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Ford Bronco Buyer's Guide

Posted in Project Vehicles on March 1, 2011
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Photographers: Ford Motor Company4 Wheel & Off-Road Staff

Ford started a 4x4 legacy that scratched an indelible mark on the off-road world over 45 years ago with the introduction of the Bronco. Since its release in 1966 (late 1965) the beloved Bronco has morphed into a number of popular body styles and was fitted with the advanced performance features of the times. The early utilitarian four-wheel-drive vehicles gave off-road enthusiasts a tough, dependable, and capable vehicle that could be driven to and from adventure locations with the ability to carry family and more gear than its competitors. To this day, the early Bronco is highly sought after, and its later-model fullsize brother and the smaller Bronco II are still classics in many circles of off-road fanatics.

Early Bronco ('66-'77)
The '66-'77 Bronco was a utilitarian vehicle designed with the now-classic body lines of the era and built to compete with Jeep CJ-5 and IH Scout 800. The vehicle's design included a number of cutting-edge (for the time) performance features like front coil springs and radius arms. The rugged early Bronco was fitted with solid axles front and rear, and it was offered in three body styles.

The Bronco quickly became popular among off-road and outdoor enthusiasts because it gave them more cargo room than the Jeep CJ-5 and classier body styling than the bulbous Scout. The Bronco was also offered with a standard inline-six or V-8 engine, unlike the its competitors.

The '66-'77 Ford Bronco was initially offered in three versions: a roadster, a half-cab, trucklike model, and a wagon with a removable hard top. The roadster was discontinued after the '68 model year due to poor sales performance, but the half-cab and wagon prospered due to their lifestyle compatibility with off-roaders and other outdoor enthusiasts.

A number of modifications were implemented on the Bronco over its production lifespan to keep up with the competition. The 289ci and 302ci V-8 engine, 200ci inline-six, power steering and brakes, trim styling packages, and upgraded appointments made for a great on- and off-road rig.

'66-'77 Bronco Specs
Standard till '73: 170 ci I-6 with 89 hp and 146 lb-ft of torque
After '73 and discontinued in '75: 200ci I-6 with 89 hp and 156 lb-ft
Optional till '68: 289 ci V-8 with 150 hp and 242 lb-ft
Optional after '68: 302ci V-8 with 137 hp and 222 lb-ft
*Ratings are net after parasitic loss

Transmissions: Ford 3-speed manual, C-4 automatic ('73)
Transfer case: Dana 20 low gear of 2.46:1
Front Axle: Dana 30 (Dana 44 after '71)
Rear Axle: Ford 9-inch

Front: Coil spring and radius arms
Rear: Semielliptical leaf springs

Optional: Reserve tanks available
Fuel capacity (gal): 14.5
Wheelbase (in):

Fullsize Bronco ('78-'96)
It had a long production run of 18 years, but the fullsize Bronco was initially released to compete with other sport/utility vehicles from Jeep, Chevy, and Dodge. The fullsize Bronco was based on Ford's F-series pickup and shared a number of components with the truck to keep production costs down.

The fullsize Bronco was 10 inches wider and 2 feet longer than the previous Bronco and was built to take on such vehicles as the Chevy Blazer, which had taken a big bite out of the earlier Bronco's sales. The '78-'79 Bronco was much larger and more comfortable and featured more deluxe appointments than the first generation.

The larger, more powerful 4x4 represented the second-through-fifth generations of the Ford Bronco and was a big hit with four-wheelers and other outdoor enthusiasts.

The second generation lasted only two model years, '78-'79. The third generation was '80-'86, The fourth '87-'91, and the fifth '92-'96.

Over the years the Bronco underwent a number of styling and performance changes, even losing the dependable solid front axle and moving to an awkward Twin Traction Beam (TTB) for the '80 model year. The fullsize Bronco held its own against the competitive Jeep Wagoneer, Dodge Ramcharger, and Chevy Blazer 4x4 vehicles, but was finally discontinued after the '96 model to make way for its replacement, the Ford Expedition.

