Ford Bronco History (1966-77)

Article by Mark Trotta

Designed and built to compete with the Jeep CJ5 and International Scout, the 1966 Bronco was Ford's entry into the growing off-road market, as well as their first SUV model.

original Ford Bronco sales ad

The original Ford Bronco was categorized as a passenger wagon, and was available with either a removable full-length roof, half cab, or canvas top "roadster" configuration. Exterior styling was simple; square lines and flat glass gave it a sharp look and kept with it's simple, utilitarian appeal.

Although it shared components with some other Ford trucks, the frame, suspension, and body were entirely new. A wheelbase of just 92 inches allowed excellent maneuverability and lent itself well to off-road driving. Front coil springs and control arms helped give the Bronco a sharp 34-foot turning radius. Rear suspension was conventional leaf-springs.

first Ford Bronco

Straight Six

Early Ford Bronco's had no engine options, power came from a 170ci inline-six cylinder engine sourced from the Ford Falcon. The carburetor was modified to deliver fuel even at sharp angles encountered during off-roading.

A column-mounted, three-speed manual transmission was standard equipment on all Ford Broncos. A floor-mounted transfer-case shifter and locking hubs were also standard.

First Year Sales

Available to the public in August of 1965, first-year Bronco's sold well. Sales for the 1966 model year totalled nearly 24,000 units.

Although power steering and automatic transmission were not available yet, many other options were, such as a winch, snow plow kit, CB radio, and auxiliary gas tank.

1970 Ford Bronco sales ad

V8 Power

In March 1966, a 289 V8 became available, replaced by a 302 V8 in 1968. The two-barrel 302 produced about 220 horsepower.

To comply with U.S. safety regulations, the Bronco was fitted with reverse lights in 1967 and sidemarker lamps in 1968. Due to low consumer demand, the open-body roadster was canceled after the 1968 model year.

Baja Bronco

Along with CJ Jeeps and IHC Scouts, Bronco's became popular in off-road racing, such as the Baja 500 and Baja 1000 endurance races. A special "Baja Bronco" package was offered in 1971, featuring a roll bar, reinforced bumpers, fender flares and wide tires, quick-ratio power steering, automatic transmission, and special exterior paint.

In response to buyer requests, a three-speed automatic transmission became available in 1973, but only when the 302 V8 was ordered as well.

1973 Ford Bronco sales ad

Sales for the 1977 model year was just over 14,500 units, ending the first of six future generations of Bronco's. Replacing it would be a new, larger Bronco built on Ford's F100 platform.


Related Articles:

International Scout (1960-1980)
Kaiser-Willys Jeep (1954-1969)
CJ Jeep (1970-1986)