Celebrating 50 Years of the Ford Bronco

We’re going to get a jumpstart on the anniversary celebrations for one of our most beloved American icons, the Ford Bronco, which made its debut as a 1966 model and thus will be turning 50 in the new year. The Bronco was initially billed as “a new kind of sports car with four-wheel drive,” built to compete mainly with the Jeep CJ, but also the likes of the Land Rover Series II, Toyota Land Cruiser and International Scout. As Hemmings notes, Ford had a long wish list for the new vehicle, including a removable top, tight turning radius, go-anywhere capability, sledgehammer simplicity” and the ability to add extras like a winch or a snowplow,” as well as “passenger car-like road speed, comfortable seats, a smooth ride and a weather-tight cabin.”

The formula obviously worked as Ford moved more than 22,000 Broncos in its first model year. It was originally offered in three body styles: a wagon, a pickup, and a roadster, the last of which was dropped after two years. Popular Science conducted a showdown between the Bronco, Jeep, Land Rover and Land Cruiser with the Bronco coming up trumps despite a certain lack of oomph. “The Bronco is the most versatile vehicle,” automotive editor Jan O. Norby wrote in the May 1969 issue. “It has the best safety features and handles far better than the Scout. Now if Ford would only give it four-on-the-floor and borrow the Toyota’s power-operated transfer case switches!”


The original early Broncos were produced from 1965–1977 with larger “Big” Broncos coming in from 1978–1996. The latter included the Bronco II built from 1983–1990. Among the rarest models are the special Stroppe/Holman/Moody (SHM) Broncos built to compete in the Mint 400, Baja 500, and Mexican 1000 (later Baja 1000) off-road races in the mid to late ’60s and early ’70s. Our personal favorite is the commemorative red, white and blue “Baja Bronco” model made from 1971-75. These days Man of the World sells perfectly restored Broncos, our friends at ICON pay homage to it with the awesome ICON BR, and there are even rumors that 2016 could see the return of a new Bronco in time for its 50th birthday. We’ll raise a PBR to that.















Comments on “Celebrating 50 Years of the Ford Bronco

    BlueTrain on October 29, 2015 1:58 PM:

    My uncle said you still needed a pickup truck.

    ollie on October 29, 2015 3:21 PM:

    …great styling but a clear rip off of the International Scout and that market as the big 3 crushed the smaller players….

    Invictus on October 29, 2015 3:35 PM:

    Very first truck was a 75 Bronco, many fond memories.

    I’m now cruising craigslist.. thanks ACL.

    sethgreen on October 29, 2015 8:22 PM:

    love the classic ones before they get lifted and tricked out. sweet.

    chrisco on October 30, 2015 6:28 AM:

    I’d have to agree that the Bronco size/style was very similar to the International Scout, but with a bit more styling.
    I had a Bronco II….it was a very capable vehicle, but lacked the coolness of the vintage Bronco IMHO.

    dan on October 30, 2015 11:46 AM:

    Best bud in college had one. Fuel mileage so bad that on road trips he actually had to use the spare red fuel cans tied to the back just to make it to the next station. Combination of heavy foot, big tires, poor vehicle maintenance. He loved that rig.

    scott on October 30, 2015 2:35 PM:

    Love the images. Can’t believe you guys omitted the most famous white bronco of all time. #OJ

    iblamesummers on October 30, 2015 3:29 PM:

    great vehicle. shame Ford got rid of it & the Ranger.

    Invictus on October 30, 2015 4:45 PM:

    Surprised the 2004 concept Bronc didn’t make an appearance in the article.



    What should have been…

    bert on October 30, 2015 11:55 PM:

    Had an 87 Bronco II back in college. I drove so many people everywhere. Many years later I went overseas and my dad sold it while I was away. The AC could only be used when I was highway driving, in town the engine would over heat.

    Jared Paul Stern on October 31, 2015 9:46 AM:

    Invictus – I allude / link to it in the last graph. The actual vehicle is far too ugly to show. Hopefully if and when it sees production they’ll have made considerable improvements.

    hussain on October 31, 2015 2:54 PM:

    How I can order Ford bronco 2016.


    Al on October 31, 2015 5:58 PM:

    What about Al Cowlings’s bronco?

    Lloyd Bonifide on October 31, 2015 6:49 PM:

    Wish I’d have bought a few of these before they quit making them. This one’s a beauty. http://www.classiccarliquidators.com/classic-cars/Ford/1996/Bronco-4×4/1FMEU15H1TLB32102/789

    Lloyd Bonifide on October 31, 2015 6:52 PM:

    I don’t work for the auto dealer in that last post, and the truck’s already sold anyway, so I’m not trying to sell anything, just posting a link to the picture of the most beautiful Bronco I’ve ever seen.

    Jared Paul Stern on November 1, 2015 9:15 AM:

    @Lloyd – Pretty sweet. Definitely could make this lineup.

    Batty Boi on November 3, 2015 12:02 PM:

    This truck is only for hipsters…move along.

    Lucas Longman on November 4, 2015 12:27 PM:

    Glad to see the International Scout shout-outs, as without it, this truck would never have been born. Also neglected to mention the head to head tests done between the Scout and Bronco and Scout was victorious everytime. Never mind the weak frames that folded when people attempted use of snow plows or that the original design team went to Ford in the late 70’s when the Scout line was discontinued, to adapt their designs to birth the early 80’s Broncos. But they are cute, will give you that.

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