The Ford Bronco is a model line of sport utility vehicles manufactured and marketed by Ford. The first SUV model developed by the company, five generations of the Bronco were sold from the 1966 to 1996 model years. A sixth generation of the model line is sold from the 2021 model year. The nameplate has been used on other Ford SUVs, including the 1984-1990 Ford Bronco II compact SUV and the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport compact CUV.
Originally developed as a compact off-road vehicle using its own chassis, the Bronco initially competed against the Jeep CJ-5 and International Harvester Scout. For 1978, Ford enlarged the Bronco, making it a short-wheelbase version of the F-Series pickup truck; the full-size Bronco competed against the Chevrolet K5 Blazer and Dodge Ramcharger.
Following a decline in demand for large two-door SUVs, Ford discontinued the Bronco after the 1996 model year, replacing it with the four-door Ford Expedition; followed by the larger Ford Excursion. After a 25-year hiatus, the sixth-generation Bronco is now for the first time a mid-size two-door SUV, also offered as a 16 in (41 cm) longer wheelbase, full-size four-door, competing directly with the Jeep Wrangler as both a two-door and a four-door (hardtop) convertible.
First generation (1966)
The idea behind the Bronco began with Ford product manager Donald N. Frey in the early 1960s (who also conceived the Ford Mustang) and engineered by Ford engineer Paul G. Axelrad, with Lee Iacocca approving the final model for production in February 1964, after the first clay models were built in mid-1963. Developed as an off-road vehicle (ORV), the Bronco was intended as a competitor for the Jeep CJ-5, International Harvester Scout and Toyota Land Cruiser. Today a compact SUV in terms of size, Ford marketing shows a very early example of promoting a civilian off-roader as a "Sports Utility" (the two-door pickup version).
Initially selling well, following the introduction of the Chevrolet Blazer, Jeep Cherokee, and International Scout II (from 1969 to 1974), demand shifted towards SUVs with better on-road capability, leading to a decline in demand for the Bronco.
The first-generation Bronco is built upon a chassis developed specifically for the model range, shared with no other Ford or Lincoln-Mercury vehicle. Built on a 92-inch wheelbase (sized between the CJ-5 and Scout; only an inch shorter than the later CJ-7), the Bronco used box-section body-on-frame construction.
To simplify production, all examples were sold with four-wheel drive; a shift-on the-fly Dana 20 transfer case and locking hubs were standard. The rear axle was a Ford 9-inch axle, with Hotchkiss drive and leaf springs; the front axle was a Dana 30, replaced by a Dana 44 in 1971. In contrast to the Twin I-Beams of larger Ford trucks, the Bronco used radius arms to locate the coil-sprung front axle, along with a lateral track bar, allowing for a 34-foot turning circle, long wheel travel, and antidive geometry (useful for snowplowing). A heavier-duty suspension system was an option, along with air front springs.
At its August 1965 launch, the Bronco was offered with a 170-cubic-inch inline six. Derived from the Ford Falcon, the 105-hp engine was modified with solid valve lifters, a 6-US-quart (6 L) oil pan, heavy-duty fuel pump, oil-bath air cleaner, and carburetor with a float bowl compensated against tilting. In March 1966, a 200-hp 289-cubic-inch V8 was introduced as an option. For the 1969 model year, the 289 V8 was enlarged to 302 cubic inches, remaining through the 1977 model year. For 1973, a 200 cubic-inch inline six became the standard engine, offered through 1977.
To lower production costs, at its launch, the Bronco was offered solely with a three-speed, column-shifted manual transmission and floor-mounted transfer case shifter (with a floor-mounted transmission shifter later becoming a popular modification). In 1973, in response to buyer demand, a three-speed automatic transmission was offered as an option.
In a central theme of the first-generation Bronco, styling was subordinated to simplicity and economy, so all glass was flat, bumpers were straight C-sections, and the left and right door skins were symmetrical (prior to the fitment of door-mounting hardware).
For 1966, three Bronco body configurations were offered, including a two-door wagon and half-cab pickup, and open-body roadster. At its $2,194 base price ($17,507 in 2018 dollars), the Bronco included few amenities as standard. However, a large number of options were offered through both Ford and its dealers, including front bucket seats, a rear bench seat, a tachometer, and a CB radio, as well as functional items such as a tow bar, an auxiliary gas tank, a power take-off, a snowplow, a winch, and a posthole digger. Aftermarket accessories included campers, overdrive units, and the usual array of wheels, tires, chassis, and engine parts for increased performance.
