Ford has been dropping little bits of info about this for years, but as of Tuesday, the Bronco is officially back – but actual vehicles won’t be delivered until next year. Ford is advertising it thus:
There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be discovered. To find it you have to break rules, push boundaries and climb over the barriers in your way. With its relentless toughness and durability, the all-new Bronco was built to carry outdoor enthusiasts to wherever the wilderness calls. Available in two- or four-door models.
I’ve had two Broncos. The first was one of the originals, a 1974, painted a rather horrible nuclear-reactor green. We called it the Green Machine, and it was a wonder. I think that truck would go up and down trees. It stuffed a 302ci V-8 into a fairly small frame, with 4:11 gears and manual everything. The interior was all sheet metal and vinyl; at the end of elk season you could just take it into the car wash and hose it out. It wasn’t without down sides, though. In hot weather the floorboards got uncomfortably hot, and the low gearing and lack of overdrive limited it to about 50-55mph on the highway.
The second one was a 1992, one of the ones based on the F-150 chassis. It had the all-black “Nite” trim package, so we called it the Dark Horse.
The Dark Horse wasn’t quite as tough off-road, although is was still pretty damn capable. It used the same 302ci V-8 but the newer engine, with multi-port fuel injection, managed to provide plenty of power for the bigger truck. It was better on the highway, being geared at about 3:55 (as I recall) but the automatic transmission had an overdrive gear, so it would comfortably tool along the interstate at 75mph with my tent trailer tacked on behind.
I used the Dark Horse a lot. It saw hunting fields and off-road trails everywhere between Montana and the Mexican border, between the Mississippi and the Sierras. It was a great truck, but eventually it just plain wore out, at which point I traded it in on the inestimable Rojito, which I still am using today.
The new Bronco looks the part, at least in the photos I’ve seen so far. But I’m concerned all the same. I prefer manual everything in a truck that I’ll be pounding on jeep trails. The Dark Horse had power windows and door locks, both of which weren’t working very well by the end of its tenure. The new Bronco appears to have all kinds of electronic gewgaws that, I am afraid, won’t last well under the kind of hard use that a hunting/fishing/outdoor rig frequently sees on the trail.
When the new Broncos arrive at the dealership we use, I’ll go look at them. But I’m prepared to be disappointed. We’ll see.