"Win on Sunday - Sell on Monday" - Why Bronco Racing Matters
The car industry has changed tremendously since Ford introduced the first-generation Bronco in 1966. During the six decades that have followed, 12v sockets have replaced cigarette lighters, cup holders have replaced ashtrays, skinny steering wheels have thickened and now harbor airbags, and cars have grown bigger, safer, more comfortable, and dependable.
The overall business model has changed dramatically as well -- domestic car companies individual market shares have shrunk, foreign competitors have taken a big chunk of the market, and electric cars are threatening to take over completely.
The way we drive, the way we buy and maintain our vehicles have changed dramatically. However, one thing has remained the same – auto racing's effect on car buyers.
Back in the day, even before the first-gen Broncos hit both showroom floors and dirt trails, Detroit's manufacturers had a mantra -- "Win on Sunday and sell on Monday". It was, beyond question, a winning formula and a motivational quote behind so many motorsport programs.
From the NHRA to NASCAR and Le Mans to Baja 1000, all automotive companies invested heavily in competition to promote their products and represent them as faster, more dependable, and way cooler than their competitors. And it worked.
Ford invested hundreds of millions of dollars in its famous Total Performance Program during the sixties and won practically every available competition. This racing success translated into incredible sales figures, which showed that their strategy was unusually effective.
The first-gen Bronco played a big part in the Total Performance Program, with numerous off-road wins in Baja 1000 and the legendary Big Oly Bronco driven by motorsports legend Parnelli Jones.
Fast forward 60 years, and we are now in a totally different world. Yes, the Bronco has returned -- and in amazingly historically correct form -- but everything around it has moved on. Yet, Ford knew that the "Win on Sunday-Sell on Monday" mantra would still be as relevant as ever and that investing in racing programs would reward it with still more popularity.
The truth is that the Bronco's popularity is incredible in its own right and that car buyers are going crazy over it. But for dedicated off-roaders -- precisely the ones Ford wants to steal from Jeep -- racing success provides the confirmation they want to see. That's why racing has been such a big part of the Bronco's presence so far and will continue to be in the future.
Bronco R (2019)
Even before we knew what the 2021 Bronco would look like and what engine options would be available, Ford presented the Bronco R. Since it was basically a prototype, the R was engineered to fulfill Class 2 division rules. This introduction was perfectly timed so that it could enter the 2019 Baja 1000. Ford was very confident -- deciding to enter the Bronco R with an essentially stock drive train and powered by V6 EcoBoost engine.
Of course, the addition of a steel tube chassis was a must for competition, as were various other safety components. Since the Bronco R was revealed nine months before the official introduction of the road-going model, Ford mounted a body made of composite materials that resembled the standard Bronco without showing much actual detail.
Despite being very fast and showing that it is capable of running with the best, Bronco R was plagued with mechanical troubles (namely, a broken suspension) and crashes and barely managed to finish the race.
Bronco 4400 Unlimited Class (2021)
Earlier this year, Ford introduced a unique, custom-built, and extreme racing version of the Bronco for ULTRA4 4400 Unlimited Class competition at the King of the Hammers event, which was held on February 6th.
With its unique suspension, massive off-road tires, bespoke chassis, and host of other unique components, the ULTRA4 4400 Bronco is an all-terrain beast, but also a very distant relative to its production counterpart.
This off-road buggy finished fifth in this gruesome event and proved that the Bronco has significant potential in extreme off-road racing.
Bronco 4600 Stock Class (2021)
At the same event, Ford unveiled the racing Bronco 4600, which participated in the Stock Class. It employed a standard production two-door chassis (with Sasquatch package) and a 2.7-liter V6 EcoBoost engine with 310 hp. The Bronco 4600 featured an also essentially stock drive train, suspension (more or less), chassis, and body.
The only modifications allowed in this class are some suspension components, safety equipment, bigger tires, and removal of some body panels to reduce the weight. Due to the King of Hammers event's grueling nature and notoriously tricky course, those 4600 Stock Class suspension modifications are intended allow a participating to better cope with the terrain.
That's why the Bronco 4600 Stock is equipped with heavy-duty front portal hubs, new control arms, and a modified steering rack with its own cooling system. There are also tougher Dana electronic locker differentials, aftermarket half shafts, and hubs, as well as a winch in the front, just in case extrication from a difficult situation is needed. While the roll-cage looks ordinary for the most part, Ford was announced that it's the first of its kind to be approved by the FIA.
Bronco Badlands NORRA 1000 (2021)
A couple of days ago, the Bronco proved its worth in Mexico when a completely stock, four-door Badlands with a 2.7-liter Ecoboost engine finished third in a very competitive NORRA 1000 event.
Apart from its roll-cage and few other mandatory safety components, this yellow Bronco was configured the same as one you can get from your local dealer. Its specifications were a step down from the Bronco 4600 and practically identical to an ordinary Bronco. Even though we are still waiting for the first production models to be delivered to customers, the Bronco's racing career is already awe-inspiring.