8 Cars That Went On Hiatus for About as Long as the Bronco – Some Longer
Even though there have always been plenty of restored and restomodded Broncos around to keep the brand vital and front of mind with legions of loyal fans, the Bronco’s 25-year hiatus before its current re-introduction represents quite a stretch of time. A lot can happen in a quarter century — technology certainly marches forward and the seemingly ever-fickle tastes of the car buying public shift in terms of popular automotive segments, vehicle size and more.
As such, the Bronco brand is like a sort of Rip Van Winkle on wheels — long dormant before re-emerging to greet an automotive landscape that’s shifted markedly since it last roamed the asphalt and conquered rugged terrain as a member of the Blue Oval’s current lineup. It may seem that the Bronco’s quarter century respite constitutes a rare occurrence in the automotive world and it does. But the reintroduction of a popular model after a long stretch of time has happened a little more frequently than you might think.
Here are eight well-known cars that were reintroduced after being shelved for spans comparable to the hiatus from which the current Ford Bronco has re-emerged. In some cases, they had been shelved even longer.
Chevrolet Blazer: 14-year absence (originally produced 1969-2005, reintroduced 2019-present)
Yep, the Bronco’s chief rival during its formative years also hung it up for quite a while, but in a little more circuitous manner. The Blazer would hold out almost a decade longer than the Bronco while being gradually phased out. The full sized K5 Blazer had been continually refined to sync up with America’s preference for a more diluted, less trail-worthy SUV, but eventually gave way to the Chevy Tahoe, while the smaller S10 Blazer stepped aside for the Equinox, with both abdications occurring in 2005.
The Blazer was re-introduced for 2019 and, in stark contrast to the new Ford Bronco’s emphasis on nostalgia-inducing style, it returned with an even more “citified” appearance than it had departed with. Chevy seems to have added a bit of confusion into the mix by also bringing back the TrailBlazer — which had originally debuted as a mid-size SUV just after the turn of the millennium — for 2021. In their reincarnated forms, the two models are just short of indistinguishable from each other, although the Blazer is a bit larger.
Judging from the modest wheel clearance featured on both the new Blazer and TrailBlazer, neither would be capable of making much of a showing once off the asphalt, but they’re back nonetheless.
Dodge Charger: 19-year absence (originally produced 1966-1987, reintroduced 2006-present)
The Charger was originally introduced as MoPar’s entry into the muscle car wars that had seemingly enchanted the entire country. Ford had its Mustang, which debuted as a modestly sized, small block fun machine during the 1965 model year. Chevy had both the Malibu and the Camaro. Dodge staked its claim with the Charger, which opened with a noticeably longer wheelbase and overall size than its competitors and then grew from there for a number of years.
In contrast to the Ford Bronco’s gradual refinement over the years, the Charger underwent several ultra-drastic reinventions. Whereas the Bronco remained an undisputed SUV, the Charger morphed from a lengthy muscle car to a dead-ringer for the Chrysler Cordoba, which was considered a personal luxury car. Even more drastic, the Charger suffered the indignity of being transformed into a compact, stylized counterpart to the Dodge Omni before being scrapped entirely in 1987.
Just as has been the case with the new Bronco, the Charger made one hell of a re-entrance upon its return in 2006, decked out with some ultra-potent engine options that have been further enhanced to this day, making both the Charger and Challenger two of the most powerful models currently on the streets today— in their Hellcat configurations, both models hover around 800 horsepower!
Land Rover Defender: 23 years (originally produced 1993-1997, reintroduced 2020)
This pricey, but undisputedly capable SUV from across the pond suffered an unceremonious departure when Land Rover couldn’t rationalize a substantial re-design to properly accommodate airbags for both front passengers and side doors in order to meet U.S. requirements for 1998.
A bit like we’ve seen with the Bronco Sport rolling out before the full size Bronco, the Defender brand was also re-introduced in stages. But while the Bronco Sport is an entirely distinct vehicle from the big Bronco, Land Rover chose to sequentially release two configurations of the same model — a 4-door in 2020 and a 2-door the following year.
