Ford Bronco – “Total Toughness”
By Dave Turner
Among the many recreational activities that were developing in the USA after the Second World War, off-road exploring in 4x4s and/or posing in such on the school and shopping run had manufacturers hard at work making sure that they exploited the situation to their advantage with sales of appropriate vehicles.
Initially it was ex-military Jeeps that were pressed into service, but the US motoring public like their comforts combined with practicality, so when the new Bronco appeared in August 1965 for the 66 season it featured big comfy seats and relatively supple suspension combined with quite nimble handing. The well-proven six-cylinder 170 cubic inch engine from the Falcon and Econoline, along with many other components common to other Ford products featured in a rather boxy and possibly somewhat Land-Rover-esque vehicle that came in three versions, an open-sided Roadster, a Sports-Utility pickup and a steel-topped Station Wagon.
As a result of low gearing, a top speed of around 74mph was coupled to a 14 mpg (US) thirst, while the huge list of options even ran to a snowplough. The Roadster was deleted in 1968, while the pickup lasted until 1972. From March 1966 a 289 cubic inch V8 was optional, and this was enlarged to 302 cubic inch in 1969, the same year in which the body was generally toughened and the windscreen no longer folded flat. Numerous package options changed the appearance of the Bronco over the years, including a Sports Package from 1967, a Ranger Package from 1972, and a Special Décor Group from 1976, but for 1978 a completely new and much more rugged-looking Bronco arrived on the off-road scene.
Having the appearance of a regular Ford pickup on steroids, the new Bronco was in fact based around much of the F Series and was to continue in production for 18 years during which several face-lifts help to date examples. Now on 104 inch wheelbase, a foot longer than before, a 351 cubic inch (5.8 Litre) V8 was employed with the option of a 400 cubic inch (6.6 litre) unit. The top of the rear section was removable and soft tops were available to enable open-air motoring to take place.
From the start, multiple packages were offered, originally the standard Bronco was called Custom, while the Ranger XLT version featured better trim with much brightwork and bodyside moulding with vinyl inserts. In 1982 the grille was squared-up with a central blue oval Ford badge in place of the hood mounted FORD letters. For 1984 the 5.0 Mustang engine was added to the power line, receiving the Mustang’s EFi injection set-up the following year. 1986 had the top line version now called the Eddie Bauer Edition in a special two-tone colour scheme. A flatter ‘aero-look’ front end was adopted for 1987. A Silver Anniversary model came for the 25th year of Broncos in 1991 finished in Currant Red with leather seat covering. Another new front end appeared for 1992 this time slightly rounded and this was to remain more or les unchanged until the Bronco line ended in 1996.
This isn’t the end of the story, however, as a shortened variation called the Bronco II was launched for 1984, this time based on the Ranger pickup that was developed alongside. Now on a 94 inch wheelbase, they were powered by a 2.9 litre German V6, and copied most of the Big Bronco’s characteristics in a down-sized manner. Like the Ranger, a simple egg-crate pattern grille featured the Ford oval mounted towards the left side. Both Ranger and Bronco II were subtly re-styled for 1989 with a slightly fussier grille pattern now with a central Ford oval badge. The Bronco II lasted only through the 1990 season, after which it was effectively replaced by the Explorer, and that again was Ranger-based. Unlike the Big Bronco, the rear section of Bronco II was not removable.
A rather modest selection of Bronco models has been produced, most of them toys but a few plastic kits enable good miniatures to be created, and a couple of nice 1:43 models save the day. Starting with the first series of Land Rover inspired Broncos we have the many different issues of the toy Nylint Roadsters, despite their robust steel construction it is likely that all but those not played with will have lost their fold-flat windscreen. At the other end of the spectrum in both size and detail are the tiny die cast Johnny Lightning Roadsters complete with chunky rubber tyres and some interior and underside detail. Slightly larger is a small Matchbox that is not sure what it wants to be – it looks like a Wagon with roof removed but with a soft top erect, the rear seats being for the legless while the model is riding on utterly massive tyres. A larger and earlier toy in the 1970s from Tootsietoy is bigger again, this Wagon features a simple diecast body with a plastic base that doubles as the interior as well as the ugliest front end ever seen on a toy, it must have given toddlers many a nightmare!
By far the most attractive of the early Bronco models are the 1:43 Matchbox Yesteryear Station Wagons. They feature good interior detail, very neat opening two-part tailgate with a spare wheel mounted inside the drop-down part, as well as some pretty involved underside detail. Despite being marked 1966, the front parking/indicator lights are amber, a 1969 introduction. A second issue in The Great Outdoors series featured a collection of fishing tackle on the roof.
