The Ford Bronco is a model line of SUVs that were manufactured and marketed by Ford from 1966 to 1996. After the Bronco was introduced as a competitor to compact SUVs, it has long been valued by enthusiasts as a rugged off-roader.
Popularity and Influence
The early Bronco's shape reflects how uncomplicated four-wheel drive vehicles were in the 1960s. Contributing to its popularity, the early Bronco design rarely changed throughout its history. Early sport-utility vehicles promised adventure and ruggedness. The Bronco was a direct competitor for a military vehicle adapted for civilian life, so there were lots of compromises. The Bronco’s civilian competitors were somewhat underpowered and didn't offer full metal doors or a metal hardtop, and a minuscule body also meant inconvenient leg room.
Ford made sure the Bronco addressed these design limitations and offered serious technical innovation, too. The 1966 Bronco was available in three configurations: a pickup, wagon, and roadster. All three models rode on a 92-inch wheelbase, a foot longer than the Jeep, allowing much more room inside for people and cargo. The Bronco was engineered to handle that higher payload.
What Ford engineers planned under the hood that really set the Bronco apart from competition: the Bronco was more maneuverable, smoother, and had more capacity for a load compared to its competitors. Back in the '60s, just about every four-wheel drive vehicle used solid axles with a leaf spring suspension at each corner. Leaf packs are simple and effective, but typically deliver a rough ride. Following the four-wheel tradition, the Bronco used a smoother-riding coil-spring suspension that located the front axle with a three-link setup. That axle used a new open knuckle design, offering more steering angle and a tight turning circle. The Bronco was a stand out because of an option for limited slip differentials in both axles for serious off-road traction.
In 1996, Ford announced the discontinuation of the Bronco. The last model built rolled off the Wayne, Michigan assembly line on June 12. The final model was escorted by longtime Bronco enthusiast Jeff Trapp’s 1970 half-cab during a drive-off ceremony.
With the rise in popularity for classic 4x4s, the early Bronco appeals to a far wider audience. After a 24-year hiatus, the Ford Bronco is making a return to the Ford light-truck product line.