This gallant 30-year veteran was finally pensioned off in 1996, but not before going through five evolutionary stages. The first generation half-ton Ford Bronco lived from 1966 to 1977, and —choose your acronym — this compact ORV (Off-Road Vehicle) or SUV (Sports Utility Vehicle) was launched as a competitor for the Jeep CJ and Harvester Scout.
The four-wheel drive Bronco was an original design that — unlike most Fords — owed little to any other model, though axles and brakes came from the 4WD Ford pickup truck. Unlike later SUVs it was intended to be a genuine rural workhorse. The two-door Bronco had robust suspension (though a heavy-duty option was available for real backwoodsmen) and the choice of a straight six or V8 engine. Low range gearing for heavy work was standard.
Simple, boxy styling made for economical manufacturing and a budget ticket price, with the Bronco offered as a wagon, popular half cab or roofless roadster (the latter soon dropped). Despite the affordable price, a long list of extras encouraged buyers to trade up from the base model. Apart from genuine treats like bucket seats or CB radio, these add-ons tended to be the sort of helpful tools appreciated by rural folk — towbar, winch, post-hole digger, power take-off for assorted farm machinery, snow plough and the like.
The ‘Early Bronco’ was a steady rather than spectacular seller, with around 231,000 shifted in a dozen years. The first major revamp in 1978 saw the Bronco evolve into an altogether larger vehicle to compete with the Dodge Ramcharger, Chevy Blazer and Jeep Cherokee — SUVs setting the trend towards luxury transport for the city and suburbs that were happy to go off road during vacations. Thereafter, until the model line ended in 1996, these big boys were known as ‘Full-size Broncos’.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1966 (until 1996)
2.8 I (170 cid) or 3.3 I (200 cid) Straight Six; 4.7 I (289 cid) or 4.9 1(302 cid) V8
Varied according to engine – typically top speed of 75 mph (121 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 21 secs.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Yes, there was a racing version – the Baja Bronco was prepared by Bill Stroppe for cross-country road races south of the border, like the Baja 500 Mexico 1000. It had a roll cage, wide tires and tuned engine. Stroppe cars tasted success and the sport’s popularity spread to the USA in the early 1970s.