Ford Bronco Through the Years

It can compete with Jeep, is recognized worldwide, and was once used by a Pope! Relive the illustrious history of all the Ford Bronco generations.  

The SUV that Keeps on Bucking

The Ford Bronco has quite a history and quite some success behind it. That’s probably why Ford decided to bring it back in a new form just a few years ago. Before I take you through the entire evolution of this American staple, I have to mention some of the famous names attached to the creation of the Ford Bronco. Ford product manager Donald N. Frey, who also created the Ford Mustang, worked with Ford engineer Paul G. Axelrad and Lee Iacocca on it. Iacocca approved the final model for production, making the Bronco a reality.

From there, the Bronco became an easily-recognizable vehicle by people all over the world over the next few decades. It was used in movies like Terminator 2, Charlie’s Angels, Speed, and, briefly, in the Fast and the Furious franchise. It was also popular with buyers, earning a reputation for its rugged looks and a good mix of abilities. It went through a few changes during the first five generations of its existence, and it’s currently back for more as the sixth generation of the Bronco is underway. Take a stroll down memory lane in this feature on the Ford Bronco.

First Generation (19661977) 

1966 Ford Bronco - ford.com

1966 Ford Bronco – ford.com |  Shop Ford Bronco on Carsforsale.com

  • The very first Ford Bronco was a 1966 model, introduced to the world on August 11, 1965.
  • Ford initially offered a 2.8-liter engine making 90 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque, but in March 1966, Bronco models could also be had with Ford’s 289 High-Performance V8. This 4.7-liter engine made 152 horsepower and 242 lb-ft of torque.
  • The Sport package was introduced with the 1967 Ford Bronco. It included bright trim around the grille, bright-toned hubcaps, and a grille with the Ford logo on it.
  • The V8 in the 1969 Ford Bronco increased to 4.9 liters, making 205 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque.
1970 Ford Bronco - ford.com
1970 Ford Bronco - ford.com
  • The original Bronco has some racing history behind it, being used in the Baja 1000 in 1969.
  • Other racers like Bill Stroppe, Parnelli Jones, and James Garner all got behind the wheel of a Bronco during competitions, too.
  • For 1971 models, Ford offered the ‘Baja Bronco’ package with an automatic transmission, a roll bar, reinforced bumpers, and power steering.
  • The Explorer package was introduced in the 1972 Ford Bronco. It was more budget-friendly than the Sport or Ranger.
  • The V8 was still available with the new three-speed transmission.
1977 Ford Bronco - ford.com
1977 Ford Bronco - ford.com
  • Ford was going to start the second generation of the Bronco in 1974, but it was delayed due to the fuel crisis of the 1970s.
  • Ford executives hoped a revised exhaust system in the 1975 Bronco would appease customers alongside a stronger rear axle and higher ride height.
  • There was just one engine offered in the 1975 model: the 4.9-liter V8 that made 125 horsepower. Customers who wanted a manual transmission had to special order them.
  • By the time the 1977 Ford Bronco was released, the V8 engine was redesigned to include a new combustion chamber and pistons. This Bronco made 133 horsepower.
  • About 13,000 units were produced in 1977.

Second Generation (19781979) 

1978 Ford Bronco - ford.com
1978 Ford Bronco - ford.com
  • The 1978 Ford Bronco was a complete redesign with a 4×4 platform, based off the F-Series. This increased the width and length of the vehicle
  • The platform change provided a smoother, more comfortable ride. It also provided more off-road-ready features like dual shocks for the front suspension, a front stabilizer bar, and front and rear sway bars.
  • Two V8 engines were offered in the 1978 Bronco: a 5.8-liter V8 or a 6.6-liter V8. This was the first time a V6 wasn’t offered in a Ford Bronco.
  • Chrome was added to the bumpers, window outlines, and body moldings. There were more changes in the cabin, including more leg room for backseat passengers, air conditioning, and available AM/FM radios.
1982 Ford Bronco - ford.com
1982 Ford Bronco - ford.com
  • Captain’s chairs became available with the 1979 model.
  • The 1979 Ford Bronco received a lot of attention when it was used as a Pope Mobile for Pope John Paul II during a special visit to the United States.
  • Ford modified the Bronco by adding seats to the back so that the Pope could sit or stand. Three Broncos were customized for the visit and turned over to the U.S. Secret Service for inspection.
  • Ford sold 180,000 Broncos in 1978 and 1979.

Third Generation (19801986) 

1980 Ford Bronco - ford.com
1980 Ford Bronco - ford.com
  • Consumer demands changed in the 1980s, and Ford changed the Bronco to meet those demands. The third generation of the SUV, starting with the 1980 Ford Bronco, became smaller, lighter, and more fuel efficient.
  • The effort to reduce the Bronco’s footprint cost Ford $700 million.
  • The 1980 Bronco was based on the shorter F-150 platform, offering V6 and V8 engines.
  • An independent front suspension with coil springs was offered for the first time in the 1980 Ford Bronco.
1985 Ford Bronco Eddie Bauer Package - ford.com
1985 Ford Bronco Eddie Bauer Package - ford.com
  • There were six different color choices for the fiberglass roof, ranging from white and light sand to black and red. There were also three different two-tone varieties, starting with a more minimal accent tape stripe and going up to a bolder version where the accent color covers the lower part of the side body.
  • The next big change for the Bronco came in March 1983 when Ford introduced the Bronco II, based on the Ford Ranger platform. It was the first to introduce the Eddie Bauer trim package, which then became available on the 1985 Ford Bronco.
  • The Bronco II was built from 1984 through 1990, when it was discontinued.
  • Sales for the Ford Bronco remained steady during the first half of the 1980s, and increased to 54,000 units in 1985 and 62,000 units in 1986.

