Full-Size Bronco 1978-96
Responding to what Ford saw as a competitive trend, the Bronco became a full-sized SUV for the 1978 model year. This new Bronco was based on the Ford F-Series pickup. In fact, the F-150 SuperCab four-wheel drive floor plan and steering linkage were used on the Bronco. The new Bronco boasted a 104.7 inch wheelbase and more room. Compared to the classic Bronco the new model offered 15% more front hip room, 30% more rear hip room. The cargo capacity was increased from 16.6 cubic feet to 49.3 to 97.4 depending on the rear seat configuation. The new Bronco was larger outside too, five inches higher, ten inches wider, and two feet longer than the original. The new Bronco featured a removable fiberglass hardtop (or should we say half top). When this top was removed it gave the new Bronco the open air feel everyone expected while keeping the front passengers covered. This feature stemmed from the fact that the Bronco was essentially the same as the F-Series pickup from the B-pillar forward.The 1978-79 Broncos were offered with a T-18 granny four-speed transmission as standard equipment, a three-speed automatic was optional. The standard transfer case was a manual unit that featured a 1.92:1 low range, a full-time transfer case was optional. The differentials sported 3.50:1 gears and front disc brakes were now standard. The new Bronco came with a 351 cid V-8, the 400 cid powerplant could be special ordered. Both engines featured 2-bbl carburation. Several options were introduced with the new Broncos such as a 32 gallon fuel tank (standard was 25 gallons), intermittent wipers, air conditioning, cruise control and quad front shocks.In 1980 Ford upgraded the Bronco to the new Twin Traction Beam IFS front suspension and restyled the body. This new suspension offered a better ride and more terrain compliance on rough terrain. With an eye on the off-road use the Bronco was built for, Ford upgraded the transfer case to a New Process 208 with a 2.61:1 low range. This new transfer case was also better sealed against the elements. The standard motor for the Bronco was now the venerable 300 cid I-6 in all states except California where the 302 cid V-8 was standard. Optional engines were the 302 cid and 351 cid V-8s. All engines featured 2-bbl carburetion. 1980 also saw the introduction of 3.00:1 as well as the 3.50:1 gearing. Automatic locking hubs were now optional on the Bronco. The restyling increased front leg room by one inch while decreasing the Bronco's exterior dimensions. The 1980 Bronco was 2.7 inches shorter in the front end and 1.1 inches narrower than the previous year. Wind drag was reduced by 25% and a new grille featured rectangular headlamps.For 1981 and '82 the Bronco was essentially the same. Upgrades for these years included the introduction of an overdrive manual four-speed transmission that featured a .71:1 fourth gear. This new transmission deleted the granny gear in first in favor of better highway performance. The motor options remained the same. The 300 cid I-6 was standard for the 49 states and could be had with both granny or overdrive manual four-speed transmissions. The 302 cid V-8 was standard in California and optional in all other states. The 302 cid motor could be ordered with both four-speed manual transmissions as well as a C-6 three-speed auto (in California you could only get the C-6). The 351 cid motor was also available as an option with all three transmissions for the 49 states. In California the 351 cid was available only with the four-speed overdrive manual transmission or the C-6 automatic. The automatic transmission option required 3.50:1 gearing in California. In 1981 automatic locking hubs were made standard equipment and a snow plow prep package was offered as an option.For the 1983 model year the Bronco remained essentially the same as 1982-83. The exception was the introduction of the three-speed automatic transmission to the I-6-cylinder motor package and the standardization of flip-fold rear seat.The big changes for 1984 were the introduction of the 351 cid (5.8 Liter) V-8 H.O. motor for 49 state automatic transmission Broncos. This new 4-bbl carbureted motor put out 210 horsepower at 4000rpm versus the standard 351's 156 horsepower at 4000rpm. Although Californians couldn't get this motor they could buy the 300 I-6-cylinder with the 3.55:1 gearing option.1985 saw some big changes in the motor department for the Bronco. The I-6-cylinder carbureted motor was still the standard powerplant but now came with a serpentine belt system. The big news was the new Mult-Port injected 302 cid V-8 engines (these also had a serpentine belt). The new 302 cid boosted horsepower from 130 at 3,800rpm to 190 at 3,800rpm. The torque