For 1967, Ford introduced the Sport option package for the Bronco wagon. Consisting primarily of chrome exterior trim and wheelcovers, the Sport package was distinguished by red-painted FORD grille lettering. For 1970, the Bronco Sport became a freestanding model rather than an option package.
To comply with federal regulations, the Bronco was fitted with backup lights and side marker lamps (in 1967 and 1968, respectively). After struggling with sales, the open-body Bronco roadster was withdrawn after the 1968 model year.
After 1972, the Bronco half-cab was withdrawn; along with its lower sales compared to the wagon, Ford had introduced the larger Ford Courier compact pickup.
In a minor revision, for 1977, the exterior-mounted fuel tank caps were replaced behind hinged doors (as on all other Ford trucks).
Initially offered as a single trim level with a long option list, for 1967, Ford introduced the Sport option package for the Bronco wagon. Consisting primarily of chrome exterior trim and wheelcovers, the Sport package was distinguished by red-painted FORD grille lettering. For 1970, the Bronco Sport became a freestanding model rather than an option package.
For 1972, in line with the F-Series trucks, the Ranger trim became the top-of-the-line Bronco, offering body stripes, model-specific wheel covers, cloth seats, woodgrain door panels, and carpeted interior.
In a 1975 interior revision, the Bronco Sport and Bronco Ranger adapted the two-spoke steering wheel from the F-Series.
In 1965, race car builder Bill Stroppe assembled a team of Broncos for long-distance off-road competition. Partnering with Holman-Moody, the Stroppe/Holman/Moody (SHM) Broncos competed in the Mint 400, Baja 500, and Mexican 1000 (later named the Baja 1000). In 1969, SHM again entered a team of six Broncos in the Baja 1000. In 1971, a "Baja Bronco" package was marketed through Ford dealers, featuring quick-ratio power steering, automatic transmission, fender flares covering Gates Commando tires, a roll bar, reinforced bumpers, a padded steering wheel, and distinctive red, white, blue, and black paint. Priced at US$5,566, versus the standard V8 Bronco price of $3,665, only 650 were sold over the next four years.
In 1966, a Bronco "funny car" built by Doug Nash for the quarter-mile dragstrip finished with a few low 8-second times, but it was sidelined by sanctioning organizations when pickups and aluminum frames were outlawed.
Second generation (1978)
For the 1978 model year, the second-generation Bronco was introduced; to better compete with the Chevrolet K5 Blazer, Dodge Ramcharger, and Jeep Cherokee, the Bronco entered the full-size SUV segment. In place of a model-specific chassis, the Bronco was adapted directly from the Ford F-Series, becoming a shortened version of the F-100 4x4. Originally intended for a 1974 launch, the second-generation Bronco (named "Project Shorthorn" during its development) was postponed to 1978 in response to fuel economy concerns related to the 1973 fuel crisis; the second-generation Bronco was released for sale after development was nearly finalized on its 1980 successor.
In a notable break from a period of downsizing in the American automotive industry, the second-generation Bronco grew significantly in size, adding 12 inches of wheelbase, approximately 28 inches of length, 11 inches of width, and 4 inches of height; based on powertrain configuration, the Bronco gained 1,100 to 1,600 pounds of curb weight over its predecessor.
The second-generation Bronco marks the introduction of design commonality with the Ford F-Series and retained the lift-off hardtop bodystyle for the three-door wagon, though now fiberglass over the rear seat area only (and not a full-length steel top), continued through the 1996 withdrawal of the model line. In spite of its short production cycle (only two years), the second-generation Bronco proved successful, overtaking the Blazer and Ramcharger in sales for the first time; initial demand was so strong that customers waited several months to receive vehicles from dealers.
The second generation Bronco is based on the Ford F-100 pickup truck chassis (1973–1979 sixth generation). Approximately one foot shorter than the shortest F-100, the Bronco has a 104-inch wheelbase (12 inches longer than the previous Bronco). The second generation Bronco is still fitted exclusively with four-wheel drive; a part-time system was standard with a New Process 205 gear-driven transfer case with the option of permanent four-wheel drive and a New Process 203 chain-driven transfer case.
The second generation Bronco has a coil-sprung Dana 44 front axle and a leaf-sprung rear Ford 9-inch axle (similar to the later first generation Broncos). The first and second generation Broncos both have non-independent front suspension (solid front axle). Third generation and later have the Ford/Dana twin traction beam independent front suspension system.
