The Ford Bronco - Impressive Racing Legacy

Jul 08, 2020 - 2 minute read

a jeep driving down a dirt road with a person in the bed of the truck in the front of the truck

Ford’s off-road SUV expertise traces back to World War II, when the automaker was part of a government competition to build rugged carry-all utilities for GIs in the battlefield. Ford’s entry was called the GP, with the company building more than 270,000 of these “general purpose” vehicles for Allied forces.

GIs returning home bought Army surplus GPs for work and play, but they were too small and uncomfortable for civilian life, according to Ford research from the early 1960s, so Ford developed a more refined, spacious, yet durable off-road vehicle to meet this need – Bronco.

The original Bronco was nicknamed G.O.A.T. by Donald Frey, the Ford president who championed both Mustang and Bronco nameplates and challenged engineering teams to deliver “go anywhere roadability.” An agile, sports-oriented off-road 4x4, Ford dubbed the original 1966 Bronco “a completely new line of sports-utility vehicles” at its reveal Aug. 11, 1965 – the first reference to “SUVs” from an American manufacturer.

Early Broncos had a rugged body-on-frame design with short front and rear overhangs, high ground clearance and a short wheelbase for maximum off-road capability. Right out of the gate in 1965 Bronco began to appear on North America's desert racing scene before Baha was Baha.

Every year since 1967, Baja California hosts the Baja 1000, the single most dangerous race in North America, and one of the bloodiest in the world. Together with its still formidable warmup race, the Baja 500, the races have claimed dozens of lives.   

In the hands of legendary race-car builders such as Bill Stroppe and Dick Russell, drivers like Rod Hall, Larry Minor, Parnell Jones, Bronco hit the dirt running and remains in the record books. Bronco’s toughness and agility at high speed enabled racers like Rod Hall and Larry Minor to capture an overall win at the grueling 1969 Baja 1000 – a victory no other production 4x4 has replicated in 50 years. 

At 78 years of age, Rod Hall's 160+ major event wins makes him one of the most successful off-road racers of all time. Rod returned to off-road racing in his newly restored original '69 Ford Bronco built by Bill Stroppe.

Hall's motivation to race the 2016 Mexican 1000 coincided with the opportunity to make a 50th run down the peninsula he knows intimately, to champion the restored Bronco in the Pioneer 4x4 Class, and to share driving duties with granddaughter Shelby Hall Baker, 27, a contender to follow in her grandfather's tracks.

The Bronco of yesterday and today was built exactly for wild adventure. The all-new sixth generation of America’s original “sports utility vehicle,” makes its world premiere and you can make J.C. Lewis your preferred dealer for ordering your personalized accessories for customization.

The Bronco enthusiast family legacies whose love for the outdoors and adventurous spirit continues today. Visit J.C. Lewis to join the Bronco Legacy. Call 912.303.7916.

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