As sales of the 6th generation Ford Bronco are strong and gaining consumer attention; we noticed that the vintage market for Ford’s iconic 4×4 is hotter than ever. The current Bronco Raptor trades for north of 100 on the aftermarket. That’s one of the reasons we called the 2022 Ford Bronco Raptor the most ridiculous factory 4×4 ever.
Ford himself has caught on to the vintage Bronco craze, bringing us a slew of new Retro 2023 Bronco Heritage Edition models. Naturally, HotCars wanted to do a deep dive into the Broncos of yesteryear to see why prices have skyrocketed and if we enthusiasts still have any meat left.
Rebirth of a legend
2021 marked the return of many things; bar top seating, international flights, regularly accessible toilet paper and one of Ford’s tallest vehicles. After a hiatus of more than a quarter of a century, the vehicle that created an entire vehicle segment made a triumphant return. Ford sold more than 150,000 reservations in the first two weeks of the 6th generation Bronco’s launch.
American icon concept
The 1966 Ford Bronco was the first iteration of the iconic 4×4. It was simple, with a simple vehicle that was perfect for off-roading and adventure. At the time of its design, the Bronco’s goal was to take a share of the Jeep CJ-5’s dominance in the market segment. This segment was in its infancy, no one knew what to call it. Lee Iacocca and his team called this all-terrain vehicle the ORV.
It mirrors exactly what caused the Bronco to return in 2021 – the Jeep Wrangler had control of the 4×4 off-road segment and Ford was looking to regain lost territory. The original Bronco is now a collector’s item and prices have reached astronomical levels (10-20% last year). That’s why off-road enthusiasts should buy a vintage Ford Bronco. As prices go up, the current generation is so heavily inspired by this Bronco.
Bigger is not always better
The SUV and off-road segment had gotten bigger and the Bronco had to hit the gym and lose weight to keep up. The K5 Blazer and Dodge RamCharger dwarfed the first generation Bronco. For Ford, the fastest way to cope with the competition was to borrow the Ford F-100 of the same year. The 1978 Ford Bronco was an incremental improvement over the original. It had a more imposing appearance and better off-road capability, but the 1973 gas crisis suffocated it.
Engine choices and body styles were the most limited in Bronco history. For these reasons, prices have been steadily increasing recently. Collectors have started snapping them up because of their rarity and reasonable price tag. If you’re looking to buy a vintage Bronco, now is the time to do it, as prices are only going to rise for this limited edition 4×4. 3 years ago 2nd gen Broncos barely broke 20k, now examples are 30-50k.
Third time’s the charm
The Ford Bronco generation ran from 1980 to 1986 and was slightly more elaborate than its predecessor. Being smaller, more efficient and sharing most of its parts and DNA with the modern F-series. It was the first independent front suspension the Bronco ever saw. It retained a strong rear axle that has remained to this day.
It brought back the bulletproof 3.9-liter inline-six and the iconic 302 V8. Both could be had with a manual transmission, and in preface-lifted years, the hood featured “FORD” instead of the blue oval logo as on the original Bronco. It’s the proverbial equivalent of taking a fine-toothed comb for this particular generation. The more obscure options and trims offer the best investment opportunity, with this generation up in value by 30% this year alone.
Bronco in sheep’s clothing
The 1987 refresh of the fourth-generation Bronco matched the refresh of the F-150 generation, offering a much improved interior design. The exterior design was not so happy. From the gauges to the seats to the steering wheel, this Bronco saw high quality upgrades that set it apart from previous generations. ABS was also standard on the Ford, making it a safe choice for drivers and adventurers alike. Direct injection technology was offered on all available engines.
This new technology allowed engines to produce more power while using less fuel, resulting in extremely efficient driving. An optional push-button all-wheel-drive system was introduced, allowing drivers to switch between two- and four-wheel drive on the fly. This combination of innovation, shoebox style and safety made it a very capable sleeper among its Bronco brethren. It will perform like its predecessor, growing by 30% in 2022.
A sad swan song
The fifth-generation Bronco, which was initially excited, was to be the last Bronco for over two decades. The shift in the American market toward more practical vehicles no longer suited the Bronco. Making way for larger SUVs like the Ford Excursion. Excursions scream practicality. As Ford tried to make this model safer, significant changes were made.
Most notable of these was the removal of its trademark removable roof. Nailing the metaphorical coffin on the Bronco. This move was made to install 3-point seat belts in all rows and improve rollover ratings. Other new safety features included crumple zones, larger brake lights and driver side airbags.
While their decision drew mixed reactions, their commitment to protecting passengers cannot be ignored. In the end, this Bronco only lasted 4 years before riding off into the sunset…about as long as OJ took during his police chase in that exact generation.
Now that the dust has settled, these Broncos are getting the attention they rightfully deserve. The market reflects this as these Broncos are up an impressive 40% last year. Examples can now be found reasonably well and this is a classic worth investing in.
Sources: Ford, HotCars, Autoblog, Cnet