Two different V8 engines were offered for the second generation Bronco: the 5.8L 351M and the 6.6L 400. While offering virtually the same horsepower output, the 400 produced a higher torque output over the 351M. As the 460 V8 was restricted to rear-wheel drive F-Series trucks, it was not offered in the Bronco.
|1978–1979 Ford Bronco powertrain details|
|Ford 351M (335/Cleveland) V8||1978–1979||352 cu in (5.8 L) 16-valve V8||2-bbl||156 hp (1978)
158 hp (1979)
|Ford 400 (335/Cleveland) V8||402 cu in (6.6 L) 16-valve V8||2-bbl||158 hp (1978)
156 hp (1979)
Replacing the multiple body configurations of the first generation, the second-generation Bronco was offered solely as a 3-door wagon with a lift-off rear hardtop. During its development as Project Shorthorn, a central requirement by Ford was to adopt bodywork from the F-100 with minimal modification. As with its chassis, the second-generation Bronco derives much of its body from the F-Series truck line, sharing the doors, front roofline and sheetmetal, and interior with the F-Series.
Retaining the wagon body from its predecessor, Ford designers shifted from a full-length hardtop (as with the previous Bronco and on the Jeep CJ-7) to a lift-off hardtop from behind the B-pillars. Designed by Dick Nesbitt, the configuration achieved higher commonality with the F-100 (sharing the doors and overhead roof stamping); attention was focused on minimizing leaks around the top seals (a problem related to the design of the K5 Blazer hardtop of the time). In a configuration similar to the Ford LTD Country Squire, the glass of the rear window rolled down into the tailgate (via a dash-mounted switch or from using the key on the outside), allowing the tailgate to fold down.
Coinciding with its commonality with the F-100, the second-generation Bronco introduced features new to the model line for the first time, including air conditioning, radio, and tilt steering. While a two-seat interior remained standard, the 11-inch wider interior allowed for a three-passenger front bench seat; with a folding and removable rear seat, the Bronco became a six-passenger vehicle for the first time.
For 1979, the Bronco saw little change from 1978 models. Along with the F-Series, rectangular headlamps (introduced on the Ranger trim for 1978) became standard on all Broncos. In an interior revision, captain's chair front seats became an option.
For the second-generation Bronco, the model line adopted the same trim nomenclature as the F-Series. The Bronco Custom served as the standard-trim model with the Bronco Ranger XLT as the top-level trim. For 1978, as with the F-Series trucks, Customs were fitted with round headlamps while Ranger XLTs had rectangular units, which became standard for all Broncos for 1979.
During 1978 and 1979, alongside the Econoline, F-Series, and Courier, the Bronco was sold with a "Free-Wheelin'" cosmetic option package for both Custom and Ranger XLT trims. Featuring tricolor striping and blacked-out exterior trim, the package featured revised exterior striping for 1979.
|1978–1979 Ford Bronco production|
Third generation (1980)
Beginning production development in 1977 (before its predecessor was released for sale) the 1980–1986 Bronco was designed to address many concerns that held the 1978–1979 Bronco out of production. Nominally shorter and lighter, the 1980 Bronco was designed to adopt a more efficient powertrain while retaining its full-size dimensions.
In 1982, the Ford Bronco II made its debut; unrelated to the full-size Bronco, the Bronco II was a compact SUV based on a shortened Ranger pickup truck and sized similarly to the 1966–1977 Bronco.
Again based on the Ford F-Series, the 1980–1986 Bronco is based upon the Ford F-150 (1980–1986 seventh generation). Although based on an all-new chassis, the Bronco retained its 104 in (2,642 mm) wheelbase. Ford engineers attempting to get as much fuel economy from weight reduction of 375 lb (170 kg) curb weight from the previous year, the 1980-81 models had a much weaker frame with holes stamped out at the factory. This extra lightened frame was dropped in 1982 for more strength and rigidity gaining 31 lb (14 kg) curb weight. Both transfer cases were replaced with a New Process 208 or Borg Warner 1345 version.
In front, the 1980–1986 Bronco is fitted with a Dana 44 front axle with Ford TTB (Twin Traction Beam) independent front suspension. As with the 1978–1979 Bronco, the rear axle was first a leaf-sprung Ford 9-inch axle in early models, however Ford transitioned all half ton trucks to their 8.8 rear axle by the end of 1986.
For the first time since 1977, the Bronco came with an inline-six engine as standard; the 4.9L 300 I6 was available solely with a manual transmission. The 400 V8 was discontinued, with the 351M taking its place and the 302 V8 making its return as the base-equipment V8. The 351 Windsor made its debut in the Bronco as it replaced the 351M in 1982; gaining a 210 hp "high-output" version in 1984. In 1985, the 5.0L V8 (302) saw its carburetor replaced by a multiport electronic fuel-injection system, rising to 190 hp (the standard 156 hp 5.8L V8 was discontinued for 1986).