Moving on to the first of the ‘Big Bronco’ models and back to Nylint who produced a steel toy in 1:17 scale, the detail being simply by metallic stickers on the sides including the badges “Bronco Ranger XLT” together with a plastic interior and rear section. AMT and MPC came in with 1:25 and 1:24 plastic kits of the same vehicle, some of which were sold respectively under the Matchbox and Monogram labels the latter also produced some 1:32 Bronco kits. Revell also issued some 1:24 plastic kits which may (or not) be re-issues of some earlier issues. In the same scale Ertl showed a forthcoming diecast model of this Bronco in their 1980 catalogue as number 1681. Back to smaller toys and very Matchbox-like is the little Kidco from Universal that often came in sets of four different toys. This has a very basic plastic interior but is otherwise quite appealing.
While researching the 1982 Bronco a couple of models from Galgo of Argentina came up for consideration, as one of them featured “Ford Bronco 4×4” stickers on the hood. They do look rather like regular pickups, however, and after consultation with Robert Gunn, the source of info on all things pickup, it was realised that some South American Ford pickups used the Bronco name as a sub-series, just as the US Bronco confusingly employed the Ranger name as a variant identity. The little Buby from Argentina however is a Bronco with its diecast body but everything else in plastic including the rear top, which is therefore often detached and lost.
When the diecast Ertl 1:25 Bronco kit arrived it was a facelifted ’82 with the squared up grille despite the box art showing 1980 on the model’s licence plate. BS Design, a German range of very small solid resin models that require paint and simple assembly include a Bronco meanwhile for a pleasant change the Hot Wheels Bronco is almost a decent model, rather than a figment of someone’s imagination and is all diecast apart from the plastic rear top. Almost the same size is the nice little Bronco from Racing Champions that carries “’80 Ford Bronco” on the base, despite the front end looking very ’82. The only model of an Aero-look ’87-’91 example found so far was a resin transkit from Pinecrest in 1988, which utilised parts from existing plastic kits of the earlier examples.
Bronco II models are a strange mixture, Nylint once again feature with a 1:24 steel toy that looks suitably rugged, and a couple of very similar 1:56 diecasts came from Majorette and Matchbox, the latter in at least ten different issues.
The James Bond films once again come up with some worthwhile models, in this case a James Bond Car Collection 1:43 Bronco II from Quantum of Solace. For non-Bond watchers the fact that the model is treated to some light brown ‘weathering’ may suggest it featured in a desert scene. However, the same model comes from Premium X in a ‘clean’ and more detailed finish. Some person at Premium X must have a strange sense of humour as two of the badges have been applied upside down – just as two on their Econoline had been.
|MPC||USA||1976||Station Wagon||1:25||Plastic Kit|
|MPC||USA||14-200||1969||Station Wagon||1:25||Plastic Kit|
|Johnny Lightning||China||2006||600||1966||Roadster 60mm||1:66||Diecast|
|Matchbox||China||1998||35057||1969||Station Wagon 90mm||1:43||Diecast|
|Tootsietoy||USA||1970-9||1966||Station Wagon 96mm||1:43||Diecast/Plastic|
|AMT||USA||1979||2708||1979||Ranger XLT||1:25||Plastic Kit|
|Matchbox/AMT||USA||1979||4629||1978||Ranger XLT||1:25||Plastic Kit|
|Nylint||USA||1978||Ranger XLT 250mm||1:17||Steel|
|MPC||USA||1982||443 & 446||1982||Wagon||1:24||Plastic Kit|
|Revell||USA||1980||7307||1980||Ranger XLT||1:24||Plastic Kit|
|Revell||USA||1981||7308||1981||Ranger XLT||1:24||Plastic Kit|
|Revell||USA||7682||2000||Ranger XLT||1:24||Plastic Kit|
|Kidco (Universal)||Hong Kong||11700-1||1978||Wagon 67mm||1:62||Diecast|
|Ertl||Hong Kong||8107||1982||Wagon||1:25||Diecast Kit|
|BS Design||Germany||7901||1982||Wagon||1:87||Resin Kit|
|Hot Wheels||Malaysia||1982||Wagon 74mm||1:55||Diecast|
|Racing Champions||China||215||1982||Wagon 70mm||1:57||Diecast|
|Matchbox||Macau||1987||39||1984||Bronco II 73mm||1:56||Diecast|
|Majorette||France||251||1984||Bronco II 71mm||1:56||Diecast|
|Nylint||USA||1984||Bronco II 185mm||1:24||Steel|
|Fabbri (JBCC)||China||2011||103||1989||Bronco II 96mm||1:42||Diecast|
|Premium X||China||2012||145||1989||Bronco II XLT 97mm||1:42||Diecast|