The Mustang had galloped ponies from the start, but they weren’t the only horses in Ford’s stable. A bucking bronco graced the fenders of the new sports utility for 1966, and would soon be kicking its heels again on the all-new Bronco.
Ford teased us with this for a while, and still had a bit of a wait before we actually saw the beast.
It will be unveiled on Monday, July 13, virtually instead of at a car show due to COVID-19. On that day, you can make a $100 refundable deposit for the order.
It was originally supposed to debut on July 9th, until someone remembered that it was OJ Simpson’s birthday. The former soccer star was accused of murder in 1994, and fled the police in a strange low-speed highway chase in his friend’s white Bronco.
The new Bronco will come in two and four-door models, along with a smaller sibling called the Bronco Sport. It’s aiming for the two larger versions of vehicles like the Jeep’s Wrangler and Toyota 4Runner, while the Sport will tackle the Jeep Compass and Cherokee.
Each Bronco will use a 4×4 system, and Ford is pushing for a “Built Wild” tagline, similar to “Built Ford Tough” for its pickup trucks. According to its marketing department, the “Wild” tagline refers to endurance testing, design innovations, an exclusive terrain management system, and a unique Bronco variant with special suspension and capabilities. It looks similar to Jeep’s “Trail-Rated” badge, which denotes a vehicle that has surpassed specific standards for off-road capability – though Jeep wouldn’t say exactly what those benchmarks are.
The Bronco Sport will arrive later this year, while the two larger Bronco models are expected to appear next spring.
Old Broncos have never been hotter among connoisseurs, especially early ones. At a US auto show I saw a mint condition first-generation example with a $65,000 price tag on it — and people were paying for that and more, according to classic car auctioneer Barrett-Jackson.
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The original Bronco was unveiled on August 11, 1965 as a “completely new line of sports vehicles,” and Ford said its reference to it was the first every automaker refer to something as an “SUV”. The Bronco’s roots lie in World War Two, when Ford was one of three automakers, along with Willys and American Bantam, to build military Jeeps. The Willys trademark name, and civilian models are the ancestors of the Jeep models sold today.
In the early 1960s, Ford surveyed people who owned Jeeps, and International Scouts alike, to find out what they liked and didn’t like about the Jeep. Their size, power, and ride comfort were at the top of their “dislike” list, and Ford decided to build a vehicle with even more on its “likes” list. The codename “Bronco” that was given during its development stuck, and a memo said it had to be GOAT – to “traverse all terrain.”
The former came as a two-door sport-ute; with a pickup truck bed; and as a topless model where the roof and doors are an option. The early six-cylinder engines were later joined by the V8.
Replacement of the next generation was delayed, as gas prices rose and the economy slumped due to the Middle East oil embargo on the US. When it came to 1978, it was bigger and came with a bit more luxury. The timeline delay means its all-new successor, in the works for a while, arrives just two years later — slightly smaller, lighter, and more fuel efficient. All are based on Ford’s full-size F-Series truck platform, which is much smaller than it is today.
Just as the new Bronco would have its smaller Bronco Sport sibling, the more compact Bronco II arrived for 1984, powered by the Ranger truck platform.
The Bronco II disappeared after 1990 to make room for the new Ford Explorer. The Bronco was sent off to pasture after 1996, replaced by the Expedition. Since the first 1966 model, more than 1.14 million Broncos have been built.
Ford is pushing for the Bronco’s new off-road capabilities, and to that end, it will set up four “Off-Roadeos” in the US, with a mix of lanes for varying levels of driver competence. A location hasn’t been determined yet, but while nothing is planned for Canada, those who buy a Bronco here can attend “Roadeo” there. You’ll have to do it yourself and pay for your accommodation, but the event itself is included in the purchase of a two- or four-door Bronco, or with the Bronco Sport Badlands trim level.
And if you want an off-roader but don’t really want to take it off-road yet, fret not. It seems that Ford found a lot of customers worried about damaging their own vehicle if they got off the pavement, so “Roadeo” also provides a Bronco that you will drive.
The Bronco is also always ready for customization, and Ford promises a full range of accessories for this new one. Maybe not the first owner to take them off the beaten track so they don’t get dirty or scratched, but at least they’ll see the pieces until then.