As with its 1978–1979 predecessor, the 1980–1986 Bronco shares much of its external sheetmetal with the F-Series pickup line, with the same parts from the doors forward. Based on a design proposal originally used in the development of the previous-generation Bronco, the B-pillar of the roofline was modified slightly to produce an improved seal for the hardtop. Prior to 1984, the hardtop included sliding window glass as an option.
For 1982, the Bronco saw a slight facelift as it adopted Ford's blue oval emblem, taking the place of "F-O-R-D" lettering on the hood, and the bronco horse was removed from the fender emblems.
The 1980–1986 Bronco adopted the same trim levels as the Ford F-Series pickups. Following the introduction of the Ford Ranger compact pickup, the Bronco adopted Bronco (base, replacing Custom), Bronco XL, and Bronco XLT.
|1980–1986 Ford Bronco production|
Outside of the US, the third generation Bronco was also assembled in Australia by Ford Australia, utilizing locally produced 4.1-litre six-cylinder and 5.8-litre V8 engines. It was marketed in Australia from March 1981 through to 1987.
Fourth generation (1987)
For the 1987 model year, the fourth-generation Bronco was designed as a short-wheelbase version of the eighth-generation Ford F-150. Sharing its chassis with the previous generation, the 1987 Bronco was given a number of updates to both the exterior and interior. Sharing a common front fascia with the F-Series, the Bronco received a reshaped front bumper, flatter front grille, and reshaped hood; composite headlamps replaced the previous sealed-beam units. In another body revision, the wheel openings were reshaped. The interior was given redesigned front seats, door panels, dashboard and controls (including a new steering wheel), and instrument panels.
The Bronco returned its 4.9L inline-6, 5.0L V8, and the 5.8L H.O. V8 engines from the previous generations; first introduced on the 5.0L V8 in 1985, fuel injection was added to the inline-6 for 1987 and to the 5.8L V8 for 1988. For the 1988 model year, a Mazda-sourced 5-speed manual was introduced. The 3-speed C6 automatic was offered from 1987 to 1990, phased out in favor of the overdrive-equipped 4-speed AOD (1990 only) and heavier-duty E4OD (1990-1991).
In the interest of safety, rear-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) became standard for the 1987 model. As an option, push-button control was introduced for the four-wheel drive system for 1987. For 1988, skid plates for the transfer case became standard equipment.
To commemorate 25 years of production, Ford offered a Silver Anniversary Edition Bronco for the 1991 model year. A cosmetic option package, the Silver Anniversary Edition featured Currant Red exterior paint (package exclusive) and a gray leather interior (the first time leather seating was available for a Bronco).
For 1991 through 1992, the Nite option package featured a completely blacked-out exterior with contrasting graphics. Alongside the top-line Eddie Bauer trim, both special editions were available only with a V8 engine and automatic transmission.
|1987–1991 Ford Bronco production|
Fifth generation (1992)
For the 1992 model year, the fifth-generation Bronco followed the design development of the ninth-generation Ford F-150. Again retaining the chassis introduced for the 1980 model year, the front fascia of the Bronco adopted additional aerodynamic revisions. While designed with a larger grille, front bumper, and headlight units, the front fascia was given a slightly rounded design.
The interior again saw updates to the dashboard and instrument panel, with the addition of leather front seats as an option for XLT and Eddie Bauer trims as well as optional remote keyless entry with an anti-theft alarm. Maroon and blue leather seats were offered from 1992 through the end of production. After having power windows and locks as an option throughout the 1980s, power mirrors were offered for the first time for 1992. For 1996, the Ford Bronco became the first Ford vehicle to incorporate turn signal lights into its side mirrors.
The fifth generation introduced additional changes related to safety. 4-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS) replaced rear-wheel ABS for 1993, with a driver-side airbag introduced for 1994. The redesign included a safety front crumple zone into the frame  and a center-mounted brake light to the hardtop; the hardtop was now the mounting point of 3-point seatbelts for the rear passengers.
In the aftermath of the safety upgrades, the Bronco was no longer able to be marketed as a lift-off hardtop (from a legal standpoint). While still physically possible, the hardtop contained the upper mounts for the now required 3 point seat seatbelts and the required center brake light was mounted above the rear window on this hardtop (unlike Jeep mounting the 3rd brake light to the spare tire). To discourage owners from doing removing the hardtop, Ford removed all literature in the vehicle owner's manual related its removal. To further inhibit its removal, Ford secured the hardtop in place with #40 Security Torx bolts, instead of the standard bolts used on previous model years. Removal of the hardtop could lead to a traffic citation, for tampering with the center brake light and/or inoperable rear seatbelts, depending on local and State laws.
