The Ford Bronco was produced between 1966 and 1996 in the US, arriving in Australia with its second-generation redesign in 1978. Sourced from the US, it was assembled here to the US spec. It was designed initially to compete with the compact 4x4s that were beginning to grow in popularity, but it really came into its own with its 1978 redesign that moved it up a class in terms of size, to give the Jeep Cherokee, Range Rover, and Toyota Land Cruiser a run for their money.
The spec levels of the Bronco pitched it favourably alongside the competition, although to some extent it fell down in comparison on its looks. The Bronco is built to look like a trusty workhorse that is all about performance rather than aesthetics. This is fine, but when pitched against the eye-catching Cherokee and the authoritative bodywork of the Range Rover, it is left rather lacking. A restyling in 1981 put this right to some extent, bringing a compactness back to the body without compromising performance, but it remains very much a case of love it or loathe it amongst 4x4 fans.
The restyled Bronco came in two versions: the Custom base model and the Ranger XLT, which enjoyed a higher level of comfort and equipment. If you are looking into buying a 4x4, expect the Bronco to deliver seating for five via two doors, powered via four-wheel drive by a 4.1L 6-cylinder engine and 4-speed manual transmission. This engine is the same as that which was fitted to the Ford Falcon and its derived models at the time. You may also come across a souped-up 5.8L V8 version with either 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic gearbox.
The drive sets the Bronco somewhat apart from its competition. It features what was, at the time, an innovative suspension system, which had been developed by Ford. It delivers exceptional control both on the open road and on tricky off-road terrain in comparison to its competitors of the same era. The Bronco features power-assisted brakes – disc to the front and drum to the rear – and power steering, making the drive even easier, whatever the terrain.
The Bronco delivers both in comfort and performance. The engine is noticeably quiet, handling whatever is thrown at it with aplomb. Depending on the model, fuel economy is around 15L/100km around town and 10.6L/100km out on the open road for the F100.
The XLT with the V8 engine is the perfect tow vehicle, giving the Range Rover a serious competition for its capabilities, without compromising on ride comfort.
Power-assisted brakes and power steering come as standard in all later Broncos, as do air-conditioning and rear step bumper. Essentially the Bronco is a utility vehicle, designed as a heavy-duty workhorse rather than a luxury family car; that is not to say that the ride is not comfortable – simply that it doesn’t come stacked full of equipment and options.
It does offer some extras, however, including an external tyre carrier to give added protection for the spare and to free up valuable internal storage space, and an internal roll bar for extra safety. Tracker tyres are a useful optional extra, particularly if you are going to be using the Bronco off road on rugged terrain. The tow bar is a popular optional extra, particularly so with the V8 models, which offer excellent towing capacity.
The Ford Bronco stacks up well against the competition of the era and remains a popular choice now, particularly in its V8 guise, which delivers excellent towing capacity. In terms of looks, the Jeep Cherokee and Range Rover fare better, but equally they carry a higher price tag. The Datsun Patrol and Toyota Land Cruiser should also be considered if you are in the market for a used 4x4.