Fourth Generation (19871991) 

1987 Ford Bronco - ford.com
1987 Ford Bronco - ford.com
  • The fourth generation of the Ford Bronco didn’t last too long, just four years.
  • It was based on the same chassis as the third generation of the Bronco.
  • Revamped grille headlights and a smoother front end were part of the styling changes introduced with the 1987 Bronco.
  • Ford used an electronic fuel injection system for the 1987 Bronco. It was also the first time a Bronco featured rear anti-lock brakes.
1991 Ford Bronco Nite - ford.com
1991 Ford Bronco Nite - ford.com
  • This Bronco came with three engines: a 4.9-liter inline-six, a 5.0-liter V8, or a 5.8-liter V8. For the 1988 Bronco, Ford offered two five-speed manual transmissions.
  • Skid plates for the transfer case became standard in the 1988 Bronco.
  • A special 25th anniversary edition was offered in red with a charcoal leather interior.
  • The Nite edition was a blacked-out version with the top and body painted black.

Fifth Generation (19921996) 

1992 Ford Bronco - ford.com
1992 Ford Bronco - ford.com
  • Ford focused on safety for the 1992 Bronco, adding front crumple zones, shoulder seatbelts for passenger seats, and an airbag in the steering wheel. It was touted by Ford as the “Smartest Bronco ever.”
  • The 1992 Ford Bronco kicked off the fifth and, at the time, final generation of the popular SUV. It maintained many of the same design features that the fourth generation had.
  • Ford also added XLT and Eddie Bauer models to the 1992 lineup.
1995 Ford Bronco Eddie Bauer - ford.com
1995 Ford Bronco Eddie Bauer - ford.com
  • The air conditioning system in the 1994 Ford Bronco used a refrigerant that was free of chlorofluorocarbons.
  • Minor exterior styling changes were added to the Eddie Bauer model in the 1995 Ford Bronco. It could be customized with CD players and premium interior materials.
  • The final 1996 Ford Bronco received minor trim changes. The last Bronco of the fifth generation was made on June 12, 1996 at the Michigan Truck Plant.
  • During its initial 31-year run, Ford built 1,148,926 Broncos.

Sixth Generation (2021-Present) 

2023 Ford Bronco Sport - media.ford.com
2023 Ford Bronco Sport - media.ford.com
  • Otherwise, the 2023 Bronco should have the same set of trims that start at around $32,000.
  • Ford also announced a tribute to the original Bronco vehicles with classic colors and design elements like a white-painted roof, grille, and wheels. The graphics on the fender were also inspired by the 1966 Ford Bronco.
  • The 2023 Ford Bronco probably won’t have too many changes, but there is already a Bronco Desert Racer that will be a V8-powered race truck going for around $250,000.
2022 Ford Bronco Everglades - media.ford.com
2022 Ford Bronco Everglades - media.ford.com
  • The 2022 Ford Bronco is no longer available for retail order because of high demand, but limited inventory may be available at some dealers.

Take a look at every feature in our 2022 Ford Bronco Sport Review. The Ford Bronco Sport made our list of the Best Compact SUVs.

  • Just like the 2021 Bronco, this one was 4WD with the option for a manual transmission.
  • The 2022 Bronco added two more trims: the Raptor and the Everglades. The Raptor had a high-performance 500-horsepower engine while the Everglades trim had a Ford-designed snorkel with reversible air vents to raise the engine air intake in conditions involving dust, snow, and water.
  • Just as Ford sought to compete with Jeep when the Bronco was first created, Ford provided the Jeep Wrangler with competition in the form of the 2021 Ford Bronco.
2021 Ford Bronco - media.ford.com

2021 Ford Bronco – media.ford.com |  Shop Ford Bronco on Carsforsale.com

  • There were 7 trims available with the purchase of a 2021 Bronco. The base model started at $29,995 and the top-of-the-line First Edition sold for $58,410.
  • An inline four-cylinder engine moved this Bronco with 300 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. It was mated to a seven-speed manual transmission.
  • The 2021 Ford Bronco had a body-on-frame design. Many of the nostalgic design elements from the 90s can be spotted in the revived Bronco, too.
  • This is a reboot that some people can get behind! Ford brought the Bronco back as a 2021 model more than 20 years after its final run.

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Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson earned his journalism degree from South Dakota State University. No stranger to newsgathering and reporting, Jesse spent 13 years in TV news. 10 of those years were spent working in Charlotte, NC, home of NASCAR. A highlight of his time there was being able to take a lap around the Charlotte Motor Speedway. His interest in vehicles, starting with Matchbox cars, a Big Wheel, and the Transformers, evolved into taking photos of motocross events. Now, he puts his research skills to use on car culture, reviews, and comparisons.

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