The fifth-generation Bronco carried over the previous 4.9L inline-6, 5.0L V8, and the 5.8L H.O. V8 engines from the previous generation. For 1994, the Bronco became powered solely by V8 engines, as the 4.9L inline-6 was withdrawn from the model line. For 1996, the two V8 powertrains became OBD-II compliant.
The monochrome Nite edition was again available, though 1992 was its last offering. Monochrome paint versions were reintroduced from 1993 (1994 model) to 1996, as the XLT Sport variant of the Bronco available in black, red, or white. Another variant of the XLT was a two-tone light teal green and white (charcoal gray interior); approximately 600 were produced each year.
The Eddie Bauer outdoors-themed edition made its return, offered from 1992 to 1996. Again combining nearly every option for the Bronco with a trim-specific exterior and interior combination, the Bronco Eddie Bauer introduced an overhead console for 1994 along with lighted sun visors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror (both offered as option on the XLT). For 1995, the Eddie Bauer saw the addition of front bumper vents (added to the XLT for 1996).
The last fifth-generation Bronco built rolled off the Wayne, Michigan assembly line on June 12, 1996. According to Ford, the discontinuation of the model line was unrelated to any stigma created from the then-recent O.J. Simpson police chase, as sales of the model line had been in decline previous to the incident. To better compete with the Chevrolet/GMC Suburban and the Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon, Ford introduced the Ford Expedition for 1997 to replace the Bronco.
Following the lineage of the 1978-1996 Bronco, the Expedition was derived from the tenth-generation F-150, but shifted from a two-door body with a lift-off hardtop to a five-door wagon/SUV body, slotted above the Ranger-based Ford Explorer.
Centurion Classic (1987–1996)
A four-door Ford competitor for the Chevrolet Suburban was not released until the introduction of the Expedition for the 1997 model year (and the 2000 Excursion, competing against the ¾-ton version). As the Bronco was produced solely as a two-door wagon after 1972, all four-door Broncos were developed and produced on a license-built basis by the aftermarket.
During the 1980s and early 1990s, Centurion Vehicles, a converter specializing in Ford trucks based in White Pigeon, Michigan, constructed the Centurion Classic, a four-door version of the fourth- and fifth-generation Bronco. In the construction of each Classic, Centurion would mate the cab of an F-Series crew-cab pickup (from the C-pillar forward) to body of a Bronco (from the B-pillar rearward), including the rear quarter panels, hardtop, and tailgate of the SUV. Early models used fiberglass rear body panels, but later, these were made from steel. As the body conversion retained the rear seat of the Bronco, a Centurion Classic was equipped with three-row seating for up to nine people.
Centurion Vehicles offered two models of the Classic: the C-150 (based on the Ford F-150 chassis, with optional four-wheel drive) and the C-350 (based on the F-350, four-wheel drive was standard). Both models used a 140-inch wheelbase (9 inches longer than the Suburban); as the F-150 was not produced as a crew cab, a C-150 was constructed from three different vehicles (crew cab, Bronco rear, and F-150 frame). In contrast to the ¾-ton Suburban 2500, the C-350 Classic utilized a one-ton chassis. The C-150 was offered with 5.0L and 5.8L V8 engines; the C-350 used the 7.3L diesel V8 and 7.5L gasoline V8 (the only Bronco variants to use these engines).
The Centurion Classic was offered until the end of Bronco production in 1996; though the Bronco was directly replaced by the Expedition, the C-150/C-350 is closest in size to the Ford Excursion introduced for the 2000 model year. As of current production, the C-350 is the only SUV produced on a one-ton chassis (the 2000–2005 Ford Excursion was produced on a ¾-ton chassis).
O.J. Simpson chase
The Ford Bronco gained notoriety on June 17, 1994, when Al Cowlings drove his white 1993 Bronco XLT with his accused friend O.J. Simpson in the back seat, in a low-speed police chase on Interstate 405, ending in his eventual surrender. The incident was shown on television worldwide, with approximately 95 million Americans watching live.
