The rumors have circulated for years via online message boards, cryptically worded insinuations from auto industry workers, probing think-pieces by automotive journalists, and teases of concept art and renderings. For a long time, nothing solid or concrete was put forth to tide us over. Still, the rumors and speculation have flown.
To wit, Ford fanatics were up in arms during the final weeks of 2016 over an unauthorized Reddit AMA, which posited that the new Bronco would be a simple rebranding of the Everest, doing away with much of what consumers have traditionally loved about the Bronco. Many of the features and capabilities Bronco enthusiasts have come to expect from their beloved vehicles would not have been in play, or so we were told.
But worry not, Bronco purists: the flurry of controversy and misinformation was put to rest at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, where Ford representatives finally made an official announcement – we are getting a new Bronco in 2020.
What’s more, the new Bronco will actually be a new Bronco.
While we don’t have all the facts and specifications for the upcoming 2020 release, Ford has provided enough solid detail to get the automobile world excited, and Indianapolis Ford enthusiasts are chomping at the bit for more.
A Legacy of Excellence
The original Ford Bronco was rolled out in 1966 and stayed in production for thirty years, spanning five generations of updates. Its origin story reads like American mythology: it was conceived by Donald N. Frey and made a mass-produced reality by Lee Iacocca, the same dynamic duo who brought us the Ford Mustang. That said, the original Mustang, though lauded as an American classic almost from the get-go, wasn’t exactly a new design; it was based on the pre-existing Ford Falcon, which itself enjoyed a ten-year overlapping run of production from 1960 to 1970.
The Bronco was a different animal entirely. Forged of an original template from the get-go, the first Bronco enjoyed a unique design from the ground up that had never before been seen on a production vehicle. It was a totally individual creation; there was nothing else like it in the Ford lineup.
The 1966 Bronco was versatile, tough, and ultimately utilitarian. Style and luxury took a backseat to functionality, and appointments were bare. Featuring flat glass all around, a very simple box-section ladder frame, and a pre-existing 2.8L straight six engine, the original Bronco was offered in three configurations: pickup, wagon, and roadster. It sold well, and acquired a legion of devotees from the outset.
Originally marketed as an ORV (Off-Road Vehicle) and later as a MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle, a term which came before what we now call SUVs) the inaugural 1966 Bronco was rolled out as a direct competitor to rough-and-tumble off-roaders like the Jeep CJ-5 and International Harvester Scout. Somewhat poetically, the 2020 Bronco’s primary objective will be to upset sales for the ubiquitous Jeep Wrangler, which is more or less a direct descendent of the original CJ that was first released in the forties, with which it has been in competition since its very conception.
A New Contender for a New Era
Americans love trucks, and with the improvements in fuel economy and transmission efficiency of recent years more and more people are buying them for the first time. However, off-roading enthusiasts have, for many years, felt a distinct lack of quality options to meet their needs. Bloomington Ford customers and car buyers nationwide certainly love the F-150 and its light-duty capabilities, but the sport and hobby of off-roading requires a more specific lifestyle design that full-size trucks and SUVs like the Explorer simply can’t provide.
While the Jeep Wrangler might get a few minor aesthetic tweaks and interior appointments with each new iteration, its functionality has remained essentially unchanged since it was introduced in 1986. Even then, the Wrangler is basically a more palatable and civilian version of the CJ, which was in production for forty years and also remained largely unchanged during its run. Even though the Wrangler sold over 190,000 units last year1, that’s a marked decline from previous years – people are ready for something different.
The 2020 Bronco is being designed to address this lack of options, and to provide American off-roaders with the uniquely enjoyable experience they’ve been demanding for years now. According to Ford’s representative at the 2017 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the new Bronco will be based on the international Ford Ranger platform, which we haven’t yet seen in US production.
Size-wise, it’ll exist in the middle ground between the original Bronco and the much larger iteration which was in production from 1992 to 1996 and shared many structural similarities with Ford’s full-size trucks of the time. It’ll feature body-on-frame construction, which bodes well for its off-road capabilities. According to a press conference at the Joe Louis Arena, Ford aims to produce a “…no-compromise midsize 4×4 utility for thrill seekers who want to venture way beyond the city.”2
The Bronco and the new 2019 Ford Ranger pickup, which were announced simultaneously, will be produced at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan. This is welcome news to supporters of the American auto industry, who traditionally make up a significant portion of Ford loyalists and certainly Bloomington Ford customers.
A Highly Anticipated Return
While the Wrangler will serve as the Bronco’s main competitor, Ford shouldn’t have much difficulty setting a new high benchmark for quality, as much of the Wrangler’s appeal is Jeep’s “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” attitude to updating their flagship. The Bronco will seek to best Jeep not only in functionality and fun, but style as well.
The Ford Bronco is undisputedly an American icon. Its various iterations have appeared in so many films, television shows, music videos, and advertising campaigns that it has an indelible place in the American pop culture zeitgeist. The professionals at Bloomington Ford can attest to this, having had their finger on the pulse of auto-enthusiast culture for many years.
It instigates nostalgia; you see one and picture yourself cruising along the California coast, top and doors removed, best friends packed in with arms raised to the wind. Maybe you see it spattered in mud and foliage, coolly rock-crawling along rugged, nigh-impassable off-road trails. No matter what, it’s difficult to divest the Bronco from its unrivaled aesthetic and functional legacy.
If the numerous renderings floating around truck enthusiast websites and forums are to be believed, the 2020 Bronco will have a rugged, boxy design which heralds back to the Broncos of yore. Indeed, the not-quite-retro, quasi-militaristic look of the Wrangler seems to be a big selling point in this demographic, with its iconic vertical grill slots and instantly recognizable round headlight design. Ostensibly, the new 2020 Bronco design will take a design cue from Jeep and implement the most recognizable aspects of classic Broncos while rebooting the look enough to be exciting to a new generation of Ford buyers.
Speculation is running wild following the press conference in Detroit, built on the slim details provided by Ford’s representatives during the announcement and subsequent interviews. While hard facts on design are still forthcoming, we know that the new Bronco will involve some kind of a removable top; whether this will involve convertible panels or a more traditional soft top no one can yet say.
Same goes for the door options – while the most iconic Broncos of old are primarily two-door models, the market for two-door sport utility vehicles in the United States is shrinking with each new model year. More than three quarters of all Wranglers sold last year were four-door, and it remains to be seen whether the Bronco will attempt to court both two- and four-door markets.
No matter what, Indianapolis Ford loyalists can rejoice in the knowledge that, after twenty years of hoping, wishing, speculating, and idealistic renderings, a new Bronco is actually coming in 2020. With it comes choice, a new option in a traditionally cornered market, and there’s nothing more American than that.
Bronco Image 1: By Andrew Duthie from Nashville, TN, USA (Ford Bronco Uploaded by oxyman) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Bronco Image 2: By Valder137 [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Bronco Image 3: By NefariousOpus (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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