In the begining...
In the beginning there was the Ford Courier, a small pickup manufactured my Mazda for Ford in the late '70s. Ford decided to produce their own truck that would be a small version of the larger F-Series and based on a similar (smaller) chassis. Ford raced to have the Ranger finished for the 1983 model year (released in 1982), to compete with Chevrolet's new S-10. Chevy was in the midst of producing a mini SUV based on the S-10, which they named the Blazer, and released shortly after the S-10. Ford did not want to be left in the dust, especially after seeing all the difficulties of other manufacturers of the era (such as Chrysler, and A.M.C., which both were on the verge of bankruptcy). So Ford set impossible deadlines for this new SUV to be debuted, in order to claim some of the market that the new Blazer was sure to devour...and that is where it all started.
The Rocky Road
The first issues started in the design process when the engineers doubted the stability of such a narrow vehicle, but do to the tight schedule and budget this issue was ignored. In order to make the vehicle more stable, a new chassis would need to be designed, and this would be costly and defeat the purpose of designing a Ranger based SUV. By the end of the 1983 Ranger model year, the Bronco II was ready to hit dealers nation wide. Sales started well for the Bronco II, and the sales of the Ranger topped its Category. But not after long the Bronco II was hit with a lot of publicity, the kind of publicity that made Ford cancel the Pinto 4 years earlier. Unlike the Pinto, the Bronco II did not tend to cause problems when rear ended, it tended to roll easier than anticipated, especially when driven in reverse. Although sales numbers were not paralyzed, they certainly did not have the growth potential that Ford may have anticipated. After the Pinto and Bronco II incidents, many people lost faith in the quality of engineering at Ford. After many attempts to promote the Bronco II, Ford finally decided to ditch it for a longer, cushier, more modern SUV called the Explorer which debuted in 1991, and was also based on the Ranger platform. Unfortunately many people today only remember the Bronco II for its safety issue, even though it has been argued that the Bronco II is perfectly safe to drive when driven following the legal rules of the road. Since then the name will always be tainted to some who do not care to seek the truth of the Bronco II.
(Click Image for Larger Photo)
The Little Engine That Could
The Ranger first debuted with only the 2.0 and 2.3 Lima four cylinder engines in 2wd standard cab, and shortly after that the 2.8L V6, and then a rare diesel. Later in the '83 model run 4wd was added using a Dana 28 axle based on Ford's TTB (twin traction beam) suspension. Mated to the transmission was a Borg Warner 1350 transfer case. When the Bronco II arrived, Ford considered the added weight compared to the Ranger, and gave the Bronco II the 2.8L V6 with no other engine options. This is the same 2.8 that was originally designed in Cologne Germany as a 2.6L V6 in the early 1970s, which found its way into the Mustang II, and Pinto. The Ranger/Bronco II 2.8 was a little different, though, with a few internal differences, the main difference was the electronic Thick Film Ignition (TFI) system , and introduction of a computerized emissions system called Electronic Engine Control 4 (EEC-IV), mated to a feed back version of the famous Ford 2150 carburetor, now referred to as the 2150-A, a carburetor whose original design can be accredited to Holley, and my be traced back as far as the late 1950s. This system ran well, and made 115hp at the flywheel. A very reliable emission friendly setup. However, it was later discovered that with a little age and lack of maintenance that this feed back carburetor system could be very unreliable and unforgiving. Computers were not really meant to be mixed with the mechanical inaccuracy of carburetors. Ford made a few small changes with the 2.8 while in the Bronco II, such as changing the location of the thermostat from the bottom radiator hose to the top for 1985. But this engine was undoubtedly becoming outdated.
