They say those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Equally true when it comes to the automotive world is “what’s old is new again.” When it comes to how an automaker powers, positions, and even updates any given model, it’s is often determined by what was done in the past. That’s bound to be especially true with the new 2021 Ford Bronco—a vehicle that already leans heavily on the heritage of the original with similar styling and a shared mission. So what can we expect from future versions of the sixth-generation Bronco? Taking a look at the history of the Ford Bronco line could reveal some secrets.
1965-1977: The Original Ford Bronco
The original Ford Bronco only stuck around for 12 years, but it’s presence undoubtably overshadows the succeeding generations. In a lot of ways the indirect successor to the World War II-era Ford GPW—the Blue Oval’s license-built version of the Willys MB Jeep—the 1965 Ford Bronco was designed to complement the then-new Ford Mustang as a fun, youth-friendly off-roader.
Ford also had Jeep square in its sights in designing and engineering the Bronco. Like the Jeep CJ-5 of the time, the Bronco was small—its wheelbase is about the same length as a modern Mini Cooper Hardtop—and designed with simple flat surfaces that were both cheap to manufacture and easy to keep protected from rocks. The Bronco was offered up in three body styles: the “Wagon,” which was a two-door with a removable hardtop (a feature we expect the 2021 Bronco to have), a “Roadster,” which came roofless and with inserts instead of doors (much like the contemporary CJ-5), and as a “Sports Utility Pickup”, better known as the “half-cab,” which did away with the two-person rear bench seat of the roadster and hardtop in favor of a mini pickup bed. The Roadster would last until just 1968, making it a particularly rare vehicle. The Bronco half-cab would stick around until 1973, leaving the popular wagon as the only body style for the remainder of the first-gen Bronco’s life.
At launch, the Bronco was powered by Ford’s venerable 105-hp 2.8-liter I-6, paired with a three-speed manual transmission and four-wheel drive. A 4.7-liter V-8 producing 200 hp found its way under the Bronco’s stubby little hood in 1966 before being replaced by a bigger 4.9-liter V-8 in 1968. In 1973, the base I-6 was replaced by a 3.3-liter I-6, and a three-speed automatic joined the fold.
According to FourWheeler, a total of 225,585 first-generation Broncos were built between 1965 and 1977 when production ended. Of those, 203,544 were Wagons, 17,262 Sports-Utility Pickups, and 5,000 Roadster
1978-1979 Ford Bronco: Short And Sweet
The ’70s were all about saving money for America’s automakers. After watching GM print money with its new Chevrolet K5 Blazer—essentially a shortened Chevrolet C/K pickup with a removable hardtop—Ford looked at its F-100 and decided that it’d be far easier to cut it down to size than engineer a unique platform for the second-gen Bronco. Although the Arab oil embargo curtailed Ford’s plans to offer up a four-door Bronco (and reportedly delayed the Bronco launch from 1974 to 1978), the upsized two-door Bronco with its removable hardtop would prove to be pretty popular during its two-year life cycle.
To close out the ’70s, the second-gen Bronco had a V-8-only engine lineup. Its base engine was a big 5.8-liter V-8 wheezing out 135 hp, while the upgrade option was a 6.6-liter V-8 with 149 hp. I know it’s easy to pick on Malaise era vehicles, but that is an impressively low amount of horsepower to get from such a remarkably large engine. It’s apples to Skittles, but a modern base Ford EcoSport makes 123 hp from its 1.0-liter turbocharged I-3.
Ford offered two transmission options on the ’78 and ’79 Broncos—a four-speed manual and an optional four-speed auto. A full-time four-wheel drive system was available with the automatic transmission.