Curbside Classic Jr.: 1978 Ford Bronco – The Bucking Bronco Grows Up

(first posted 5/23/2018)       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 bedtime, 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 on 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.