You Don’t Need to Wait Until 2020 to Buy a New Ford Bronco

(Bloomberg) -- Ford disappointed legions of fans and pundits this month at the Detroit auto show when it failed to unveil or announce progress on the new Bronco. Rumors had swirled for months that the update to the 1970s icon was coming; the rig has been promised in time for 2020 sales.

Queries about it to a Ford spokesperson that week and since have returned only vague answers about updates happening in the fall. And the stakes are high.

Kevin Tynan, senior automotive analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence, says that in order to really thrill the Bronco market, Ford must do the opposite of what Chevrolet did with the Blazer. That one was “just another crossover” slapped with a well-known name from the past, he says. It got lost in a sea of generic modern crossovers.

“If executed with aplomb, Bronco can fit into that ‘truck but not like other trucks’ niche that can serve as a halo product,” says Tynan. “It probably won’t be a volume nameplate, but put Ford in that SRT Jeep or Durango discussion of badass performance trucks. Bronco Raptor?”

Maybe. In the meantime, there are plenty of other ways to get your hands on a modernized Bronco. While they won’t have the fresh OEM seals on them like the 2020 Bronco, they retain the rugged spirit of the original.  

You Don’t Need to Wait Until 2020 to Buy a New Ford Bronco

The Original American Work Horse

The market at the moment is red hot. While used Broncos can still be had for less than $30,000 on the auction website Bring a Trailer, the  average value for a running, driving 1966 Ford Bronco two-door wagon 4x4 in good condition is $32,700, according to collectible car experts Hagerty, up from an average value of $15,000 three years ago. Broncos in excellent condition average almost $81,000 in value, up from $42,000 in 2016.

Ford built the first Broncos in 1966. Intended to compete with International Scouts and Jeeps CJ-5s, they attracted buyers in the American west and central plains who needed four-wheel-drive, durable, practical, and affordable vehicles for hunting, ranching, and farming. Soon, buyers in northern states embraced them for their capability to handle snow and ice; some even attached snow plows to their tall metal fronts.

They were offered in three options: wagon, pickup, and open, with cut-outs in the sides instead of doors. Engines included an inline six-cylinder or a V8 during the model’s first year of production; there were a handful of original colors to choose among, from orange to blue and, of course, white. (That famous Bronco O.J. Simpson used came from the last generation, in the 1990s.)

You Don’t Need to Wait Until 2020 to Buy a New Ford Bronco

That they cost less than $2,500 at the time (comparable to Jeeps) and were mechanically simple enough to repair at home fed their popularity. During its first year of production, Ford sold 24,000 of them. The initial generation lasted 12 years.

Most of the members of that first generation were used hard. They were beat up, crunched, crashed, and battered through years of tough work; actual labor was their calling, after all. Many of the examples that have survived into modern life need major repair.

The Modern Restorations

That’s where builders such as Velocity Restorations come in. The Pensacola, Fla., shop makes 30 of the old Broncos “new” each year. Co-owner Brandon Segers says this number is up “substantially” since even a few years ago, and he doesn’t see it slowing anytime soon.

“We are very excited about the launch of the 2020 Bronco. It will only grow the popularity” of the model at large, whether old or new, he says.

You Don’t Need to Wait Until 2020 to Buy a New Ford Bronco
You Don’t Need to Wait Until 2020 to Buy a New Ford Bronco

Segers’s Broncos, models taken straight from the 1970s, are restored with new components so they’ll run as reliably as any modern truck. A $169,000 Mountain Edition inserts a 302 Ford engine into a donor Bronco body, adds power disc brakes, power steering, a suspension lift, high-back reclining seats, Bluetooth, and a choice of automatic or three-speed manual rebuilt transmission. A $209,000 Lake Edition includes those things with a Ford Coyote 5.0 fuel-injected engine and 4R70 electronic shift overdrive transmission. The $239,000 Beach Edition comes with the same, plus 35-inch tires and 17-inch wheels and a power-retracting step.

Those three are set-priced vehicles that come basically as they’re offered. Segers estimates that each model takes 1,200 to 1,700 hours to produce. Donor bodies come from auctions, barns, fields, and back alleys, where they’ve been stored for years.

Elsewhere, Classic Ford Broncos works out of Ohio; Gateway Bronco specializes in “sympathetic” restorations in Illinois; and a bearded man named Amos Zook builds them in his barn in Pennsylvania Amish country—if you can find him. All specialize in complete restorations.

You Don’t Need to Wait Until 2020 to Buy a New Ford Bronco
You Don’t Need to Wait Until 2020 to Buy a New Ford Bronco

Jonathan Ward’s Icon Broncos are rather more bespoke. His trucks are hand-built in southern California from original Bronco body shells and then upgraded to some very high-end buyer specifications.

Common options include Marine-grade textiles on the seats; high-end surround sound systems; and a paint finish in gloss or matte of whatever color you bring into the shop. There are multiple design packages that allow you to pick whether or not you want doors, or even a roof, as well as such add-ons as sport suspension with Nitro-charged shocks, Brembo brakes, heavy-duty winches, locking differentials (better for true off-road situations), custom leather hides for the seats, and stainless steel metalware. Many of the nearly 60 Broncos Ward has sold worldwide include technologies that make them usable on a familiar basis: satellite radio and navigation, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and reverse parking cameras.

Icon Broncos cost a lot—$400,000 on average, depending on the build—and require patience, as the waiting time can reach three years. Not that any of those things has hampered business one iota.

Neither has the impending new one.

“Reinvigorate isn’t even the word for what the new Bronco is doing for the market. It’s out of control right now,” Ward says. “The 2020 Bronco has significantly brought the model back into the modern culture’s mind. This is a huge push.”

You Don’t Need to Wait Until 2020 to Buy a New Ford Bronco
You Don’t Need to Wait Until 2020 to Buy a New Ford Bronco

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.