In the last 24 hours, we’ve gotten the ONLY look at what a Ford Bronco is going to look like when it arrives in the Spring of 2020 (which suggests that maybe the NY Auto Show might be the venue.)
Over the last four years, just about every automotive website has been alight with photos suggesting one photo or another IS THE NEXT BRONCO! Only they weren’t. Up until yesterday, when Ford released a photo of the Bronco R race truck, nobody really had any real intel about what the new Bronco was going to look like.
“Hinting at upcoming Bronco production model,” read the press release we got yesterday afternoon, “Ford’s Bronco R race prototype debuts in the desert to celebrate 50th anniversary of Rod Hall’s historic Baja 1000 win, an overall victory in a 4×4 that’s never been duplicated in 50 years.”
“And as a tease, the Bronco R – developed by Ford Performance in collaboration with builder Geiser Bros Design and Development and Baja 1000 Trophy Truck champion Cameron Steele – drops heritage-inspired design and proportion hints of what enthusiasts can expect to see when the future Bronco makes its world premiere next spring.”
According to the release, the Bronco R race prototype is designed with the production model’s body-on-frame architecture to test its capability and durability. “The race prototype is built on a modified Ford T6 architecture that will provide the base for the production model. Beefed up for Baja, Bronco R features an independent front suspension with 14 inches of travel and a production-based five-link rear chassis design with up to 18 inches of travel, plus custom Fox shocks, 17-inch beadlock-capable aluminum wheels and 37-inch BFGoodrich tires.
“Like the original Bronco, we kept Bronco R’s design authentic and simple, with a roll cage on a production-style frame, and a five-piece lightweight body on top,” said Brian Novak, Ford Performance off-road racing supervisor. “For the endurance needs of Baja’s 1,000 grueling miles, we built in a limited number of race-focused parts. But even the twin turbos of the EcoBoost® engine are representative of what the production Bronco will offer.”
Despite this being the ONLY image extant that officially hints at what the 2020 Bronco is going to look like, images have been floating around the internet for at least four years that your Average Joe all think are official Ford materials:
This is the photo that’s been most widely circulated, and it’s AWESOME.
The only trouble is, it’s a rendering, produced by a talented artist. The rendering comes from Bronco6G.com, on a discussion about what an upcoming Ford Bronco might look like:
“We share with you our 2020 Ford Bronco renderings which provides a conceptual look at the 6th generation Bronco. For our concept Bronco, we fused styling elements from previous Bronco generations, the 2004 Bronco concept, and modern Ford trucks and SUVs. You can see the classic round headlights and square inset front grille evolved from the 1st gen Bronco, which was also showcased in the retro-futuristic 2004 Bronco concept. Our concept features a modern body on frame next generation Bronco that retains a tall, boxy, tough, no-frills design with a strong focus on utility and off-road capabilities. We fitted separate versions with different grilles, wheel fender shapes, varying ride heights, and cargo rack for some different looks,” the original post from February of 2016 reads.
It’s a great take, and one that we’d love to see Ford produce, but Ford hasn’t shown a concept of a Bronco in over a decade, and that’s the only source you should be looking toward for what an upcoming Bronco might look like.
Way back in 2004, at the Detroit Auto Show, Ford showed a concept Bronco that was — in a word — tremendous.
The Bronco Concept was released at a time when Ford was going full retro across its product line. It drew a straight line back to 1966, when the original two-door, first-generation Bronco hit the streets. Note that this was the year that the production version of the production version of the all-new, retro-styled Ford Mustang was also on the stand at Detroit, so introducing a Bronco concept at the same time that a 1960s-inspired Mustang made all the sense in the world.
J Mays introduced the Bronco at Detroit that year, which is also significant. He made his entire career focusing design staff on retro-themed vehicles, from the Audi TT, to the Volkswagen Beetle, to the Mustang at Ford.
The Bronco, though, was stillborn before it ever reached the display stand at the Detroit show. First of all, if it was based on anything, it would’ve been a shortened Ranger platform, a vehicle that Ford would kill off completely in 2006. When the UAW’s Bill Johnson let it slip that Bronco production would start in Wayne, he also suggested that Ranger production would, too, which is good news for a smaller Bronco that might be based on a similar chassis. (A year ago, we wrote a post that telegraphed the production of a 2018 Ranger at the Wayne plant.)
The Bronco R that Ford showed yesterday sort of hints at this design. It looks like it may be a two-door, which is a huge surprise. It sort of ignores every bit of recent history to think Ford would produce one. Ford is generally in the business of producing vehicles that sell. A two-door SUV is super cool, but sales volume of similar vehicles suggest that people just don’t purchase them in any kind of numbers.
The minute Jeep introduced the JK Wrangler in four-door form, the two-door — which was all Jeep offered in its compact SUV since the end of WWII — suddenly became an also-ran. Depending on the source, four-door Wranglers outsell two-doors by anywhere from 2-to-1 to 7-to-1.
A call to Lisa Barrow, FCA’s East Coast Regional Communications Manager reveals that “The four-door Wrangler accounts for 70% of Wrangler sales currently,” or 3-to-1. A drive by inventory check at any given Jeep dealer should tell you exactly the same thing. Two doors are great, but they’re a limited audience.
Toyota produced a two-door, compact, off-road SUV. Among people who love them, the Toyota FJ Cruiser is an all-time favorite, but it’s a cult car, which only sold to a tiny niche audience. In its best month ever, Toyota sold 1,600 FJ Cruisers. On the used market, the Toyota FJ Cruiser is what everyone always hopes to find: A vehicle that will be worth something in the future. Currently, you can spend MORE for a Toyota FJ Cruiser with low miles than you would have brand new. As an indicator of how few FJ Cruisers people actually bought, Chevrolet routinely sells about 1,000 more Corvettes in a given month than Toyota sold FJ Cruisers, and Chevy sells them for $20,000 more.
Similar to the Ford Bronco, there’s been rampant speculation about the return of the Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer. There’s been much guessingabout what it will look like, but there’s been absolutely no information from Jeep, and there likely won’t be until the Detroit show in January.
We still have to wait and speculate about what a Bronco is going to look like, but the picture is getting just a little bit celarer.