Getting With the Times
During the mid 1980s, there were many transitions happening in the automotive world, especially with the introduction of computers and computer controlled carburetors. Technology was about to expand by leaps and bounds, especially as fuel injection became more popular. The old 2.8 was just about as fancied up as Ford was willing to go with a carbureted engine, so they decided the 2.8 needed to become fuel injected. In updating many things Ford overhauled the whole 2.8L ideology, and made a new 2.9L V6 whose basis was still somewhat of the 2.8. After Ford experimented with their version of throttle body injection (TBI) which Ford used the term Central Fuel Injection (CFI), Ford knew this was somewhere they didn't want to go again, so they went with the more reliable (and complex) Multi Point Fuel Injection (MPFI) which has one fuel injector per intake port (1 injector per cylinder). Finally Ford was ready to deposit the 2.9L into the Bronco II and Ranger for the 1986 model year. And a good engine it was, creating 140hp at the flywheel and 160 foot pounds of torque, while not sacrificing any fuel mileage, and helping to decrease emissions. A few changes were made such as losing the EGR and decreasing the throttle body from 58mm to 50mm for the 1988 model year. The California Emissions 1989 Bronco II received a newer style computer system in place of the old speed density. Speed density uses a MAP (manifold absolute pressure sensor) rather than a MAF (mass air flow sensor), the MAF system more accurately controls engine calculations.
From Rugged to Soccer Mom
The first year of the Bronco II was certainly the most basic in regards to luxury options. Sure there were options such as side vent windows, variable speed window wipers, and automatic transmission, but there were many things that lacked. Maybe an explanation of the model line is necessary. First you have your base line no frills Bronco II, followed by the XL, the sporty XLS, and then the full trim XLT. The XL and XLT were much the same with the exception of a few interior and exterior cosmetics. The XLS was a less common version sporting black out grille and outer accessories, as well as XLS vinyl graphics. During the first years of production, it was mostly base models that were sold: rugged all terrain vehicles that were likely to see all types of terrain. As the years progressed, especially the '86 model year with the introduction of fuel injection, the luxury options became more common. Most '86 and newer Bronco IIs were sold with the XLT badging, and options such as power windows, power door locks, air conditioning, AM/FM Cassette Stereo, tilt steering, cruise control, solar tinted glass, padded full length rear arm rests with locking storage compartments. Some models even came with power seats (some with electric lumbar support), push button 4wd with automatic hubs, and a car phone. This certainly paved the road to today's soccer mom sport utility vehicles. It is definitely night and day to compare an '84 Bronco II to a '90.
There were a few special editions of the Bronco II. Most of these vehicles are very rare, and many were from aftermarket outfitters. However, the most common special edition was actually straight from the Ford Factory, the Eddie Bauer Edition. Eddie Bauer was an avid outdoorsman and an entrepreneur. He decided to start a store in downtown Seattle in 1920 called Eddie Bauer's Sport Shop. His store became very popular, and today has many outlets worldwide selling rugged clothing. In 1983 the Eddie Bauer company signed a partnership with Ford to start producing Eddie Bauer packaged vehicles starting the 1984 model year. The Bronco II was outfitted with premium accessories, high quality upholstery, and special Eddie Bauer badging including stitching in most seats. The Eddied Bauer Bronco II is no doubt the most luxurious of all the Bronco IIs. There were a few companies that modified the Bronco II in their own shops and sold them as conversion vehicles. One is known as the Sherrard Bronco II with a removable top, and another is known as Bronco II Plus, which has a fiberglass rear portion, and is extended slightly longer.
Back to the Future
Well, obviously the Bronco II was replaced by the Explorer, and 1990 was its last model year. The Explorer started where the Bronco II left off. It started with a similar Ranger Based Platform, and shared essentially the same front end. The Explorer started off as a 4 door model with a 2dr sport option. It offered the same transmissions, and axles as the previous years Bronco II, but replaced the 2.9L with Ford's 4.0L OHV V6. The Explorer kept to the Ranger based tradition until 1995 when it was overhauled with a major exterior restyling, and chassis modifications to allow the new addition of Ford's 5.0L V8, and that was the end of the line for any reminisce of the Bronco II.
written and edited by: Ben Hart, special thanks to Matt for some of the 1989 Pictures
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