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Vintage Ford Bronco Photos: When Old Was New

You’ve seen the new one—here are some photos of the old Bronco when it was new.

Aaron GoldWriterGetty ImagesPhotographerBob D'OlivoPhotographerPat BrollierPhotographer

We've been waiting for years to see the new Ford Bronco, and now that it's been unveiled, we know it was worth waiting for —a modern design that's a great homage to the original. That thought prompted a trip into our photo archives, where we found some classic photos from when the original Ford Bronco was also the new Ford Bronco. Have a look.

Ford Introduces the New Bronco

These shots of the (then) all-new 1966 Ford Bronco were taken in 1965, part of a press preview for our sister publication, MotorTrend, presumably at Ford's Dearborn proving ground.

The Bronco's interior was about as spartan as it gets. Note the lack of a radio and the simple sheetmetal work on the transmission hump and seat supports. When the Bronco was introduced, the only transmission choice was a three-speed manual with a column shifter. The Bronco would not get an automatic transmission until 1973, which was also the first year for power steering.

The Bronco launched in 1966 with a fortified version of the 170-cubic-inch (2.8-liter) inline six found in Ford's economy cars. It produced 105 horsepower and featured a larger oil pan, an oil-bath air filter, and a carburetor modified to ensure fuel flow at steep angles. The clutch housing was cast iron for extra durability. The 200-horsepower, 289-cid (4.7-liter) V-8 of Mustang fame became an option later in 1966.

MotorTrend Puts the Ford Bronco Through its Paces

These photos were part of the set taken for MotorTrend's first Ford Bronco test, which was published in the September 1965 issue. (Not all of these photos appeared in the article.) Here's a "utility" version of the Bronco on the banked oval. The Bronco topped out at 80 mph, though the speedometer optimistically indicated 84.

Here's the Bronco with the testing gear strapped on, starting an acceleration run. MotorTrend timed the Bronco to 60 mph in 21.2 seconds, with a quarter-mile time of 21.5 seconds @ 62.5 mph. The Bronco was no muscle car, that's for sure.

The Bronco that MotorTrend tested was an early-build prototype and not all of the parts were final—including the brakes. Note what it says on the steering wheel hub: Falcon!

MotorTrend Goes Desert-Bashing in the New V-8 Bronco

For the September 1966 issue, MotorTrend tested a Bronco with the newly-available V-8 engine. (The full story is reprinted here.) This particular Bronco was entered in the four-wheel-drive Grand Prix near Riverside, California, so it had already been subject to plenty of abuse. MotorTrend photographer Pat Brollier took several photos of the Bronco getting airborne before settling on the one used in the article.

This particular Bronco was fitted with taller tires that gave it increased ground clearance. Instead of the "Twin I-Beam" suspension used in full-size Ford trucks, the Bronco used a simpler coil-sprung setup. MotorTrend shot several pictures to show the Bronco's ground clearance and axle articulation.

The Bronco Goes Racing

The Bronco was an instant hit with off-road racers. Here, an early Bronco competes in the Southern California Off-Road Enthusiasts (SCORE) Baja 500 in Mexico. Note the window netting and roll cage with its side extensions. The photo is undated, but SCORE didn't start running the Baja 500 until 1969.

Here, John Branch drives the #416 Bronco in the 1974 SCORE Riverside off-road race. Sponsor Galpin Ford in Los Angeles is best known as the home of Galpin Auto Sports. Galpin is still alive and well in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, but Burbank-based co-sponsor Winston Delta Tire went bankrupt in 2002.

1966 Ford Bronco Specifications
PRICE: $26,395/$30,580 (base/as tested)
ENGINE: 2.8L OHV 12-valve I-6/105 hp @ 4,400 rpm, 146 lb-ft @ 2,400 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 3-speed manual
LAYOUT: 2-door, 2 to 5-passenger, front-engine, 4WD SUV
EPA MILEAGE: 152.1 x 68.8 x 69.2 in
L x W x H: 172.5 x 73.0 x 50.9 in
WHEELBASE: 92.0 in
WEIGHT: 3,100 lb
0-60 MPH: 21.2 sec
TOP SPEED 80 mph