Help me out here. Why is it that CC has had a bunch of Blazers, Scouts, Jeeps, first-gen Broncos — as well as second-gen and Bronco IIs, but not a peep regarding the third generation Bronco? Surely, there are a few of these old steeds still stampeding about the North American continent, where most CC writers roam free (and oh so wild). So how is it the European guy sitting way out in Japan is the one who first gets to write one of these big buckers up?
Was Ford’s legendary (in any sense of the word) build quality, ruggedness and rust protection improperly applied to this particular SUV? Might it be that these Broncos are too scarce to be found — or, alternatively, too familiar and thus blend in to the rest of the traffic? Or is it that Bronco the third turned into the red-headed step-foal of the herd? Let’s examine these one by one.
Were Fords of the Reagan era poorly made? Not any worse than other ‘80s Detroiters, I should think. I would personally have figured, perhaps wrongly, that AMC and Chrysler would have been the most egregious in this regard, yet quite a few Jeeps and K-cars have been featured on this site. Not to mention that examples of other fine Ford products of that era (Mustangs, Panthers, Continentals, etc.) seem to have weathered the past three decades well enough to still be regularly featured on CC.
Are these Broncos rare? They’re pushing 40, I thought, so there can’t be that many still about. As far as I know (and, I’ll admit right away, that’s not saying much at all), the third generation Bronco (1980-86) was based off the F-Series chassis, so there may be a few big malaise-era Ford pickups still about, but Broncos would surely be less common. Especially with such a nice colour-keyed interior! Turns out about 325,000 of this generation were built, which is more than the first generation managed. Hmm…
Being F150-based, one would think, ought to guarantee that the Bronco would be as dearly beloved as the truck it shared its bones with, but that might be where this particular generation’s quirks lie. The standard engine on 1982 Broncos was the 4.9 litre (300ci) straight-6; optional V8 power came in 5.0 (302ci) or 5.8 litre (351ci) varieties. Four speed manual transmission was the default, options included overdrive and the 3-speed automatic. Nothing out of the ordinary, certainly compared to either the previous generation or the competition.
Where Ford distinguished themselves was the front suspension. Chevrolet, Dodge and Jeep stuck to the tried and true solid front axle (minus a brief interlude back in the ‘60s for Jeep), but Ford debuted their coil-sprung twin beam IFS design on the 1980 Bronco / F150 for all models, including the AWD ones (in which case it was termed “Twin-Traction Beam”).
In Ford’s sales literature, this novel feature was prominently advertised as the best thing since sliced bread. In the real world, this front swing axle, on some of the shorter chassis that used it, made for a less stable vehicle – not necessarily what you want in a tall, heavy off-roader.
The smaller Bronco II also had this suspension – it seems these stability issues were worse on those. Ford really believed in it, but I’m not sure many people were convinced. Well, someone in Japan seems to have been keen enough, resulting in this particular Bronco having extra-cute amber turn signals grafted on to its rear end. Broncos are none too common in Tokyo, compared to Jeeps. I’ve seen (and documented) a number of generation ones brawling about, but this is the first and only third-gen specimen I’ve seen here.
Value-wise, according to my on-line sleuthing, it seems the 1980-86 and the very similar ’87-’91 Broncos (the “pre-OJs”, I guess you’d call them) are the cheapest of the breed. The long-lived generation one and steroid-pumping two-season-only second-gen are definitely the collectible ones, but the ‘80s and ‘90s Broncos are still out grazing.
Maybe that’s why these have escaped the sagacity of our esteemed North American CContributors. They have yet to attain true classic status, though they are not seen on many curbsides any longer. Thankfully, this particular old draught horse is in fine condition and will not head for the glue factory quite yet.
This is interesting. Speaking as one of those North American CContributors, I can safely say I haven’t seen a Bronco of this generation is three or four years, if not longer.
The ’80 to ’86 models (which featured this front end) never seemed to be that plentiful thirty-five years ago. Ditto for the ’87 to ’91. The ’92 to ’96 did seem somewhat more plentiful when new.
Another likely reason can be explained by those tumors on the wheel lips of this example. In these parts those are used to cover up rust. Rust wasn’t horrible on these (from what I remember) but they weren’t immune either.
I’ll also be the one to stick my finger in the monkey cage – none of the drivetrains were very inspiring during this era. A 4.9 liter six with a whopping 114 to 117 horsepower? The two V8s weren’t a hell of a lot better. All were durable but all were pathetic in the output department.
Yet meager power output was par for the course in those times.
Plus, these lived in the shadow of the ’78 to ’79 Bronco.
Good question, I am surprised these have not been written up here before. Speaking for myself, I am sure I have seen these from time to time but they still seem like modern cars to me and not something that would beckon me to stop and take pictures. But as you note, they are getting pretty old so maybe my personal “classic-meter” need re-calibration.
That’s precisely my answer too. These and the similar-vintage F-Series trucks have never enticed me to break my stride while walking. Too common.
But that’s apparently not the case in Japan.
I don’t recall these Broncos being all that common when new, but I guess production numbers don’t lie.
These third-gen Broncos existed at an odd point in time for the segment. The golden age of the original mountain goat SUV had largely passed thanks to multiple gas crises and shifting tastes towards PLC, killing off the IH Scout (and others, I’m sure). Yet the next big boom in SUVs in the 90s (fueled by the Bronco’s Explorer sibling) was yet to come.
Plus, the Bronco always existed in the shadow of the Chevy Blazer, which basically owned this segment and was almost the generic “Kleenex” name for this style of full-sized trucklets.