Sixth generation (U725; 2021)
Ford released its sixth generation Bronco for model year 2021, after a 25-year hiatus of the Bronco nameplate. Styling recalls many elements from the 1966–1977 series, and the design chief's 1976 Bronco was digitally scanned as a reference during the design process. Conceived as a direct competitor to the Jeep Wrangler, the Bronco is offered in a two and four door SUV, each reconfigurable as a convertible. Moreover, just like on a Wrangler, the doors can easily be removed, but unlike the Jeep's, the Bronco's doors are frameless, and with the door-glass wound down, the doors can be carried in dedicated covers, within the vehicle, while riding door-less. A "Bronco" and a "bucking horse" emblem on the tailgate and steering wheel replace the Ford Blue Oval. The Bronco is now a mid-size SUV, bringing its chassis and powertrain closer in size to the Ford Ranger.
The potential revival of the Bronco came up in 2016 negotiations between Ford and the UAW. At the time, it was discussed that Michigan Assembly would cancel production of the fourth-generation Ford Focus and the C-Max, which would move to Mexico. The UAW ultimately announced the factory would remain open, to be retooled for the revival of the Ford Ranger in North America and the Ford Bronco. The Bronco was developed as Ford expected the Ranger would not be enough to fill factory capacity, and needed a second model to be built alongside it.
While Ford did not share future product plans with the UAW, the company confirmed the return of the Bronco at the 2017 North American International Auto Show. Packaged as a direct competitor to the Jeep Wrangler, Ford announced two and four-door variants. Intended for a 2021 model year release, the sixth generation would be based on the Ford Ranger, retaining body-on-frame construction. In contrast to the Ford Everest sold overseas, the Bronco would receive a distinct body recalling the first generation with further off-road capability.
Ford showed a pre-production prototype to a group of dealers in March 2019. On November 1, 2019, an announcement was made for a spring 2020 reveal, intended for the 2021 model year. Originally scheduled for a March 2020 unveiling, the Bronco was unveiled on July 13, 2020, following multiple delays, mostly in relation to the global COVID-19 pandemic; Ford unintentionally scheduled the unveiling for July 9 (the date of O.J. Simpson's birthday). On March 27, 2021, at the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auto Auction, the first production Bronco, a First Edition, sold for $1,075,000 with all the funds going to a charity Ford helped establish to help preserve forests.
When the reveal officially premiered, Ford accepted $100 reservations, with production scheduled for 2021.
The take rate for the seven-speed manual transmission was reported to be around 15% for the initial orders.
The standard engine is a 2.3-liter turbocharged EcoBoost inline-four that makes 300 hp (304 PS; 224 kW) and 325 lb⋅ft (441 N⋅m; 45 kg⋅m) of torque. A 2.7-liter twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V6 is optional; the larger variant makes 330 hp (335 PS; 246 kW) and 415 lb⋅ft (563 N⋅m; 57 kg⋅m) of torque. The 2.7-liter V6 is only available with a 10-speed automatic transmission while the 2.3-liter can be mated with either the 10-speed automatic or a standard 7-speed Getrag manual. Despite the nomenclature, the Getrag transmission is not a true seven-speed transmission, instead being a traditional six-speed unit with a dedicated crawler gear (the "C" on the shift knob) as the "seventh gear".
Recalling the original Bronco Roadster, removable doors with frameless glass combined with a detachable roof allow open-air driving on both two- and four-door models, each with both a 11.6 in (295 mm) ground clearance. Doors can be user-removed and stored in the rear cargo area, and the leading edge of the front fenders feature raised black brackets, called trail sights, to facilitate navigation and serve as tie-downs and accessory mounts.
The body-on-frame construction uses front twin A-arm independent suspension and a rear five-link coilover suspension and a solid axle. The optional HOSS (High-Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension) setup replaces these with position-sensitive Bilstein shocks, with multiple compression and rebound zones, at all four corners. The front sway bar features a hydraulic disconnect to increase articulation when crawling, automatically reconnecting when brought back to speed. An option package, marketed as Sasquatch, includes a mild suspension lift, and 35-inch tires - the largest of any production vehicle besides the upcoming 3rd generation Ford Raptor, which has optional 37-inch tires.
Standard equipment includes Dana axles with front and rear electronic differentials, both user-lockable via dashboard switches. The drivetrain can toggle between 4WD Low, 4WD High, 4WD Automatic, and 2WD High (rear-wheel drive), controlled by a dial near the gear selector rather than a secondary shifter aside the main shift lever.
