Bronco, Wagoneer, Scrambler and Ranger. When news from this month’s North American International Auto Show announced that these once hugely popular brands would be returning to automotive showrooms soon, longtime fans were all a twitter. Here, Hagerty’s Glenn Arlt takes a look back at some of what made these models so great.
Bronco: Zero to Best Seller In One Year
Originally designed to compete with the Jeep CJ and the Scout from International Harvester, the Ford Bronco became an instant bestseller in the segment when it debuted in 1966. Ford’s massive dealership network undoubtedly helped, but historians generally agree the vehicle’s popularity was mostly due to its excellent driving and off-road capabilities that got buyers talking.
For starters, the Bronco engine (shared with Mustang) offered serious reliability and performance—namely the optional V8 that neither Jeep (nor Scout) could match. Bronco was Ford’s first compact SUV. It had the maneuverability in tight spaces, a great starting price (around $2,000 in 1966) and a long list of really cool functional options including a tow bar, auxiliary gas tank, power take-off, snowplow and even a post-hole digger.
You Gotta Drive It To Believe It
Originally conceived by famed industrial designer Brooks Stevens, Jeep’s Wagoneer was introduced in 1963 as a successor to the Willys Jeep Station Wagon. Regarded as a pioneer of sport utility vehicles, Wagoneer offered features unheard of in 4WD vehicles of the era—features such as independent front suspension, power steering and automatic transmission, which made Wagoneer more car-like when it came to driver comfort and function.
Until very recently, the upcoming new versions were to have been based on the Grand Cherokee, but were quite literally too much of a stretch for that platform. Instead, Fiat-Chrysler will base its upcoming all-new Wagoneer (and the even more up-scale Grand Wagoneer) on the Ram pickup truck platform.
Built Like The Big Ones
Built from 1982 (for the 1983 model year) through 2011, the compact Ford Ranger pickup was very popular throughout its 29 year production run. Designed to compete with small, fuel-efficient trucks from Japan that were dominating the market in the early 1980s, Ranger was basically a Mazda pickup (with Ford styling) powered by a tiny 2.3 liter, 80-horsepower 4-cylinder engine under the hood.
By the end of the 1980s, Ranger had evolved from basically a Mazda pickup into a true and unique American competitor against the Japanese. Now it’s poised to make a comeback again (if rumors of its 2019 debut are true); Ford will manufacture the new truck first, followed up with the upcoming new Bronco SUV, at Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan just west of Detroit. Both will be rugged body-on-frame vehicles most likely sharing components under the skin, which is common (and necessary) in the industry.
The long anticipated upcoming 2020 or 2021 Jeep “Scrambler” pickup won’t actually be called by the common nickname of the 1981 through 1986 line of CJ-8 Jeep pickups. Jeep will reportedly stick with its Wrangler moniker. But fans of the Scrambler—which included former President Ronald Reagan who drove one on his California ranch—can’t help but recognize the similarities.
As evident by its short run, Scrambler never did well for Jeep in the 1980s. But America has definitely gone “truck-mad” in recent years. The new Jeep pickup will reportedly share technical details and powertrains with the Wranglers, and will be a body-on-frame vehicle for that reason as well as the need for a rugged nature and carrying capacity.