On the whole, there were not a ton of changes made to the Early Ford Broncos throughout their 12-year run. However, there are some notable changes that occurred through the years. Here you will find some fun and useful information on this iconic vehicle.
The Ford Bronco was first produced in 1965 (for the 1966 model year) by Ford Motor Company of Detroit, Michigan as a competitor to Jeep’s CJ5 and International Harvester’s Scout. It was a completely new product line for Ford Motor Company and was built entirely on its own platform. The first generation of Ford Broncos was produced from 1966-1977 and featured a small form factor and short wheelbase (92 inches) which made it ideal for off-road use. Over the years, the 66-77 Ford Bronco has remained an icon in the classic 4wd world and is as popular today as it ever has been.
The early Bronco was the brainchild of Ford product manager Donald N Frey and was pushed through into production by Ford legend Lee Iacocca. The Bronco was an entirely new concept for Ford Motor Company and included its own frame, suspension and body designs that were not shared with any other vehicle.
Heading the design team of the classic Ford Bronco was Paul G Axelrad. The design of the early Bronco was focused on simplicity and economy so as to compete in price with the Jeep and IH models on the market. The axles and brakes were taken from the Ford F100 4×4 trucks. However, the front axle was mounted using radius arms that led from the frame near the transmission forward to the axle housing and a lateral tracking bar to center the housing under the frame. This allowed for the use of coil springs which gave the Bronco a 34 foot turning radius, longer wheel travel and an anti-dive geometry. The rear suspension kept the traditional Hotchkiss design using leaf springs that mounted on top of the rear axle housing. All early Broncos were 4 wheel drive and came with a Dana Corporation Model 20 transfer case and manual locking hubs. The classic Ford Bronco came from the factory in all years with a Ford 9″ rear end. From 1966-1971, the Bronco sported a Dana 30 differential. In late 1971, Ford changed this over to offer the much stronger Dana 44 model front end standard. The first models of early Bronco came with either a 170 ci Six-cylinder engine or a 289 ci V8 engine. In 1969, Ford Motor Company changed the 289 engine over to a 302 V8 in order to compete with Chevrolet’s new Blazer model which featured a 350 ci V8 engine. In 1973, Ford also increased the displacement of the Bronco’s 6-cylinder option from 170 ci to 200 ci. Also in 1973, Ford added options for factory power steering and automatic transmissions which helped to increase sales tremendously. In 1976 & 1977, the last two years of the early Bronco, Ford began offering front disc brakes as standard equipment on the Bronco and offered vacuum assisted power brakes as an option (most 76-77 Ford Broncos came equipped with this option).
The 66-77 Ford Bronco’s unique style and excellent off-road performance led it to become a cult classic with a very dedicated following. It’s use by racecar builder Bill Stroppe for use in long-distance off-road competitions only helped to solidify the Bronco as an American icon. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, Stroppe’s off-road team featuring the classic Broncos dominated offroad events such as the Mint 400, Baja 500 and Baja 1000 races. In 1971, Bill Stroppe’s “Baja Bronco” design was offered by Ford and featured quick-ratio power steering, automatic transmission, fender flares, Gates Commando tires, a roll bar, reinforced bumpers, a padded steering wheel, and custom red, white, blue & black paint. However, with a price tag of $5,566 vs. the standard V8 Bronco price of $3,665, only 650 Baja Broncos were sold over the next four years. This limited sales has led the Baja Bronco to be a very popular collector model today.
(some information provided herein courtesy wikipedia.com)