In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the hot car to have for many WWII vets wasn’t a car at all. It was the Jeep that likely saved their lives at least once on the battlefield. Those rugged 4x4s built by Willys and Ford had plenty of pep and excellent maneuverability, but even when new they lacked the creature comforts of most modern vehicles. However, soon after the war, Willys began offering a civilian model of the iconic Jeep, giving way to radios heaters and other desires. Production continued without direct domestic competition until 1961 when International Harvester unleashed the Scout. in 1961. Ford jumped into the sport utility vehicle marketplace on this day in 1965 when it unveiled the Ford Bronco.
Buyers had three body style options for the first generation of the Bronco, including a wagon, a roadster and a pickup. A 2.8 L six cylinder that produced 105 horsepower could be found under the hood of every first run Bronco. More powerful V8 options would become available in the years that followed.
The Evolution of the Ford Bronco
The first generation of the Bronco would remain in production through 1977, a long run for any vehicle. During that time the Bronco even won the iconic Baja 1000 (1969), giving the off road capable vehicle a boost in sales. The new Bronco for 1978 grew in size, but not so much in power. Now sharing a platform with Ford F100 trucks, all Broncos received lackluster V8s to power the big two door bodies with removable hardtops. While the previous generation rolled off the line for more than a decade, gen two production ended after two years.
In 1980 Ford debuted the third generation of the Bronco. Proportionally it resembled its older self, but it did go on a diet. A new suspension set up improved on road handling as well. Ford also brought back six cylinder engine models, but they weren’t exactly gas sippers given the size of the rig. However, a new, more economical option arrived for the 1984 model year.
The Bronco II debuts
In March of 1983 Ford introduced the baby Bronco, officially know as the Ford Bronco II. While the big boys continued to roll off the line, the smaller Ranger based II became an instant hit. The smaller version, despite its strong initial sales, only lasted until 1991, at which point Ford placed its focus on the new Ford Explorer. During that same period the fourth generation of the original Bronco came and went, now riding on the new F-150 platform.
For 1992 FMC rolled out the fifth gen of its big horse. It still rode on the F Series platform and continued to share looks up front, but did receive an upgraded interior. Those subtle changes didn’t carry enough weight with buyers and Ford called it quits on the Bronco in 1996. At least for the time being.
The New Ford Bronco
In 2017 Ford grabbed headlines with the official announcement of a new Bronco. In 2021 The new Bronco and the Bronco Sport finally hit the market. Similar to the 1980s Bronco and Bronco II, the 2021 Bronco played big brother to the Sport. The new Bronco, available as a 2-door and 4-door, features retro styling that pays homage to its original roots, as does its target market, Jeep buyers.
The history of the Ford Bronco is likely far from over, with electric Ford Bronco versions certainly on the horizon. With Volkswagen announcing its new Scout brand, it seems the primary three 4×4 players will be going head to head once again. It’s cool to be old (again).