The 2004 Ford Bronco concept was introduced eight years after the last Bronco was produced and the design of this concept – a boxy exterior and a four-wheel drive powertrain reminded us of the original version that was manufactured from 1966 to 1977. Ever since 2004, many believed that we would see the Bronco on the streets again, but after 12 years that hasn’t happened yet. Now it seems that it is closest to going on sale due to the recent U.A.W-Ford contract and even some speculations suggest that the 2017 Ford Bronco could be introduced as a concept.
The first Bronco was launched 50 years ago, and it immediately took the lead role in the SUV segment. Unfortunately, this car left a bad reputation once it was taken off the market, but nowadays it is one of the most iconic vehicles in the auto industry, and first-generation trucks with a 4WD are the most collectible ones.
Back in the 1960s, you could find cars such as Kaiser-Jeep CJ-5, International Harvester Scout, Chevrolet El Camino and Ford Ranchero. These cars were great and they combined a car-like ride with truck qualities, but driving these models off-road was a bit tricky. That is when Ford produced a vehicle that changed the US industry. About that time, the off-roading saw an increase in popularity and it was an opportunity for many car makers to insert themselves to this segment. Besides the CJ-5 and Scout mentioned above, you could also find Land Rover and Toyota Land Cruiser and the off-road driving couldn’t go unnoticed by Ford.
Lee Iacocca and Donald Frey, famous for the Mustang, became interested in a compact truck that would transport people to their workplace during the week but that is also capable on the slippery roads, desert, and rock crawling during the weekends. They talked with over 300 members of off-road clubs in order to see what the public wanted, and it turned up that they asked for a 4×4 that combines modern and rugged.
The Bronco borrowed the 170-cubic inch inline-six from the Falcon as well as the axles and brakes from the F-100 pickup. However, a body, suspension, and frame were completely unique, and it came out in three different body styles – a hardtop wagon, a capped pickup with a short bed and a roadster, which would be a rival to the CJ-5. August 1965 was the right time for the Bronco to appear because the popularity of the 4×4 vehicles was soaring high.
The starting price of the Roadster and the Wagon was $2,404 and $2,625 respectively, and in its first year, the sales of Bronco reached 23,766 units. Compared to the Mustang’s 607,568 units, this was a drop in the ocean, but Car Life wrote after the test of Bronco: “The Bronco can tote grub from the general store or pack the young ‘uns off to the schoolhouse. In a pinch, the Bronco can help with the spring plowing. Best of all about the Bronco is that West of the Pecos rodeo aura that makes a driver shout, ‘Eeeeeaaaaayyhhooo!’ as he plows four-wheel full tilt through a mountain stream or breaks airborne over a mountain top.”
The new Ford Bronco was more refined than the Jeep and the Scout, and it offered a back seat, heater, radio, tow hooks and chrome bumpers as optional parts. It was one of the most versatile trucks in the US at that time. However, once Chevrolet Blazer went on sale in 1969 things have changed. Hemmings Classic Car wrote: “The Blazer’s option sheet was dripping with creature comforts that the Bronco wasn’t delivering: power steering, power brakes, air conditioning, an automatic transmission and even a four-speed manual floor shift. The Blazer’s knockout blow was the available 255hp four-barrel 350-cu.in. V-8, which was an extra-cost option above the optional two-barrel 200hp 307-cu.in. V-8. The base engine in the Blazer was the 155hp 250-cu.in straight-six.”
By 1973, the Bronco struggled in a fight against Blazer, GMC Jimmy, and the Dodge Ramcharger. Moreover, Hemmings pointed out: “…near the end of the first-generation Bronco’s run in 1976, Chevrolet was selling 74,389 Blazers versus Ford’s 13,625 Broncos.” In order to stay competitive, Ford assembled a new Bronco on a shortened Ford F-100 platform, and they abandoned the original truck.
The new model was more powerful, and Ford managed to sell 69,120 units in 1978. In the 1980s the popularity of the SUVs decreased and in 1983 the Bronco II model was released which looked like the original truck, but the ride resembled the ride of the full-size model. This version should go against Chevrolet S-10 Blazer, GMC S-15 Jimmy and Jeep’s new Cherokee, a unibody 4WD soft-roader that had a car-like feel when it was driven on normal roads. In 1990 Explorer replaced the Bronco II, and the new model became one of Ford’s best-selling vehicles. Fewer than 30,000 units a year of the Bronco were sold, whereas the Explorer passed the 400,000 mark per year. In 1997 the nine-passenger Ford Excursion came instead of the Bronco, which became a history, but it was remembered as an iconic truck.
The new 21st century Ford Bronco is going to be produced by 2022, at least we hope. It will be based on the Ranger pickup, which means that it will remind us of the original model. We would really like to see Bronco on the market once more, but there is a long road ahead of Blue Oval.