It’s getting very close: Ford is preparing to reintroduce the Bronco off-roader after a production hiatus that dates to 1996, when the relatively new Explorer came to be emblematic of all-terrain family fun in Dearborn. It’s abundantly clear in recent years that for many of us, the Bronco really never went away. A whole mini-industry has grown up to provide reproduction parts for various generations of the Bronco, which first debuted in 1966. First-generation examples have proved to be exceptionally popular among collectors, with Hagerty, the specialty-vehicle insurance experts, documenting through their valuation department that original Broncos have jumped in value by more than 75 percent in just the past three years. But this is all about selling new vehicles, not old ones. The official introduction of the 2021 Bronco line takes place next Monday night, and we’ll have a report after it happens.
Let’s look at what we know in the interim. First off, the new Bronco is going to be part of a standalone family of new models, including a traditionalist two-door that can be broken open in Jeep fashion (there, we said it), the first-ever four-door Bronco, and a smaller-sized Bronco Sport, which, if you look above, seems to match the dimensions of the existing Ford Escape compact SUV pretty closely. From a technological standpoint, that’s all we know right now. But it’s abundantly clear how strongly Ford feels about its heritage in this market. It goes all the way back to World War II, when the Ford Motor Company’s gargantuan production capacity led it to build the lion’s share of the original Jeeps that went to the armed forces, under license from Willys. Not only that, but the 1960s Ford president Donald Frey – the same guy who green-lighted the original Mustang – is credited with coining the term “sport-utility vehicle” when the first Bronco was revealed in late 1965. It wasn’t long before off-road racing immortals Rod Hall and Larry Minor (the latter also owning a famed string of NHRA Top Fuel dragsters) scored an overall win in the 1969 Baja 1000 in a production-based Bronco, the first and last time a true production vehicle has captured the Mexican desert classic. That’s led Ford to get the new Bronco accepted as the official vehicle of SCORE International, which continues to sanction desert racing, as part of the buildup to next week’s rollout.