increased from 222 foot pounds at 2,000rpm to 285 foot pounds at 2,400rpm. This motor was available in California only with a manual transmission. The 351 cid and 351 cid H.O. motors were optional. In California the 351 motor was only available with the three-speed automatic transmission. The 351 H.O. motor was not available in California for this year. In 1985 the Eddie Bauer package was introduced and the 32 gallon fuel tank with skid plate became standard.1986 saw little change for the Bronco. New option packages were offered and corrosion protection was increased. The 351 cid motor was deleted from the offering and all remaining motors were now available in California. Perhaps the best improvement was the avialability of the new four-speed automatic overdrive transmission (AOD) with .667:1 final drive for the 302 MPI motor packages. This option offered overdrive to automatic transmission users.1987 was another big year for Bronco upgrades. The body was restyled and featured a more aerodynamic look and Euro-style headlamps. The transfer case was swapped for the smoother-shifting Borg Warner 1356 with 2.69:1 low range and a 4.10:1 gear option was added. An optional Touch Drive electric shift for the transfer case was available for Broncos equipped with the 302 MPI motor and AOD transmission. The standard motor was still the 300 cid I-6-cylinder. However the straight six now came with MPI fuel injection. This increased the horsepower of the six cylinder from 125 at 3,200rpm to 145 at 1,800rpm. The torque was increased from 150 foot pounds at 3,400rpm to 265 at 2,000rpm. The 351 cid H.O. motor was still offered as an option. 1987 also was the year the rear anti-lock brakes were standardized and a new MPH/KPH speedometer was introduced.In 1988 Ford again made significant upgrades to the Bronco. New was the M5OD and M5OD-HD manual transmissions. These transmissions featured a .80:1 overdrive and the HD option sported a 5.72:1 first gear. Multi-Port fuel injection (MPI) was added to the 351 cid V-8 engine for 1988. This new motor increased horsepower from 190 at 3,800rpm to 210 at 3,800rpm. The torque was increased from 295 foot pounds at 2,600rpm to 315 foot pounds at 2,800rpm. The introduction of fuel injection also marked the entire motor lineup going to a serpentine belt system. For 1988 the transfer case skid plate was made standard.The only major change in the Bronco for 1989 was the mid-year standardization for the automatic locking hub. Tip/slide front seats were also added as standard equipment to facilitate rear passenger entry.In 1990 Ford introduced the electronic version of the AOD four-speed automatic. This new transmission was now the standard automatic for the Bronco (a few early 302 cid versions received the C-6 three speed auto). The 300 cid I-6 and 351 cid V-8 engines now included an engine diagnostic connection to the computer EEC-IV.1991 was the 25th Anniversary of the Bronco, however the only improvements were in corrosion protection.1992 was the year Ford introduced the NITE option package for the Bronco. This package consisted of XLT trim, a Raven black paint job and a matching black fiberglass top. This package would only be offered for one year.1993 was the first year that a Bronco was offered with a V-8 motor as standard equipment. Unfortunately, the I-6 engine was dropped from the option list. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes were made standard for 1993. For 1993 the transfer case was changed to a New Process Gear model 200 with 2.69:1 low range.1994 saw the introduction of a driver's side air bag, side door guard beams and CFC-free air conditioning. Three trim levels were offered, the XL, XLT, and Eddie Bauer.In 1995 Ford upgraded the E4OD transmission for smoother shifts and greater reliability. The California version of the 351 cid motor (5.8-liter) now came with sequential electronic fuel injection (SEFI) that used mass-airflow metering. This change was necessary to meet California's stricter emissions requirements.1996 is another year that the Bronco sees little change.This is the final year for the Bronco. However, it would be the first year that Ford had a Bronco category at the annual Fabulous Fords show at Knott's Berry Farm in Southern California. The Bronco engines for 1996 are now fitted with improved electronics to comply with OBD-II requirements. Also new signal mirrors are offered on the Bronco. The signal mirrors are connected to the vehicle lighting system. When a turn was signaled, drivers following the Bronco could see chevrons repeating in the side-view mirror indicating the turn. This system supplemented the rear turn signals.These historical facts were taken from the Winter 1997 issue of Ford Truckin' Magazine.