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.