This generation Bronco is not a common sight anymore, for two reasons. One, it’s of course old. But the other is that these were built for only two years (1978-1979). That’s rather odd, but there was a reason: the first energy crisis. These were supposed to arrive for 1974, but were put on hold in favor of the significantly smaller and lighter gen1 Bronco. So I had to stop and admire this big old horse of a 4×4.
The original Bronco appeared in 1966, and was clearly in the compact 4×4 utility category, and came with a 170 CID Falcon six (200 after 1973) as standard equipment. My CC on it is here.
Chevy’s response, the 1969 Blazer K5, based heavily on their pickup, redefined the genre. Not only did it sell better, but the lower capital investment meant healthy profits, which the original bronco never generated.
As I indicated at the top, Ford had a Blazer-competitor Bronco ready to rumble for 1974, but then held off due to the energy crisis. Sales of big trucks and such were weak for a few years, and presumably the smaller gen1 Bronco got better mileage. But its sales were so modest towards the end of its life, it was mostly irrelevant anyway.
But in 1978, a boom year in the industry, the big Bronco was ready to kick some Blazer butt.
It came only with V8 power, either the 351M or the 400. They came standard with part-time four-wheel drive and a New Process 205 gear-driven transfer case, with the option of permanent four-wheel drive and a New Process 203 chain-driven transfer case. Nobody cared about fuel economy in 1978.
The rear fiberglass roof was removable. The inside rear side panels were too, but that feature was not typically taken advantage of as in this case.
It’s way past my bed time, so I don’t really have anything pithy to say about the rear bench seat.
The floor mounted shifter for the transfer case is visible here. And the bench seat console, whose box we saw in the way back, makes a practical addition, given the lack of cup holders in 1978. Of course this may well be a 1979, but I don’t know how to tell the difference. Do you?
The Custom was better trimmed than the non-Custom. And there may well have been a higher trim level, but this was well before the Eddie Bauer era.
So that’s my quickie take on the Bronco gen2. It makes a good bike hauler. And it undoubtedly gets terrible gas mileage. Too bad the 300 six wasn’t available. But most of all, it’s now a treasured piece of vintage iron. As is anything from the 70s, but especially an old Bronco.
Growing up my aunts had a 1979 ford truck which formed the basis for this vehicle. It had square headlights, so I guess thats how you tell the difference.
I think you’re right about the headlights going from round to square in the 1979 model year for the Ford pickups and Broncos. There was a guy in my high school back then that had a ‘78 (his dad owned a ford dealership) and IIRC the headlights were round. After we graduated in ‘78, the following fall the ‘79s came out with square headlights.
On the pickup trucks, it is my understanding that they could be ordered with square or round headlights in ’79. Most came with square except for the bare-bones work trucks.
The ’78 pickup could have either square or round headlights. The ’79 brochure at the link below shows all of the pickups with square headlights – even the base Custom model.
It was tied to trim level in 1978 the low line Custom got the rounds while the high line, Ranger XLT on the Bronco, got the rectangular. For 1979 they all got rectangular.
My grandma had a ’78 Bronco with square headlights. I’m pretty sure the highest trim level got the squares and lower trims got the rounds.
I believe the round headlights were 1978 only – the rectangular lights were an option in 78 and then standard in 79.
My dad had a 78 with ranger package that have it the square lights and chrome
On my wish list is to build a 78-79 Bronco with a 73-75 F-series grille, 300 straight six, and NP435/NP205 gearbox/t-case setup.
Some of the best information on 1967-79 Ford F-series trucks at Fordification.com (67-72) and Fordification.net (73-79).
Might be wrong but as I recall the “FORD” letters were removed from the hood and replaced with a blue oval with Ford script in the grille in ’79.
Sorry, no – that didn’t happen until 1982.
“Nobody cared about fuel economy in 1978-1979.”
Well, ’79 was the first year of Oil Crisis II. I’d say 1976-78 “nobody cared” and was a short period of good car sales. Buyers wanted big cars, and even the ‘smaller’ GM B/C body sold well, since gas stabilized around 50-70 cents a gallon. ’79 brought in $1.00 a gallon and climbing, causing panic and predictions of “everyone will be driving small FWD cars by 1985”.
True, but that Oil Crisis II did not hit until mid-summer. It was midway through the calendar in 1979 but in terms of model years, 1979 was closing out by that time so that the problem was unloading stuff that had already been ordered and built. 1980 models got hammered because things got bad just as the first ones were starting to roll out of the plants.
Again, 1979 was hardly a time of “nobody caring about gas prices”. Many posts here talk about this.
Gas prices started rising in winter ’79, not mid summer. The Iran Revolution in late ’78 started the supply lines getting cut.
The GM X cars were rushed to market due to this, and dealers sold them “off the trucks” at full sticker, due to sudden demand for fuel economy. Also, Chrysler begged for money and promised K cars.
Here’s more info:
The X cars did not come out until mid 1979 and they were all 1980 models. They sold well initially because they were new and cool and modern and seemed to be a great replacement for the Nova, which was over 10 years old by then.
Take a look at the two big cars that were not changed for the 1979 model year. Lincoln saw a nearly 20K unit production increase over 1978, an increase of nearly 12%, and this with the last unreconstructed big car lineup in the industry. Cadillac production was up by about 10% also (still with the big 425 cid engine). All of the downsizing had been a reaction to 1973 fuel shortages and the resulting recession. People were writing checks for those final big Lincolns and were happy to do it.
Even the Chrysler line came close to 1978 numbers in 1979, and they did it without anything small (and fighting an ever-worsening quality reputation). Everything would be different with the 1980 models for everyone, and gas mileage became the number one factor again. For awhile.
