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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.

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