Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3
The Ford Bronco was produced from 1966
to 1996, with five distinct generations. Broncos can be divided into two categories: early Broncos (1966–77) and full-size Broncos (1978–96). The Bronco was introduced in 1966 as a competitor to the small four-wheel-drive compact SUVs such as the Jeep CJ-5 and International Harvester Scout, and built on its own platform.
A major redesign in 1978
moved the Bronco to a larger size, and it was built using a shortened Ford F-Series truck chassis to compete with the similarly adapted Chevrolet K5 Blazer. The full-size Broncos and the successor Expedition were produced at Ford's Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne, Michigan. And it was this re-design that would be sold here in Australia.
When the Ford Bronco was released it was priced at A$15,100 - which made it a real alternative to the $18,875 Range Rover
, which had pretty much remained unchallenged for nearly a decade. The market segment was actually starting to become crowded – challenging the title of best 4X4 also included the Datsun Patrol
, Toyota Land Cruiser, Jeep's Cherokee
and, to a lesser extent, the International Scout
From the ground up, the Australian assembled Bronco had specifications and equipment levels equal to or better than the competition. Only aesthetic areas remained open for criticism which seemed to polarise opinions – some loved it, some hated it. The team here at Unique Cars and Parts
fall into the first category, considering it a neat example of U.S. styling that carried with it a continuation of the Ford world-wide grill and headlight treatment seen on all the company's Toyo Kogyo
sourced vehicles as well as the European bred Transit and Capri
F Series range of Ford light commercials, of which the Bronco was the flagship, were lighter and more compact than the respective superseded models. But the shedding of weight did not come at the expense of strength and durability - two factors which had helped make the F Series the largest selling vehicle nameplate in the history of either cars or trucks.
Custom and XLT
Two versions were available: the baseline Custom, and the more comfortably equipped Ranger XLT. Both were five seater, two door wagons with part time four wheel drive, four speed transmission and a 4.1 litre six cylinder motor. A 5.8 litre V8 was optional, as was a three speed auto - for the V8 only. Other options included an external spare tyre
carrier and an internal roll bar.
Both motors were Australian made, the six being the then latest Alloy Head version fitted to Falcons and derivatives, while the V8 was the tried and proven 351. During development here, the Bronco/F100 program was known as "Ram" internally at Ford. Bronco's unique features lay essentially in the transmission and suspension department. Ford patented a then new and previously unseen independent front suspension system not unlike the well known twin "I" beam set-up fitted to the two wheel drive F Series trucks. This new suspension provided extensive wheel travel and control in both smooth highway and rugged off-road conditions, combined with limited slip differentials and anti-sway bars front and rear, it gave the Bronco a distinct technical advantage over competitors.
Power assisted brakes
- disc front, drum rear - and power steering are standard, making the driver's task nice and easy in even the most demanding terrain. Ford were able to reduce the inevitable compromise between load carrying capacity and passenger comfort that was normally associated with commercial derived passenger vehicles. Another problem, again probably only temporary, was that the XD Falcon
bucket seats were an inch or two too low for comfortable forward visibility in off-road conditions. They were in fact lower than the bench seat standard in the F100.
On the Road
Nearly all Bronco’s and F100’s road tested by motoring journalists proved to be far better than any had expected – not only in performance but in comfort too. The Alloy-Head Six was a very good performer too – so much so that it made it hard to justify optioning the 351. It was very torquey and quiet, so much so that V8 was really only necessary for those buying the Bronco as a tow vehicle – which in any case would have represented a significant proportion. Ford’s AS2077 fuel economy figures from the time quoted the F100 returning 15 litres per 100 km in the city cycle and 10.6 litres for the country (respectively 18.6 and 26.5 mpg), while the Bronco's AS2077 figures were 17.5 litres per 100 km in the city and 13.0 litres for the country cycle (16.1 and 21.7 mpg). The important thing to remember about AS2077 figures was that it was almost impossible for mere humans to achieve them –so it is wise to assume these as representing the very best obtainable under a velvet foot. It is worth noting that, as a result of the U.S. Government's crackdown on commercial vehicle fuel consumption, Ford had improved the F Series aerodynamics
by a massive 13%.
The XLT Bronco sold for $15,900 at release, and it was very much a match for the Range Rover. It was a better tow vehicle when equipped with the 351, and was the equal or better in comfort. Unexpectedly, it was also an accomplished bitumen performer too, with handling better than any of the competition. There was a very good reason why these would become so popular.