It wasn't just the purple paint that drew us to Rebecca Campbell's "Purple Panther" 1986 Bronco II. It was the aplomb with which it tackled terrain. Spotted at the 2011 Cal 4Wheel Hi Desert Roundup, we watched as the BII worked its way up detritus-strewn slopes and through tight turns.
If you haven't thought about a Bronco II lately, you're probably not the only one. In its mid '80s heyday, the BII offered a sought-after combination of good fuel economy, decent power, excellent maneuverability, and rugged construction. The last Bronco II model year was 1990, after which the Blue Oval replaced it with the popular (and controversial) Explorer. Yeah, it's been a few years.
These days, precious few Bronco IIs are still on the road, and fewer still take to the trails. We think there's a good case for the BII. For starters, it's got the same mechanical platform as the popular Ranger pickup, including a stout frame, a decently strong rear axle, and Ford's distinctive Twin-Traction Beam front suspension. The 2.9L V-6 is factory fuel injected for easy starting as well as consistent performance even on steep climbs and angled slopes. Add in a track width that's friendly in confined quarters combined with a short 94-inch wheelbase, and you've got the recipe for a capable trail rig.
Rebecca's "Panther" is one of the cleanest we've ever seen. "I wanted something different and small," she reveals. "I couldn't leave it looking plain, so I painted it my favorite color: purple."
This thing gets 'wheeled, even when Rebecca's schedule clashes with prime trail time. Lamar Campbell was at the controls during our photo shoot. “Everyone just calls me 'Soup',” he told us. Rebecca lists the Cleghorn trail, Gold Mountain, Dishpan Springs, and Truckhaven among her local favorites. Future trail plans include trips to Moab, New Mexico, Colorado, and eventually Canada.
We'd forgotten about the Bronco II, but the Purple Panther reminded us that this rig is worth another look.
|Vehicle:||1986 Ford Bronco II|
|Owner/Hometown:||Rebecca Campbell/Hesperia, California|
|Engine:||Ford 2.9L V-6|
|Transfer case/low range ratio:||Borg-Warner 1350-series/2.48:1|
|Front end:||Dana 28 Twin-Traction Beam|
|Rear end:||Ford 7.5|
|Suspension:||four-inch front bracket lift, replacement rear leaf packs|
|Tires:||33x12.50R15 GT Radial Adventuro M/Ts|
|Wheels:||Factory Ford Explorer|