Optional equipment includes a terrain management system, marketed as "G.O.A.T. Modes" (Goes Over Any Type of Terrain). The system calibrates throttle response, four-wheel drive, traction control, and transmission shifts to maximize traction when offroading. Up to seven modes are available with this system: Normal, Eco, Sport, Slippery, and Sand, along with Baja, Mud and Ruts, and Rock Crawl. The available Trail One-Pedal Drive automatically applies and holds the brakes when the driver lifts off the gas pedal, removing the need for left-foot braking and preventing unexpected rollbacks. The sixth-generation Bronco also offers Trail Turn Assist, which utilizes the torque-vectoring system to help the vehicle turn in tight offroad corners.
An optional topographical map software, marketed as Trail Maps, allows owners to share smartphone-downloaded topo maps to the vehicle's In-car entertainment system and record videos of trail runs, display telemetry or map data, and upload to the cloud. The sixth generation features a tray that slides from under the rear cargo compartment. An action mount on the front dash to allow for phone and camera mounting, waterproof switches and rubber floors are also available.
Concepts and prototypes
1966 Bronco Dune Duster
For the 1965 Detroit Auto Show Ford constructed a special Bronco roadster. According to Ford,
A special, customized version of Ford Division's 1966 Bronco, the Dune Duster, will be displayed at the Detroit Auto Show from November 27 through December 5. The utility/sports-type vehicle was designed in Ford's Styling Center in Dearborn and built by Parris Kustom in North Hollywood, California. Exterior paint is a specially formulated Golden Saddle Pearl and modifications include an NHRA-approved roll bar with integral headrests, a windshield designed to complement the contour of the roll bar, walnut appliques on the rear side panels and exposed chrome exhaust pipes. Custom interior appointments include a walnut steering wheel and front bucket seats with russet suede bolsters and perforated leather cushions and seatbacks. The instrument panel is trimmed with suede padding and outfitted with walnut-trimmed control knobs. Jump seats have been added to the rear compartment over the wheels and a tonneau cover for rear compartment protection was added for attachment with quick-fastening snaps.
1970 Bronco Wildflower
For 1970, Ford re-dressed the Dune Duster as the Wildflower:
The Wildflower, a specially customized version of Ford Division's popular four-wheel-drive Bronco, is sure to be one of the most colorful show cars on display at automobile shows this year. The unique vehicle, planned in Ford's Design Center in Dearborn, Mich., was extensively modified, inside and out, to achieve a lively carefree appearance with added luxury and safety features. The dominant exterior characteristic of the Wildflower is the lively multi-colored paint treatment. The psychedelic design of blues, yellows and reds is topped off by a pink grille.
1973 Big Bronco prototypes
In 1973, Ford Advanced Light Truck Engineering developed four future Ford Bronco prototypes. To better match the market success of the Chevrolet Blazer, Ford required its designers to shift from a dedicated chassis used by the model line to a shortened F-100 as the basis for a future Bronco. Dubbed "Project Shorthorn", the prototype was constructed using the top and tailgate from a Chevrolet K5 Blazer, mating it to a shortened-wheelbase F-100. While the use of Chevrolet components was used purely for proof of concept, further development by Ford adopted a half-cab design (one design objective was the use of F-Series doors, along with a removable top).
Project Shorthorn was among four prototypes, alongside Longhorn (a four-door wagon-style SUV, similar to the Chevrolet Suburban), Midhorn (sized between the Jeep Wagoneer and International Travelall; a precursor to the Chevrolet Tahoe), and the Widehorn (a wide-body F-100 4x4, a precursor to the Ford Raptor).
As the development of Project Shorthorn happened during the OPEC oil crisis, the model program was postponed to the 1978 model year as Ford sought a more promising outcome. While the Longhorn/Midhorn four-door wagons saw a positive response, they were ultimately shelved, as the Project Shorthorn was introduced for only a two-year production (before a full redesign). Ford would not produce a production four-door SUV until the 1991 Ford Explorer (smaller than the Midhorn) and the 1997 Ford Expedition (between the Midhorn and Longhorn in size).
1981 Bronco Montana Lobo
Built on a 1977 Bronco chassis, it included "a pair of expansive Plexiglas bubble doors that were removable and that had a vague resemblance to the expanse of clear plastic that passed for four-weather doors on the Dune Duster. It included a rollbar that – though likely not NHRA certified and though integrated with side louvers and lights – still had a rough airfoil shape like the Dune Duster's. It included side pipes like the Dune Duster's. It included fold-up bench seats for bed seating like the Dune Duster's In addition, the Montana Lobo included foam bumpers, a winch integrated into the front bumper, a retractable loading ramp built into the tailgate, storage compartments integrated into the bed sides, a T-top roof, and a massive tinted window between the cab and the bed that slid open."
