Happy Birthday! Ford Bronco turns 50
The iconic Ford Bronco celebrated its 50th anniversary this week it was “a rough, tough, go anywhere sports car”. Yep, Ford called it a sports car.
PROOF THAT the business of marketing a four-wheel drive to urban folk hasn’t changed one bit in the last 50 years, Ford’s early advertisements for the Bronco, claimed it a truck that’s “equally at home on a rugged mountain or on a run to the shopping centre”.
Launched in 1966, the Ford Bronco was the Blue Oval’s answer to the Jeep Wagoneer and even the Toyota FJ40. While it’s name slipped out of sight in 1996, although Ford did resurrect it briefly for a one-off Bronco concept in 2004, the Bronco remains as one of the forefathers of the SUV movement.
When the early Bronco hit the street it could be had in wagon, half-cab and roadster configuration, but the roadster was quickly dropped and replaced with the sport package.
The Bronco family can be split into two distinct branches, the early Bronco (1966-1977) and the ‘Big” Bronco (1978-1996). While the early Bronco looks like a big truck, it wasn’t, with its wheelbase measuring just 2337mm it’s widely considered to be Ford’s first compact SUV… the Big Bronco used a version of the F-Truck’s chassis.
While the DNA of the early Broncos was watered down as time went on, the early Broncos stand out for being a truly unique design from the Blue Oval. While, at the time, it was producing other notable machines like the Mustang, almost all were based, or at least partly based on other products in the stable. Not so the early Bronco with had a chassis and body not shared with a single other Ford product. That said, ahem, the axles and brakes were from a F-100.
The early Bronco had coil springs up front and a leaf sprung bum. A shift-on-the-fly Dana transfer case and locking hubs were standard, while tougher suspension was an extra-cost option. The first engine to be fitted to the Bronco was a 2.8-litre straight six-cylinder and this engine persisted until 1973 when it was replaced by a beefier 3.3-litre straight six-cylinder.
There were plenty of options for the Bronco, with Ford offering everything from a snow plough, to post hole digger attachments, auxiliary petrol tank, bucket seats, a winch and a tow bar.
The Bronco sold well initially, but by 1977 the Jeep Cherokee was proving to be a more comfortable and practical vehicle. So, Ford set about building a competitor and looked to the F-100 to provide donor bits and pieces. The Bronco as a unique product in the Blue Oval lineup came to an end.
In all, there were five generation of the Ford Bronco and while it’s later life was tainted by the vehicle’s association with OJ Simpson and The Chase, Ford has denied that as the reason for the nameplate being withdrawn.
So, happy birthday to the Ford Bronco (early) – a true icon in off-road motoring.
Here’s a thought, could Ford have resurrected the Bronco nameplate and used it instead of the Everest name for its new seven-seat SUV? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.
Some early Ford Bronco ads: