-roaders -- big, powerful, and comfortable.
The '90s Bronco was the epitome of a big old SUV and a dinosaur in comparison to its more modern and better-handling competitors. Even so, it was well-respected within the off-road community and presented great value for the money.
2021 Bronco and Bronco Sport
After a 25 year absence, Ford finally brought back the Bronco for the 2021 model year, and while it was a long wait, it was well worth it. The new Bronco and Bronco Sport are undeniably cool, even in their respective base trim and standard engines.
This rough and ready Ford is the perfect embodiment of Bronco philosophy in modern form. Equipped with a heavy-duty suspension, advanced components (like a hydraulic front sway-bar disconnect system), steel front and rear bumpers, big tires, and an optional Sasquatch package, the 2021 Badlands is the one to have. It is everything a Bronco should be, but in thoroughly modern and insanely capable form.