1988 Bronco DM-1
Built on a Ford Escort platform, the DM-1 concept was a "4-wheel drive concept vehicle was the winning design in a Ford sponsored contest for industrial art students. Mr. Derek Millsap, who created the 5-seat sport-utility vehicle, lent his initials to the Bronco DM-1 name. The bulbous body was made of steel-reinforced fiberglass, and the large hatch extended into the roof."
In 1999, a new Bronco was secretly developed under Moray Callum, as a simple inexpensive off-roader in the spirit of the first generation Bronco, rather than the later full-size models. Planned as a 2-door and 4-door, it was codenamed U260, U meaning utility, 2 meaning 2-door, and 60 referring to the Ford Ranger's T6 platform it would have used. Land Rover underpinnings were considered but was deemed too costly. The project did not progress to a drivable state and was cancelled in 2001 due to company cutbacks stemming from the Firestone and Ford tire incident. The project was publicly revealed for the first time in the leadup to the sixth gen Bronco's release, with a full-size research model displayed at the 2021 Concours d’Elegance Of America.
2004 Bronco Concept
At the 2004 North American International Auto Show, a Ford Bronco concept vehicle was unveiled. Inspired by the first-generation (1966–1977) Ford Bronco, the 2004 concept adapted a short wheelbase, round headlamps, and squared-off roofline; the concept marked one of the first uses of a three-bar grille on Ford vehicles. Using a minimalist exterior design, the Bronco design was unveiled alongside a Shelby Cobra Concept at the same show.
Using the Ford CD2 platform of the Ford Escape, the Bronco concept was powered by a 2.0L four-cylinder turbodiesel (from the Ford Mondeo) and a six-speed manual transmission. Replacing ControlTrac II, an "Intelligent" 4-wheel drive system was intended for improved stability and fuel economy.
A new production Bronco was attempted in 2006, adapting the Bronco concept's design over the International Ford Ranger's chassis. It was to be exported to the US from South Africa, where it would have been built alongside the Ranger in Pretoria. It was cancelled as it was seen as a risk due to rising gas prices, slowing SUV sales and weakening economy ahead of the Great Recession.
2013 Expedition "special edition” concept
Ford marketer Mark Grueber spoke of a Ford Expedition show build concept that wore an intentionally nondescript rear Bronco badge, solely to prevent expiration of the Bronco trademark. It is unclear which concept he is referring to.
2020 Bronco R Prototype
At the 2019 Baja 1000, Ford introduced the Ford Bronco R prototype with the drivetrain of the new as-yet unreleased 2021 Bronco with the intent of testing the engine, transmission and four wheel drive system to be used in the production-spec sixth-generation Bronco. The Baja 1000 was thought to be the perfect test for the new off-road vehicle Ford is producing, with 1000 miles of some of the world's roughest terrain. The 2020 race was also tougher after being delayed for 24 hours due to excessive rainfall in the days before the event. With the excessive rainfall, one of the Class One co-drivers Ford used in the race referred to it as the "Mud Bog 1000". While the Bronco R prototype model used for the Baja 1000 shared some components with the production Bronco, Ford upfitted the Bronco R with off-road-tuned racing suspension as well as off-road wheels and 37-inch off-road tires. The Bronco R also used a 70-gallon fuel tank during the race, allowing the prototype to travel up to 315 miles of the course before refueling. While this would have been a significant advantage to the Bronco R team, it was not taken advantage of. The Bronco R team made a stop every 130 miles to swap drivers, as well as checking the vehicle's condition and making sure there were no repairs needed at the time.
Ford did not disclose details of the engine used in the Bronco R. The only information that is known was that the engine was a twin-turbo EcoBoost engine. When it came to the four-wheel drive system, the vehicle experienced no issues with muddy sections of the course. While the drivers only had to use four-wheel drive with low gearing to get out of thick mud, the Bronco R stopped multiple times along the course to tug other competitors out of the mud, including a near 6,000 pound trophy truck. While the Bronco R's engine, transmission and four-wheel drive held up with no issues, many of the aftermarket suspension components did not fare the same. Around mile 495 of the 1000 mile journey, the passenger side spindle, lower-control arm and CV joint had been destroyed. The team was able to fix most issues and were able to continue the race until around mile 580, when the engine cooling fans began giving out (one fan had completely seized up, while the other was not working at max speed) causing the Bronco R to overheat and needing to be towed about eight miles to the next filling station. After about 30 minutes of working on the Bronco R to try to get it back on course, Ford pulled the vehicle out of the race due to severe mechanical issues.
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