As Jim pointed out, I was casually referring to the model years of these trucks. Gas prices did not “start rising in the winter of 1979”; the first semi-significant jump was in March, by 2.5 cents, followed by a jump of 4 cents in April, then further increases.
But thank you for holding my hand to the fire for this casual comment written late last night.
I laugh every time I see one of these. In ’78 my mother worked for a doctor who was also a family friend. He’d recently moved into a new house and was doing some landscaping and yard work, and thought one of these would be a great all-purpose vehicle for hospital runs in bad weather, hauling mulch and plants, etc. He was about 5’1″ tall and maybe 100lbs wet. Passing him on the road he looked absolutely comical piloting this thing. It looked as thought you could have fit 6 or 7 of him across that big bench seat.
He eventually tired of it, and before purchasing an ’81 Escort wagon with 4-on-the-floor he asked my mother to teach him to drive a stick. He was an inquisitive guy, and since he’d never learned to work a clutch he wanted to gain the skill. She gave him a few lessons in her ’79 Plymouth TC3 and he moved on to the Escort, in which he looked much less comical. By ’83 he was driving a stripper Chrysler E-Class sedan, with automatic.
Looking back, he was one of those guys who did a great deal of research before major purchases, and so many of the cars he owned seemed to tick all the right boxes based on statistics and knowledge of the time, but taking into account the Bronco, Escort and E-Class, on top of the V-8-6-4 Eldorado his wife drove, followed by the DeVille with the 4100, it becomes clear that at least during that timeframe one could easily have done lots of homework and still ended up with a series of vehicular nightmares. He’s now retired in Hawaii. I wonder what he’s driving these days.
Ahh, the 70s. Not only could you get your truck in brown, you could get it in *two tone* brown!
Yup that is a 1978 low line grille, the higher trim levels got rectangular lights and in 79 they went rectangular across the board.
Although it’s a 1993 model, a few generations ahead of this one, the white Al Cowlings Bronco of OJ Simpson fame is for sale. It’s owned by OJ’s former agent and he wants something like $1.2 million for it. Think I’ll pass.
Wonder why these were never nearly as popular as the Blazer/Tahoe/Suburban or even the Wagoneer. The Explorer was a Ford grand slam, crushing everything in its class, but these sold maybe a tenth of those. Given its solid and popular F-150 underpinnings I found that puzzling. Ford never gave it much advertising or promotion and the model languished for years.
“Wonder why these were never nearly as popular as the Blazer/Tahoe/Suburban or even the Wagoneer.”
If they sold at a significant markup over the pickup, they were very popular with Ford management. If the factory was at capacity and every Bronco was selling at or over list price, Ford had no incentive to build market share.
I’m not sure that’s the case for this Bronco, but when manufacturers find themselves limited by factory capacity, they’ll build more high trim models and maximize mark up on the units they can get to market. Good profits, but less market share.
Wonder why these were never nearly as popular as the Blazer/Tahoe/Suburban or even the Wagoneer. The Explorer was a Ford grand slam, crushing everything in its class, but these sold maybe a tenth of those.
Because they only had two doors, and getting into the back seat was a PIA? The full-sized Blazer and Bronco were not exactly family-friendly in the slightest. They were hard riding, and forget about strapping a kid into a kiddie seat in the back.
The other cars you mention were all four doors, right? Well, you mentioned the Blazer; I don’t have ready access to the sales stats, but my memory tells me the full size Bronco sold pretty well, in relation to the Blazer. But keep in mind that the Blazer had almost a decade head start in this category, and thus carved out a big niche for itself.
Both of these were essentially dinosaurs once four door SUVs arrived.
Makes perfect sense. It’s amazing how the demand for 2 door vehicles cratered in the ’80’s. With the exception of a few sporty coupes and convertibles, 2 door vehicles have all but disappeared. Even new pickups all seem to be 4 door models Quite the change from the ’70’s, when Colonnade coupes ruled the day and the ’60’s, when 2 door hardtops were everywhere.
Heck… I’d probably sell mine for a fraction of that. (grins). pic of my ’95 below.
Back in ’79, GM was still running full-time 4WD underneath their full size trucks. Very convenient, worked great off road… but you could literally watch the gas gauge drop as you drove down the road. I had a loaded ’79 Chevy Short-Wide with the “fuel efficient” 400 under the hood. Two 17 gallon tanks, as I recall, and you could barely make it 250 miles between fill ups. Ford at least offered the choice between locking hubs or full-time.
I wasn’t a fan of these behemoths. They looked so overwhelmed when used in pursuit on the TV show 240 Robert.
Here’s another brutish beauty, the Dodge Ramcharger. I’d buy it for the name alone!
That looks great! A real beauty! Have been considering one of these as a classic/hobby vehicle. Normally id go for much smaller vehicles, but here in texas, even an old ramcharger is more like midsize compared to everything else on the road nowadays.
A watersports operator had one of these in green and white, and it served him well for many years.
I’m currently on vacation in Ecuador and have seen several full-size Broncos. And, since some one mentioned X Bodies, I also saw a very well maintained Citation 4 door hatchback. Gas here is subsidized, about $1.50 per US gallon. Lots of late model F150’s … quite a sight in old town Quito.
I like these a lot. Not a big fan of brown but this colour combo really works; you could slot woodgrain inside the chrome for chunky wood.
I think that the difference between 78 and 79 was that when equipped with square lights the 78 would have black light surrounds while the 79 would have chrome.
Always loved it.
They´re bringing it back, right?