I have started looking through some of my oldest pictures, deciding that some of these cars should no longer be forced to wait in the purgatory that is my photo cache. Like this one.
The original Bronco came out in 1966 and was left alone until 1977. A recipe for disaster? Usually. But not in this case.
This car was shot in early June of 2011, within the first three weeks of my Curbside Classic Car Chasing. I have written up everything found before this one (except for a black Fiero that just doesn’t excite me in the least) and had always intended to put this buckeroo in the CC spotlight.
But then Paul did a thorough writeup on an early Bronco a few months later, and I just kept finding other things, and, . . . . . . . yeah.
Is there a vehicle that you felt a special kinship with when it came out? With me it was the Bronco. I was a young kid when these were introduced – it may have been the first genuinely new vehicle I saw from the beginning. I got more than one as toys and to finish it all off my father got a brand new Country Squire that same year. I recall being a little mystified as to how Dad could pass up a Bronco for a Squire. Parents . . . what do you do with them?
That it kept the same wheelcovers in later years that were on Dad’s Squire made the Bronco all the better.
Speaking of wheelcovers, someone help me out – are these from a ’71 Chevy?
Even though I never knew anybody with one, I retained a special affection for the Bronco. It was a little like Woody in the Toy Story movies – there it was, never changing from the time I was a six year old playing with toy cars until I had my drivers license and my own car – a Ford, naturally.
I found it odd that the Bronco was offered year after year after year with no really significant alterations. Yes, there were little details here and there for the true BroncoNerds to obsess over, but nothing I could identify at a glance.
On how many cars have we noticed the usually-fatal cycle: Introduction, then no attention or investment as the car becomes less and less competitive and is eventually killed off. But for a vehicle that saw almost no change over the twelve model years of its lifespan, the Bronco seemed to just shrug. Production figures tell the tale – it sold as well in 1977 as it did in 1967. Would a 2019 version still be good for 15-18,000 annual units if Ford had not changed things up for 1978? Who knows.
|1966-1977 Ford Bronco production|
I suppose we should acknowledge that the rest of the prehistoric SUV market had not stood still in that time. The International Scout II could boast of almost 40,000 units in 1977 and there were nearly 87,000 Chevy Blazers shoved out of the doors that year. I guess time marched on after all.
It is evident from Ford’s advertising that the company still thought of the Bronco as more of an accessory than as primary transportation. It was advertising the Bronco as a useful second vehicle in 1969 . . .
. . . and had not changed focus by 1973. In fact, it doesn’t seem that the Bronco ever really got much advertising support after it was introduced.
So perhaps letting the Bronco sit unattended for so long did have a negative effect. Then, at least. There was supposed to be a new 1974 Bronco that followed the pattern of Chevy and Dodge in using the new 1973 pickup truck as the starting point for an offroad 4×4. But for various reasons Ford placed that project on the back burner as it modernized pretty much everything else in its lineup. The big Bronco did not arrive until 1978 for its two year run – perhaps the shortest model run of anything ever built by Ford?
From our vantage point today, however, Ford’s lack of interest in the Bronco is one of the best things that ever happened in the company. Ford’s product planning malaise of the ’70s led to the least-malaisey thing the company built in that decade – the only vehicle virtually identical in 1977 to the stuff built in the second year of the Mustang. Perhaps this is why these Broncos have become so hugely popular among collectors, restorers and “builders” today – the original package is so appealing to us now in a way that the newer, bigger ones are not.
It is really hard to ID the years of these first generation Broncos. I tried looking at brochures, but that was little help. It seems that Ford re-used the same pictures over years.
This one in particular was a hardy perennial. Camping in 1971 looked just like . . .
. . . camping in 1976. This one must have been taken a little later in the day because Stan had time to swap roofs on the one in the background. Oh, wait . . .
I was able to ID the color as Harbor Blue, but again this was little help as this basic non-metallic medium blue was offered on Ford trucks every year from 1967 through 1974.
I finally found a site that told me that the engine callout badge for the 302 came for 1969 and went away after 1971. So let’s split the difference and call this one a 1970. Which works nicely because it matches almost exactly the one used on the cover of the brochure that year.
But with as much modification as many of these Broncos seem to have gotten over the years and with as few changes as they saw, year matters less than with about anything else I can think of.
The Retro Factor also comes into play in where this Bronco was parked. In 2011 my mother had a knee replacement done. I shot another, bigger Bronco in the parking lot of the hospital where she had the surgery done. When she moved into a nursing facility for rehab before she could go home I caught this one on one of my visits there.
Unfortunately she is now back into this very same nursing facility, after a long, rough road that has not yet come to an end. I park in this very same parking lot now and and every time I remember this Bronco – which I have not seen since it was captured in these shots. I guess long, rough, downhill roads and Broncos kind of go together.
In the years these Broncos were being built I remember people talking about TV personality Dick Clark and how he seemed immune from aging. In the late 1970’s it was a common remark that Clark had not seemed to age in the previous fifteen or twenty years. The original generation of the Bronco aged just as well as Clark did. Most of the rest of us, of course, cannot say the same about ourselves. And even Dick Clark was eventually caught and beaten up by Father Time. But maybe the struggles of aging that we all face make us appreciate something like this Bronco all the more.