THE ORIGINAL BIG BRONCO
A Long Time Coming—a Short Time Here
While the original Bronco—the boxy little off-roader Ford launched to compete with Jeep and the IH Scout— has a proud history and a devoted following, Ford recognized the demand for an Suv-style truck based on the full-size F-series pickup as early as 1969—the year Chevy introduced the K5 Blazer. Ford set to work on a vehicle codenamed “Project Shorthorn,” which copied the Blazer’s formula: a shortened full-size pickup frame, a removable top, and the powertrains and 4WD setup from its full-size line. But just as Ford was readying its new creation to coincide with the 1973 launch of the sixth-generation F-series, the oil crisis struck. Afraid of the sales impact on the heavier, thirstier upsized Bronco, Ford shelved Project Shorthorn. That proved a costly mistake, as Blazer sales flourished throughout the 1970s despite the gas crunch. Ford’s little Bronco soldiered on through 1977, but it was taking a beating from Chevy. With just two years remaining on the 6-Gen F-series, Ford finally decided it was now or never and released the big-boy Bronco in 1978.
It was an instant hit and surged past the Blazer in sales. Ford wisely offered the Bronco with similar options and trim to the F-series; you could choose base “Custom” or top-level “Ranger XLT” packages, and even a few “Lariat” models were built. Buyers could dress any Bronco with the oh-so-’70s “Free-wheelin” appearance package, which included multicolor-stripe graphics, special mirrors, and custom wheels. Below the surface, power came from a standard 351 2-barrel, but power-hungry folks could spring for an optional 400 4-barrel V-8. More important, it shared the F-series solid front axle 4WD system that is the stuff of legend for die-hard off-roaders. Sadly, this setup would go away in 1980, when Ford introduced a new Bronco based on the 7-Gen F-series (’80–’86), which surrendered its solid axle for a more road-friendly twin-traction beam setup. That makes the ’78–’79 Broncos rare but supremely desirable among true off-road enthusiasts— and the perfect choice for Traxxas’ version!
The Bronco is another fun and highly capable trail runner on the TRX-4 platform—no surprise there. Remote-locking diffs, High/low trans, portal axles, and Cruise Control remain standout features that truly make a difference on the trail. I imagine most Bronco buyers will choose it purely for its rad looks, but if you’re looking for the best-performing TRX-4 regardless of style, you’ve got one more reason to go Bronco. It’s hardly a night-and-day difference, but the greater weight percentage over the front axle does give an edge when you need absolute peak climbing/crawling capability. (In fairness to the other Land Rover and Tactical models, you can just remove their spare tires to get the same benefit.) Downside? The Bronco costs more than other scalers, but when you compare all you get for the extra cash, it’s hard not to conclude that the Bronco is a great value.
The deeply channeled steel frame can be set up for 300, 312, 324, and 336mm wheelbases. For Bronco duty, the TRX-4 uses the 312mm (12.3-inch) setting.
If the Bronco’s Sunset graphics are too hard on your retinas, you can get the truck with plain ol’ red filling the colorways.
The XL-5 speed control looks like Traxxas’ old standby, but it’s the new “HV” model. It’s built for use with 3S Lipo and has Trail and Crawl modes in addition to the usual Sport, Race, and Training modes. It spins a 21T reverse-rotation motor for ample...
It’s not mentioned in the manual, but the shelf between the front fenders can hold a mini Lipo pack, as used by Traxxas’ 1/16-scale models. The slots make it easy to secure the pack with a strap, tape, or zip tie.