PhotosView Slideshow

'78-'96 Bronco Specs
'78-'79: Standard, 351ci V-8 with 156 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque; optional, 400ci V-8 with 158 hp and 276 lb-ft
'80-'86: Standard, 300ci I-6 with 119 hp and 243 lb-ft; optional, 302ci V-8 with 137 hp and 239 lb-ft, 351ci V-8 with 138 hp and 263 lb-ft, 351ci V-8 (multiport injection) with 210 hp and 305 lb-ft
'87-'91: Standard, 300ci I-6 (multiport injection) with 145/150 hp and 265/260 lb-ft; optional, 302ci V-8 with 185 hp and 270 lb-ft, 351ci V-8 (multiport injection) with 195 hp and 295 lb-ft
'92-'96: Standard, 300ci I-6 (multiport injection) with 145/150 hp and 265/260 lb-ft, 302ci V-8 with 185 hp and 270 lb-ft; optional, 302ci V-8 with 185 hp and 270 lb-ft, 351ci V-8 (multiport injection) with 200 hp and 300 lb-ft
*Ratings are net after parasitic loss

'78-'79: 4-speed New Process NP435 manual, 3-speed C6 automatic
'80-'86: 4-speed New Process NP435 manual, 3-speed C6 automatic, 4-speed AOD, 4-speed BorgWarner T-18 manual, 4-speed Tremec RTS OverDrive
'87-'91: 3-speed C6 automatic, 4-speed E4OD automatic, 4-speed AOD automatic, 5-speed M5OD-R2 manual
'92-'96: 5-speed M5OD-R2 manual, 4-speed E4OD automatic, 4-speed AOD-E automatic
Transfer cases: BorgWarner 1356, NP203, NP205, NP208
'78-'79 Axles: Front, Dana 44; Rear, Ford 9-inch
'80-'96 Axles: Front, Dana 44 carrier; Rear, Ford 9-inch/Ford 8.8-inch

'78-'79: Front, coil spring and radius arms; Rear, semielliptical leaf springs
'80-'96: Front, Twin Traction Beam (TTB); Rear, semielliptical leaf springs

Fuel capacity (gal): 32
Wheelbase (in): '78-'86, 104; '87-'96, 104.7

Bronco II ('84-'90)
The Bronco II was released to suit the needs of consumers looking for a smaller, more economical SUV. The compact SUV was based off the Ranger, and it was Ford's competitive answer to the Toyota 4Runner, Jeep Cherokee XJ, and Chevy S10 Blazer.

The little Bronco II was Ford's response to the competition's compact SUV lines. In the '85 model the carbureted 2.8L Cologne V-6 was dropped in favor of the fuel-injected 2.9L Cologne V-6. The change gave the Bronco II a big jump in horsepower, from 115 to 140.

The Bronco II had a number of issues over the years and was saddled with a reputation of unreliability, but the rig is easy to work on and modify. A number of popular engine swaps and suspension modification make it a very competent off-road machine.

The Bronco II didn't change drastically over the years, but there were a few body styling changes and it was offered in a number of trim packages. Eventually, in 1991, the troubled little Bronco II was phased out and replaced by the Ford Explorer.

'84-'90 Bronco II Specs
Standard: 170ci V-6 with 115 hp and 150 lb-ft of torque
179ci V-6 with 140 hp and 170 lb-ft
*Ratings are net after parasitic loss

Manual transmissions: 4-speed Mazda TK4, 5-speed Mitsubishi FM146, 5-speed Mazda M5OD-R1, 5-speed Mazda TK5, 5-speed Mitsubishi FM145
Automatics: 3-speed C5, 4-speed A4LD
Transfer case: BorgWarner 1354/1350
Front Axle: Dana 28/Dana 35, Rear Axle: Ford 8.8-inch

Easy to modify and easy to find parts for, the Bronco II has developed a good following. With a good suspension it performs like any other capable trail rig. Keeping it Ford, a great engine swap is the 302ci V-8, which gives the Bronco more go-anywhere power and torque.

Front: Twin Traction Beam (TTB), coil springs
Rear: Semi-elliptical leaf springs

Fuel capacity (gal): 23
Wheelbase (in): 94
Note: Specifications are approximate, as performance varied by production year.

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