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The Ford Motor Company dates to 1903, when Ford and a small group of Detroit-area backers gathered together to propel Henry Ford and his vision into America’s industrial stratosphere. And while the realization of the Model T took another decade to begin putting America – writ large – on wheels, the end result seemed almost pre-ordained. As did the introduction of Ford’s Bronco some 50 years later. What is described as the birth of an all-new category by author Pete Evanow’s history in his FORD BRONCO: THE ORIGINAL SUV (published by motorbooks – and  in bookstores now), we see that the ‘60s were almost as pivotal for Ford as Hank’s ‘startup’ at the beginning of that same century.

As a guy having difficulty remembering last week, I can (still!) easily recall Tom McCahill’s test of the original 1966 Ford Bronco for Mechanix Illustrated. Florida-based McCahill was a sportsman (hunting and, I believe, fishing), so the arrival of an offroad-oriented 2-door with enough size – Tom was a big guy – constituted a real win for Tom, along with all of those other Americans – big and small – with a desire to get off the grid. In a manner not too dissimilar from the calculations which brought to market the Mustang, Ford’s team – led by Lee Iacocca and Don Frey – saw a viable offroad/recreation market for a vehicle beyond Jeep and the more recently introduced International Scout. 

Built on its own tightly-dimensioned platform, and initially available in three variants, the Bronco’s full doors, roll-up windows and room for four – and their gear! – provided a level of utility and civility not available on Jeep’s CJ, while Ford’s dealer network was vastly larger than either Jeep or International. And while the success of the all-new Bronco didn’t match the take rate of the new Mustang’s debut 18 months earlier, it was a verifiable hit, and would stay that way through most of its initial production cycle, which ran from model years 1966 thru 1977. 

As with most things automotive, redesigns are typically redesigned and, in a very real sense, reimagined. What began as compact pickups are now midsized pickups, and those midsize dimensions are often equal to full-size trucks of 20 years ago. And so it was with the Bronco, redesigned – and reimagined – for the 1978 model year. With it came not only a larger footprint (based on the F-Series pickup), but only V8 power; with the big engines came, of course, higher consumption. And in that almost two decades – and four updates – in which it was produced, the Bronco solidified its role as a do-everything tool, even if its size had evolved from quarter horse to Clydesdale.

As those paying attention to the four-wheeler market would know, the Bronco program was put into a long sleep following the ’96 model year. The slack, of course, was partially taken up by Ford’s more versatile Explorer, as well as the growing number of SUVs offered by competing manufacturers, both foreign and domestic. But you can’t keep a good brand down, and the rebirth of the Bronco – which was relaunched in the summer of 2021 – brought forth an almost unprecedented number of handraisers for a single model. And in combination with the Covid pandemic, an equally unprecedented number of challenges in meeting that heightened demand. 

As Mr. Evanow’s FORD BRONCO: THE ORIGINAL SUV hits the bookstores, Bronco inventories are essentially catching up with that demand. And while I’d take issue with a few of the editorial decisions comprising this new history (many of which make the book look advertorial, rather than editorial), its 176 pages and 250 images reflect a real commitment to research, in combination with a reader-friendly text. Your enjoyment of that text will be helped if you start as a Bronco enthusiast, but then, after absorbing the Bronco’s almost 60 years of history, you just might become one!

The review copy was provided by the publisher, and is available online – or, preferably, from a local bookstore – for $40 U.S. 

photo courtesy of Motorbooks

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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