The History of the Ford Bronco: A Pandemic Revival

Today, the Ford Bronco is one of the most popular SUVs on the market. So popular that people are spending double its original price to get one. There are many contributing factors to that, but most importantly, the rampant chip shortage. Long ago, the Ford Bronco was a completely different off-road SUV. However, it evolved over time and eventually became today’s iconic model. Here’s the complete history of the Ford Bronco.

What was the first Ford Bronco?

The original 1966 Ford Bronco in red: the history of the ford bronco is long and interesting.
1966 Ford Bronco | Ford

The Ford Bronco was first introduced in 1965 as a 1966 model. It quickly became an iconic vehicle for an adventurous lifestyle and synonymous with off-road capability. Moreover, the first-ever generation ran until 1977, with no significant changes over those model years. Initially, it was available as a hardtop, pickup truck, or convertible. Americans immediately fell in love with it, and the shared F-100 components were a bonus.

Next, it was available with a six- or eight-cylinder engine. Each model came with four-wheel drive and was built for anything but comfortable driving. With off-roading at the forefront of priorities, it came with gear for that purpose. In 1966, the SUV would cost you $2,194 for the base model, and Ford sold around 24,000 vehicles in its first year of production.

What year was the second gen Ford Bronco?

A 1979 Ford Bronco off-road SUV.
1979 Ford Bronco | Ford

In 1978, the Bronco had earned itself a redesign. Twelve years after its original debut, it was overhauled for the loyal Ford fans who wanted more. Beginning in 1978, it became a single, thee-door model with a removable hardtop. Ford dropped the V6 engine, and the Bronco came exclusively with a V8. A new tailgate was introduced featuring a rear window that lowered into the door, which became a signature trait of the Ford Bronco SUV.

After only one year, the second generation seized sales. After the 1979 model year, Ford would move on to the third-generation of its popular SUV. In its fifteenth year of sales, the 1980 Bronco required severe changes to keep things fresh and exciting.

A third generation off-road beast

A 1985 Ford Bronco off-road SUV. An iconic part of the history of the Ford Bronco.
1985 Ford Bronco | Ford

In 1980, the Bronco received another overhaul. This time, it was based on the seventh generation F-150 F-Series and only came as an all-wheel drive, three-door model. In addition, the 1980 model was the first Bronco to feature the Ford logo on its front grille, instead of the word FORD spelled out across the front end. There was a fuel crisis in the late 1970s, which led many automakers to make significant decisions about the engines their models used.

That fuel crisis is what gave the Bronco back its six-cylinder engine option. Additionally, Ford revised the suspension, providing owners with a better on-road driving experience. This was the first time on-road driving wasn’t an afterthought, being that the Bronco was an off-road-focused model. Consequently, the third generation ran from 1980 until 1986, when Ford transitioned to the fourth-gen model.

Gen four was more SUV, less truck

Interior of a 1987 Ford Bronco off-road SUV
1987 Ford Bronco interior | Ford

Although it was still based on F-Series pickups and bore a shocking resemblance, the Bronco lost some truck qualities in its fourth generation. This generation was built in Venezuela and imported into the United States. One of its most exciting qualities was the new V8 engine. The Bronco used a 5.0-liter V8 with a top speed of around 100 mph for the first time.

It took another step in aerodynamic design, which started with gen-three. The automaker introduced safety updates like anti-lock braking technology. Although, ABS was only available in the 2WD version of the Bronco. Lastly, in 1988, a 5-speed manual transmission and a Borg Warner 1345 transfer case bolstered the Bronco for more off-road capability and driving fun. Generation four was sold from 1987 to 1991, entering gen-5 in 1992.

The juice is loose: the iconic final generation Ford Bronco

A 1992 Ford Bronco, the last in the history of the SUV.
1992 Ford Bronco | Ford

Finally, Ford introduced the last Bronco generation ever made (until recently) in 1992. A three-door, hardtop SUV, it became ultra-famous for starring in the OJ Simpson car chase. As with its predecessors, the fifth-gen model eased into more soft edges and aerodynamic design than previous models. Ford focused more on passenger safety with these Bronco model years, even doing away with the removable hardtop.

Fans of the convertible version began to seek out previous generations. However, the fifth-gen SUV gained a reputation for being easy on the eyes. Additionally, Ford tuned up the interior styling and comfort for these model years. A makeover featuring new gauges, a digital odometer, rotary climate controls, and premium sound systems made it feel luxurious. In 1994, the steering wheel gained an airbag for the first time. The Blue Oval added other safety features during this generation as well.

Why did the Ford Bronco get discontinued?

Ford discontinued the Bronco after the 1996 model year due to a decline in demand for two-door SUVs. Both the Expedition and Excursion replaced the Bronco as large four-door options. Some people made up rumors that OJ Simpson was the reason for the discontinuation. However, as we reported previously, that isn’t true. In the mid-90s, customers wanted something bigger than a two-door model. Bronco sales significantly declined for a few years, then got the cut after 1996. So ended the history of the Ford Bronco, until recently.

A pandemic revival

the pandemic revival off-road SUV in Eruption Green.
2022 Ford Bronco in Eruption Green | Ford Motor Company

Nearly 25 years later, the brand new version of the classic Ford Bronco SUV became available. Since its discontinuation many years ago, the model has become more popular than ever. Fans of two-door SUVs, off-road miles, and a hefty V8 engine would seek out older models for restoration and a bit of fun. Ford knew it could make a pretty penny selling a new model under the classic Bronco name.

It just so happened that a global pandemic shocked the world right as the Bronco was set to release. Not only did it become more challenging to produce vehicles, but for a while, people weren’t driving very often. Sure enough, Ford received mountains of preorders. So many there’s no way the automaker could keep up with demand.

Fast forward to 2022, and the automaker is still in the same position. The all-new Ford Bronco is one of the highest in-demand vehicles in the world. Finding one for sale is very challenging, but finding one available for MSRP is impossible. Who would’ve thought 25 years after the off-road SUV was discontinued, it would be the rarest new car on the market?

The history of the Ford Bronco

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In short, that’s the history of the iconic Ford Bronco. Which generation do you think is the best? This off-road SUV has had a long history of upgrades, changes, and a little bit of drama. Now, it’s back and is so popular you literally can’t buy one no matter how badly you want to, unless you grossly overpay. That’s the history of the Ford Bronco, followed by a pandemic revival.

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