Gen 1 Broncos have been red hot for some years now, and I suspect the full size Broncos are not exactly depreciating anymore. But what about the Bronco II? Is it becoming desirable; even collectable? This is the second one I’ve seen in my neighborhood in the past few weeks.
It made me want to see all three of the compact Broncos together, to see just how they compare. Obviously, the original is now iconic. It’s a;so the shortest of the three, with a 92″ wheelbase and 151″ of length. The Bronco II upped that to 94″ and 158″. And the current Bronco is up to 100″ and 173″. And of course it’s wider and much heavier; the 2.7 V6 version weighs between 4,491 and 5,129 lbs. A porky little pony. The original weighed just about 3000 lbs (for the six); the Bronco II weighed in at 3,239 lbs.
The current one may look lower, but it’s just as tall as the original, at about 72″‘; the BII is a couple inches less tall.
It’s easy to see why the Bronco II looked a bit short at the time, especially compared to the Blazer/Jimmy; it was emulating the original. Whether that was a good idea or not is questionable, since it was really a different vehicle now, targeting the booming compact SUV market that youngish boomers were infatuated with. Maybe it’s because we had one for six months, and it was a bit short.
Never mind its weird steering and tippy handling. It scared me the first time I drove it, and I never pushed it really hard in curves. Ford’s Twin-Beam front axle worked reasonable well on its big trucks, but on the narrow Bronco these swing axles became a bit to swingerish for my taste. It did give me my first taste of 4-wheeling in the mountains north of LA and in the Sierras. Nothing serious; just enough to whet my appetite. And decide that a Jeep Cherokee 4-door was going to be a better choice for us. It handled vastly better.
This is a base version, with a stick. Ours was the Eddie Bauer Yuppie-mobile kind, and the interior really was nice. Of course it had an automatic, which rather dulled the experience some, but then it was Stephanie’s kiddie hauler; my T-Bird Turbo Coupe had a stick, so I couldn’t complain.
The Vista-Cruiser rear side windows were great in the mountains, especially the time we took my parents and my sister over Tioga Pass from Mammoth for a day of sightseeing in Yosemite. And our two little kids sat in the way back, on a little rear-facing bench seat I made for them, including seat belts. Seven in all; a full house. I kept my speed down on Tioga Pass, as my father had read about the issue of certain SUVs being prone to tipping. I could tell he was not too happy to be riding in it.
The SUV boom left a few folks behind.
More on the Bronco II:
Curbside Classic/Auto-Biography: 1984 Ford Bronco II–The Bucking-Bronco Horsey Car
CC Capsule: Ford Bronco II Eddie Bauer- The Bucking Broncette
Vintage R&T Comparison: 1983 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer, Bronco II and Montero – The New Compact SUVs
There’s a clean one I see in my neighborhood regularly but infrequently; based on its schedule it may belong to a young adult coming home to visit on holidays. Otherwise they’re a monthly or quarterly sighting at best … at least on the road. A colleague had a manual trans Eddie Bauer version that I drove briefly. It was probably a 2.8 as this was a while before I bought my ‘86 Ranger with the new 2.9 EFI engine. My Ranger with TTB never felt tippy even at crazy speeds; I think it was the short wheelbase for its CG height that was really the Bronco II’s problem, though I’m sure TTB camber angles and roll centers didn’t help.
There’s two Bronco IIs in my neighborhood that are driven regularly – then last year I saw this dark-walnut 1987 Eddie Bauer model as well.
The Bronco II is a good example of a car I like in retrospect, but never had much desire to own.
I think I like seeing them now because I don’t see them very often anymore but don’t think I’d want to own one, the Ranger pickup appeals quite a bit more. The Eddie Bauer ones though were very nicely trimmed inside, especially the bolstered front seats.
