Car and Driver (USA)

Know Your Broncos

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Over the 30 years the Bronco was in production, the ute had only two body styles: early Bronco and full-size Bronco. But the latter was around for so long that Bronco-heads largely agree that there have been five generation­s. Here’s a primer. —Ezra Dyer

1966–77 The Legend

The first Bronco was like an off-road counterpar­t to the Mustang, with an available V-8, coil springs up front, and a removable top. It was also tiny, with a wheelbase about five inches shorter than a two-door JL Wrangler’s. It’s the most collectibl­e Bronco and also the spirit animal for the 2021 model. Hot Setup: a ‘76 or ‘77 with disc brakes, a Dana 44 front end, and a 4.9liter V-8.

1978–79 The Beefy Years

In 1978, the Bronco followed the Chevy Blazer’s lead and got huge. Basically a shortened F-100 pickup with seats in the bed, this generation is prized for its combinatio­n of girth and bulletproo­f live front axle. The top still came off but only over the rear seats and cargo area. Hot Setup: the 6.6-liter V-8 with a four-speed manual transmissi­on and the New Process NP205 part-time transfer case.

1980–86 Eddie Bauer and Twin-Traction Beam

In 1980, Ford introduced the Twin-Traction Beam independen­t front suspension, the merits of which we can debate when you have six hours to kill. This Bronco also introduced the Eddie Bauer edition—a rare co-branding exercise that actually made sense— and the 4.9-liter inline-six that hits peak torque at a diesel-like 1600 rpm. Hot Setup: the inlinesix and four-speed manual.

1987–91 Composite Headlights!

Like the F-150, the Bronco entered an aero phase in the late ’80s. Or at least as aero as a tall box could get. Ergo, headlights sculpted to the body. The powertrain­s evolved a little, with standard fuel injection spreading across the lineup. By the end of this generation, the manual was a five-speed and the automatic a four. Hot Setup: an Eddie Bauer with the 5.8-liter V-8, a.k.a. the 351 Windsor.

1992–96 The O.J. One

To paraphrase the poet Puff Daddy, the ’90s were all about taking hits from the ’80s and making them sound so crazy. For the Bronco’s final years, Ford grafted a sleeker front end onto an ancient body and somehow it didn’t look desperate. Ford also claimed that the top no longer came off, but tamperproo­f bolts don’t fool us. It came off. Hot Setup: the 4.9-liter V-8 with a five-speed stick.

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