Ford Bronco: The world’s first Sport Utility Vehicle

On August 11th, 1965, Ford introduced the Bronco to the stable and captured the hearts of millions. At the time of its introduction, the Bronco’s direct competitors were the Jeep CJ-5 and the International Harvester Scout. In 1962, Ford cleverly surveyed owners of both vehicles to see what they liked and disliked about their trucks. It was found that while the CJ-5 and Scouts were excellent off-roaders, taking them on the ever-improving highway system was an uncomfortable chore. It was clear that the competition was more at home on the farm than on the road. With this knowledge, Ford built a vehicle that was tough enough to serve as a workhorse in the field, yet comfortable enough to haul the family. This is how the first Sport Utility Vehicle was born. The first-generation Ford Bronco enjoyed success from 1966 all the way until 1977.   

1975 Ford Bronco available for rent on DriveShare

By the early 70s the little Bronco was looking a bit dated, and with the introduction of the Chevrolet K/5 Blazer and Dodge’s Ramcharger the race was on to build Bronco’s second generation. The new Bronco was slated for the 1974 model year, but this evolution to a full-size truck frame had to be delayed due to the oil embargo of 1973. Bronco returned bigger and bolder than ever in 1978. Bronco’s second-generation offered the choice of two powerful V-8s, the 351 and 400 M. Also offered for the first time in Bronco history was factory-installed air conditioning and AM/FM transistor radios. The interiors were both spacious and comfortable and the open-top capability remained, although removing the roof became a bigger chore. The wait paid off for Ford as they sold over 180,000 units – like this example listed for rent on DriveShare – in the first two years! 

Ford Broncos bucking through the 80s

1980 brought on bigger challenges and Ford was up for the task. Escalating tensions in the Middle East caused yet another oil crisis which trickled down to America paying more at the pump. This meant the Bronco had to get leaner and more aerodynamic. Ford responded and the engineers went to work and lightened the frame. The Bronco dropped 375 pounds. Other efficiency improvements included offering the 300 in-line six as standard equipment and later introducing electronic fuel injection for V-8 equipped trucks. Handling was also dramatically improved with the adoption of independent front suspension – try it out for yourself.  

The gas prices of the early-80s brought demand for smaller and more fuel-efficient SUVs. Ford put a new kick in four-wheeling with the Bronco II. Utilizing the brand new Ranger chassis, the Bronco II offered big off-road capability in a small package. Bronco II was the perfect trail rig for outdoor enthusiasts as its small size enabled it to reach that coveted hunting or fishing spot deep in the woods. In a time of large cars and trucks, the Bronco II was a welcome throwback to Bronco’s smaller first generation. 

1989 Ford Bronco II available for rent on DriveShare

1987 saw more updates and changes for the Bronco. Fuel injection became standard on all engines and rear-wheel Anti-lock Brakes (ABS) were available. Minor cosmetic updates were made to Bronco’s front grill and the use of rectangular headlights earned the nickname “Bricknose” among enthusiasts. This generation was produced from 1987-1991.  

1992 marked the beginning of the final lap for Bronco. Ford upgraded the front fascia to match its F-series stablemates and safety improvements were made, such as three-point seatbelts and a driver’s side airbag. 1996 marked the last model year for the F-series-based Ford Bronco as consumer demand shifted toward four-door SUVs. This marked the end of Ford’s over 30-year reign in the two-door sport-utility market. 

A legend reborn 

At the 2005 North American Auto Show, Ford unveiled a throwback concept truck of the Bronco and enthusiasts clamored for the re-birth of the legend. After the auto show, Ford maintained radio silence and fan-made image renderings of the Bronco circulated the internet for years.  Ford finally answered the call 15 years later and unveiled the new mid-size Bronco. Like its main competitor, the Jeep Wrangler, the Bronco is available in two- and four-door body styles and can be ordered with a hard or soft top. The newly evolved wild horse utilizes the latest Eco-boost technology and buyers can order a Bronco with a manual gearbox. Bronco buyers are just receiving their coveted trucks as of July 2021. Ford also released the Bronco Sport just before the standard Bronco, which has caused quite a bit of consumer confusion as to which vehicle is the real successor. Let us know in the comments which you would choose. 


Interested in the new Bronco? You might have to wait a while. In the meantime, cure your Bronco cravings and experience a classic Bronco on DriveShare

Leave a Reply