Friday, April 7, 2017

ORV? MPV? SUV? Yes to all three!

I was wandering the final wintry moments in Red Hook recently when I stumbled upon one of my favorite trucks of all time. Behold!
This is a 1972 Ford Bronco in the outstanding color Sea Pine Green Metallic. This is in the running for the cutest damn truck to have ever been built. Something about these old Broncos in their stock trim without being all jacked up is so freaking charming I can't stand it. This is my equivalent of a little fuzzy bunny.
The Bronco was introduced in 1966 looking almost exactly like this one (this 1st generation design would remain essentially intact all the way through 1977). A man named Donald Frey was the man who conceived the Ford Mustang. He was also the project manager for this little truck. Those are 2 serious feathers in his cap and I'm surprised he's a relatively unknown figure today.
This poor little donkey has run afoul of some immovable object, displaying the weakness of the bumper in the process. As capable as these are the factory bumpers are flimsy.
To engage the 4 wheel drive you need to exit the cab and lock the front hubs by turning that dial emerging from the hubcap. Shifting into 4WD on the fly was still a ways away.
The Bronco was meant to compete with the Jeep CJ and IH Scout which helps to explain the dimensions. Marketed as both an ORV and MPV (Off-Road Vehicle and Multi-Purpose Vehicle) they were built to scramble over rugged terrain and be unstoppable in all seasons and climates. The ride height and wheel placement at the edges of the body make for excellent approach and departure angles when climbing over rocks or passing through a steep ditch.
You can see from this view that this ride has dual gas tanks to assist in your days-long excursion into the mountains or desert. This used to be a common option for trucks when gas mileage was crummy and rural gas stations were infrequent. Pre-cell phones there was a real danger of running out of gas going for a country drive without first mapping the closest stations.
This spare tire placement is straight out of the Jeep playbook. It swings away to the right revealing a traditional tailgate. Broncos sold well from their introduction but couldn't topple the CJ sales figures.
Like its competitors the roof is removable making this an instant beach cruiser. In addition to this body style there was a short roof pickup version as well. 
For the first 3 years there was the Bronco Roadster too. This model came from the factory without a roof or doors! Molded fiberglass door openings without any lock or hinge hardware made for a pure beach vehicle. Only a couple thousand were ever produced and something like 100 remain.
By 1972 creature comforts were being touted in the sales literature in addition to its off road capabilities. Chevrolet released the K-5 Blazer in '69 while the IH Scout II came out in '71. Both of these newcomers were full size ORVs as opposed to these little guys. The similar IH Scout 800 was discontinued in '71. The Toyota Land Cruiser kept its small dimensions through the '70s but for the domestic market it was the Bronco and Jeep CJ.
The interior is as beautiful as the exterior on thsi sweet ride. A factory radio is present to allow AM to burble through a single dashboard speaker. 
That chrome shifter handle just under the dash is actually the floor mounted transfer case for selecting 4WD high and low. Due to the column shifter position I think this is actually a 3-on-the-tree manual transmission truck.
The engine choices were a thrifty inline 6 cylinder or an optional 302 V8. Even the small 6 had several upgrades for durability such as a larger 6 quart oil pan, heavy-duty fuel pump, oil-bath air cleaner, and a carb with a float bowl designed to function while tilting on steep terrain.
Wear marks like those above allude to original paint that has been washed too many times and baked in the sun. This must have come from the Southwest or something.
The vents on the hood bring fresh air into the cabin. The placement is not an accident for a vehicle that might be crossing rivers or trudging through deep snow.
Well there you have it; one of the cutest little vehicles this country's ever produced. When you consider the capability and simplicity this is the perfect classic to use as a daily driver. Unfortunately most were used as intended which means they were chewed up and spat out. Any examples not used to death have love rusted away in most of the country. Plenty of examples remain but the prices is climbing. My suggestion would be to find the least rusty Bronco you can find as all the running gear is standard '60s & '70s Ford. 
Rugged but usable ones are currently just under 10 grand. The sky's the limit for nice restorations or survivors.

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