I mentioned in a prior post a few weeks ago that I’ve driven one of these with the 4 speed, about 15 years ago now (I think it was an ’85), and even then it was archaic, slightly scary, and immensely charming. I cannot vouch for the maintenance history of what was then a 20-year old vehicle, but it bobbled about on its springs, the body never feeling quite in sync with the running gear, it made a hell of a lot of noise and exhaust fumes without much actual speed, using the gear lever was like rowing a boat. It was an awful vehicle in all but a narrow use case…and I loved it every time I had a chance to use it.
This one is spectacular. Those well-shaped red velour Ford buckets, two-tone red and white exterior, squared-off not-gonna-take-your-baloney chrome front end, and the Stars and Stripes cleaning up the interior air. It just needs the 4-speed.
I’ve seen a few on Bring-a-Trailer. They are appreciated.
They are still around here, but mainly the later ’90’s version, we just walked past a couple in our neighborhood the other day. Most out here have rusting rear fenderwells, not so on the west coast or in drier climates. 1980’s examples are much thinner on the ground, and they are nowhere near as plentiful as the first Expeditions, likely due to their far more usefulness with the four doors keeping them more viable for family use. Blazers and of course RamChargers are much rarer than Broncos, here at least. I notice them due to having been interested in owning one for a time, like Petrichor says they are likely objectively terrible but subjectively fantastic.
And yes, that one you found is one of the best preserved ones I have laid eyes on in quite some time, especially of that model year era.
“To the Manure Born”…classic.
Born into a gas crisis, soon upstaged by the compacts – Bronco II, S-10 Blazer, and above all the XJ Cherokee with its’ segment-making innovation (four doors!) which rendered the fiberglass-capped 2 door Big Bronco obsolete well before its’ grand finale co-starring OJ Simpson.
Now that is a super clean older Bronco. No surprise there since it is in Japan and I would completely expect that if it was being used. Reminds me of when I would have been across a Japanese frigate, a Canadian frigate, and an American frigate in the same day. Sounds like the start of a joke. The Japanese frigate was immaculate inside and out, the Canadian not far behind, and then the American frigate last. If my friend, Capt. Mike, was still inspecting US Navy ships he would write them up when crew noticed me examining defects like rusted out stuffing tubes to name one.
I think the 16 year production in same the basic form kept this and the next two “generations”(as far as I’m concerned these are all the same generation) somewhat invisible for hardcore collectors. They have a lot going for them though, body rust is an issue, though not nearly as much as on squarebody Blazers, but replacement panels are cheap and abundant and because of its F150 ties can be made into serious, if a bit oversized, off roaders with a large aftermarket. These are almost more akin to Fox Mustangs where they’re more used as a platform for modification than preservation, but like Foxbodies that may eventually turn around as they get rarer. But they’re still pretty common for their age here.
First off, they are boring.
They look like F-150s, a shortened one.
Their interiors are boring.
Again, why get this when any old F-150 will do?
There is nothing special about this generation of Bronco.
It wasn’t until Ford actually differentiated the Bronco, did the Bronco sell.
There is no differentiation in this generation.
What do you mean? There was “no differentiation” in the ’87-91 or ’92-96 models either, and they all sold well.
The F150 Broncos sold better than the beloved and more distinctive 66-77 generation. The Bronco II sold better than any Broncos to date yet they’re just shortened Rangers and no better differentiated than these models
The original Bronco had flat sheet of steel for a dash with nothing more than a speedometer in it, define boring?
My dad had this gen Bronco, it was a great truck. Here in Texas, many were shipped off to Mexico when the miles racked up. Not many left this side of the Rio Grande.
The Bronco was based on the F series platform beginning with the 1978 model year on through its final year of production in 1996.
I can’t remember ever seeing one. Scouts, yes, Blazers and Suburbans, yes, but this generation? No.
Well now, just as it is that for every manure born there is a flatus, for each rule there exists a gasbag, and that here is me. Please allow me to explode, sorry, explain.
In at least one large island continent in very far south-east Asia formerly colonized by that small northern European island known today as Brexit (and lamentably still as yet ultimately ruled by same), a forgettable Ford F-shortbus named after a horse type is instead a thing not only preserved in current times but expensively coveted when first it was given foal. Please allow me to reproduce, sorry, expand.
Hereabouts, this shorty F-chunker was put together in a provincial town from imported bitsets and given a locally cast six or a locally cast V8 (minus US unleaded chokery) and a steering wheel where it was best needed and thence sold at greatly inflated inflations to other Australians who believed it to be a good thing.
Now of course, as chunky 4WD’s go, it really wasn’t, being fat, 10 mpg-ish, and again, fat – the point being, it couldn’t get anywhere offroad made for normal cars not from the US and in any case, no-one could afford the fuel for it to not to get there – but it was without question the fastest when 5.8 litres of 351ci were selected. In that regard – if not one other – it made a Range Rover look like a bubblecar.
Anyway, having begun life as a small-selling expenso-barge for wealthy farmers which sold in numbers enough to make a panicked US product planner think a rounding error had mistakenly been approved for production, it has never really fallen too far from exclusivity, if of a certain and limited type and to them. That is, the few ever sold at vast profit here in the day are all seemingly still about, trying as yet to justify their initial irrelevance and cost.
In short, they are still worth some dough, are still visible, and despite their speediness (for type) and their considerable even-to-me visual appeal, they are without doubt the epitome of the third noun used in the title.