Dodge Challenger: 25 years (originally produced 1970-1983, reintroduced 2008-present)
The original Challenger was released for the 1970 model year to more effectively wage war in the muscle car segment. While Dodge’s Charger had already become a coveted vehicle with outstanding straight ahead power — it was featured in the iconic car chase in the 1968 movie “Bullitt” after all — its sheer size and weight made it less than nimble where cornering was concerned.
Enter the Challenger in 1970, which was smaller and lighter than its Dodge stablemate, but looked very similar otherwise. And, just as the Charger had the misfortune of undergoing some less than stellar transformations, so did the Challenger — from 1978 to 1983 it was literally nothing more than a Mitsubishi with Dodge badging. At least Ford had the good sense to maintain the Bronco’s dignity throughout its original 30-year run.
The Challenger returned in 2008 — two model years after its MoPar compadre— and continues to feature its “horsepower, first and foremost” ethic to this day.
Fiat 500: 26 years (originally produced for the U.S. 1957-1975, reintroduced 2011)
Okay, we may be getting a little esoteric here, but this Italian sub sub-compact does have one thing in common with the Ford Bronco, in that both models unabashedly retained the styling that brought them their popularity in the first place upon their return.
Originally known also as the Cinquecento, the diminutive Fiat measured only about nine feet long — that’s overall length, not just wheelbase. Powered by an engine with less than 500cc of displacement — that’s not a misprint — the 500 was arguably the forerunner to some of the “city cars” we see today. It was shelved in 1975 in favor of Fiat’s 126 series, and upon its return, looks almost identical to its first incarnation, although its current 1.4-liter powerplant seems like a big block Hemi in comparison to the original engine.
Toyota Supra 22 years (originally produced for the U. S. 1987-1998, reintroduced 2020-present)
The Supra began its life as the higher-powered variant of Toyota’s Celica before being promoted to its own model in 1987. The very next year, it would hit its zenith as far as both popularity and sheer power, reaching more than 300 horsepower in its factory turbo-charged form and far more in the hands of many aftermarket performance enthusiasts.
A combination of fluctuating tastes and currency variations led to the Supra’s departure in 1998. It recently returned as the by-product of an unusual partnership between Toyota and BMW and has been well-received … and for good reason — it’s an absolute screamer! Car and Driver clocked its 0-60 time in a very impressive 3.8 seconds.
Shelby GT 500 and 350: 30 years plus (GT350 originally produced 1965-1970, reintroduced 2011-2020. GT500 originally produced 1967-1970, reintroduced 2007-present)
It’s hard to believe that new Shelby Mustangs had been absent from the scene for so long, but Ford was forced to shelve both variations of its universally revered powerhouses for a full three decades when its partnership with Carroll Shelby went south.
These enhanced versions of the Ford Mustang debuted in the mid-’60s, with the GT350 rolling out first in 1965. Because the GT500 featured Ford’s big block 428 Interceptor engine that required far more space between the shock towers than did the compact 289 V8, Shelby coordinated its release with that of the bigger, stouter 1967 Mustang and its noticeably more expansive engine bay.
Carroll Shelby parted ways with Ford in the summer of 1969 and wouldn’t rekindle that relationship until 2005. While Shelby passed away in 2012, his namesake performance machines not only survived, but were continually improved over the years following their return. Sadly, the GT350 was discontinued after 2020, but the newest incarnation of the Shelby GT500, powered by a supercharged 5.2-liter "Predator" aluminum-alloy V8 engine, is good for 760 horsepower, as well as an otherworldly 625lb-ft of torque. The Shelby Super Snake carries 40 more horsepower than that. Good luck maintaining the tread on those rear tires!
Jeep Gladiator 31 years (originally produced for the U.S. 1962-1988, reintroduced 2019-present)
Back in the mid-’60s, when Ford introduced the first generation Bronco, it saw fit to offer three different body configurations — one of which was a stout-looking half-cab pickup. The configuration of an SUV with an open bed probably seemed pretty radical at the time, but in reality Jeep had released its own version of the concept some four model years earlier, in the form of the Gladiator. It was a capable vehicle in its own right, though noticeably more primitive than the Bronco as far as the driving experience it offered, and it proved to have some serious staying power, remaining in the Jeep lineup until 1988.
The Gladiator was brought back for the 2019 model year, sharing the same platform as the Wrangler JL and continues to be a popular seller for Jeep.