The Famous Ford Bronco: From O.J. Simpson to The Terminator
The Ford Bronco has become ingrained in American pop culture.
It's been a long and wild ride for the Ford Bronco. Since its initial launch in 1966 all the way to the launch of the sixth-generation Bronco this week, Ford's rough-and-rugged off-road SUV has ingrained itself in our popular culture, though not always for the right reasons. Ford Broncos have had roles in hundreds, if not thousands, of television shows and movies, all the while being driven as personal transportation by celebrities and felons alike. Here, we take a look at some of the Ford Bronco's most memorable appearances in American culture.
The O.J. Simpson Police Chase
While we're sure that more than one Ford Bronco has been used as a getaway vehicle, the most famous occurrence must have happened on the evening of June 17, 1994. That was the night that a white 1993 Ford Bronco driven by Al Cowlings and concealing his former NFL teammate O.J. Simpson, who'd just been charged with two counts of murder, led a gaggle of police cars on a low-speed, two-hour-long chase through Los Angeles freeways. For anyone watching live at the time (and there were many—it was perhaps the most-watched police chase to have been televised to that point), it was a scene indelibly ingrained into memory. Fans even cheered the Bronco as it passed by and held up signs of support for their football hero on freeway overpasses. The chase ended at Simpson's Brentwood mansion where he ultimately surrendered to police. It was a sadly foreboding scene, with Ford canceling the Bronco at the end of the following year. As for the Bronco used in the chase, it was actually owned by Cowlings at the time, then quickly sold to Simpson's agent who unsuccessfully tried to sell it on the television show Pawn Stars for over a million dollars in 2017.
Ford Bronco on the Big Screen
If the new 2021 Ford Bronco makes you feel like you've seen this before somewhere, recall the 2004 Ford Bronco concept and its inclusion in the all-but-forgotten 2018 movie Rampage (reportedly at starring actor Dwayne Johnson's request). The aging Bronco concept was said to be a runner good for about 30 mph, which made it just functional enough for its cameo appearance. A 1979 Ford Bronco made an small appearance in No Country for Old Men and was subsequently auctioned off, while a silver 1970 first-generation Bronco served as Keanu Reeves' ride in the 1990s action blockbuster Speed. Arnold Schwarzenegger was seen with a 1982 Ford Bronco briefly in Terminator 2, while in Ocean's 11 another 1982 Ford Bronco with a lift kit and green flame paintjob lines up against its scale-size, remote control doppelganger on a drag strip before crushing it. Oh yeah, and late actor James Garner raced a Bill Stroppe-modified first-gen Bronco in a desert off-road race in his 1969 documentary movie The Racing Scene (here's Ford's current take on a competition Bronco). If we missed your favorite of the literally hundreds of movies featuring a Ford Bronco, please accept our apologies.
Ford Bronco on Television
The classic original Bronco featured big in the hit television show Lost where a brown 1970 Bronco wagon was driven by lead character Dr. Jack Shepard in scenes depicting his life before the airplane crash that brought him and his fellow survivors to the show's mysterious island. First-generation Broncos also featured in several episodes of the California Highway Patrol-themed series CHiPs, and animated versions have been spotted on episodes of The Simpsons, Family Guy, and American Dad. One of the Ford Bronco's more memorable television roles must be the 1989 Bronco XLT featured as the official vehicle of the Twin Peaks Sheriff Department in David Lynch's creepy (and excellent) Twin Peaks series from 1990-'91. The walk-on (drive-on?) roles Ford Broncos have had in television are too numerous to count.
Ford Bronco Famous Owners
Musician and conservative personality Ted Nugent told us last year that he owns three Ford Broncos, two 1966 first-gen examples and a later 1990 fourth-generation model. All are lifted and modified in various ways; Nugent is clearly an enthusiast, saying of his '66, "It's collectible as hell, it's all state-of-the-art driveline and suspension and it just goes and goes and goes. All my Bronco-loving cult gang, they just genuflect at the altar of original Broncos." Um, OK.
Paul Walker was also a Bronco fan, with his final-year 1995 Ford Bronco Eddie Bauer edition being sold by his estate after his death to the tune of $73,700. Other notable owners past and present include country musician Conway Twitty, television personality Simon Cowell (who's been spotted around Hollywood in his black, lifted first-gen Bronco), and rumor has it former The Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson gifted fellow former late-night show-host and car enthusiast Jay Leno a needy first-gen Bronco on his departure from The Tonight Show with Jay Leno which Leno may have turned into his SEMA project vehicle.
Ford Bronco Movie Appearances
- No Country for Old Men
- Terminator 2
- The Racing Scene
Ford Bronco Television Appearances
- The Simpsons
- Family Guy
- Twin Peaks
Ford Bronco Famous Owners
- Al Cowlings
- Ted Nugent
- Paul Walker
- Simon Cowell
- Jay Leno
- Conway Twitty