The new Bronco looks quite good, at least in two-door form, it looks weird (to me) in four-door form though, something about the proportions just don’t work. Or they work far better on the Wrangler, something like that. The 1960s one does nothing for me whatsoever, it somehow reminds me of an austere Falcon shortened and squared, I’d vastly prefer an OJ-generation Bronco in any color but white 🙂
Regarding the handling… despite using the same suspension/steering as comparable-year Rangers, the manufacturers of lift kits all stated – in bold type – that their lift kits were not for use on Bronco II. I’m pretty sure that was a liability issue because a lift kit would make the “shorter than a Ranger” wheelbase even more unstable than it was in stock configuration.
Fun Fact: there were RWD variants available, but Ford anticipated (and the sales figures proved them right) that the 2WD version would only be a minimal fraction of sales. For simplification of assembly line procedures, the RWD variant had a faux transfer case installed that was literally an empty 4WD transfer case shell with a pass-through, eliminating the need for an entirely different (longer) driveshaft for 2WD models.
I had actually assumed the new Bronco after seeing quite a few now in person was taller than an unlifted original, but it must be a visual effect of the tires/wheels. I didn’t realize the new ones were that heavy either, yikes, I had assumed they weighed as much as a wrangler! I presume the 500lb spread is the difference between the 2 and longer 4 door?
I suspect Bronco IIs would have a stronger following if they had a removable top like the originals, or even just the half top of the O.J.s. The wrap over glass is great for views but I think for a lot of collectors and enthusiast off roaders like that open capability. Later Dodge Ramchargers with a very similar roof to the Bronco II don’t seem to be as desirable as Broncos and Blazers yet with collectors either, the latter are definitely going up in value from what I’ve seen but the former seems kind of stagnant unless it’s a 70s one with the removable top.
Other thing that might be a detriment to their collectibility is they might just be too close to the extremely common first gen Explorer for their own good. It could be overcome with some off-road cred but then there are clubs dedicated into making old Explorers into hardcore rock crawlers, so the BII just seems like kind of a footnote, at least for now. It is remarkable to me just how similar it actually is to the original while seeing the insane amounts of money being passed for them, makes you wonder if they maybe the II blow up someday, but until then you can stock up on a couple of them scouring Craigslist for less than $10,000
I think the rounded wheel arches are part of that. The original and especially Bronco II square off the top of the wheel arches; the new one doesn’t, so it looks like the body is sitting higher on its wheels, which of course are much bigger than the older trucks.
I had a couple of friends who owned them when new. They were sometimes spooked by the high center of gravity.
Not too many of the Bronco IIs out there with the more modern dashboard. You caught a rare one.
One thing that I remember about the Bronco ll is that little piece of rain gutter in front of the tail gate. It has no use as a rain gutter. It’s there to be used as a roof rack or fishing rod holder mount.
They are everywhere in East Tennessee and Northern Georgia. Ive had a few full size Broncos and my Wife had a 88 Bronco II. Theyve always been great. We have a 2021 Bronco Sport now. My Wife loves it. The newer Broncos Large and Sport I see everywhere too. I love it.
I kinda want a Bronco II for shits and giggles, but the short wheelbase and tippy nature turns me off. I’d rather have a first gen Explorer, as they have the 4.0 and seemed a little more civilized to drive. BTW, we’ve got a 2023 Bronco Sport and it’s far more comfortable than the new Bronco. Or the old one. Or maybe even the 77-96 behemoth.
My cousin owned a pre-facelift one in the ’90s. It was white and when she took it to the Grateful Dead concert in Highgate (heh), VT in 1995 the OJ jokes were plentiful.
There was an intention for those windows to be removable as an option, it was advertised at launch and at least one set exists in the wild today, but was apparently nixed by Ford’s product-liability lawyers at the last minute. I wonder what the take rate would’ve been, comparable to the sliding-window option on the S-10 Blazer.
That was one case where Jeep had the better idea for an option to boost rear-passenger ventilation – rear doors with roll-down windows.
Love mine original owner!