Ford's twin-turbo Baja racer flashes a first look at the new Bronco
It's a great time for old-school 4x4s. Besides the Defender and Land Cruiser restomods emerging virtually every week, and the hard-edged, torquey electrics, the past two years have hosted the return of some dormant icons. We've seen the realization of a modern, Rubicon-grade Jeep pickup and an all-new Land Rover Defender. Soon we'll be adding the first new Ford Bronco since 1996 to that list, and the Blue Oval provides its first sneak peek behind the colorful livery of the Bronco R 50th anniversary Baja 1000 racer. Billed as a tribute, test and tease, the Bronco R is bold, brash and ready for anything, showing the type of rugged, drive-anywhere attitude fans of the original Bronco have been starving for.
Ford says that the celebratory Bronco R "drops heritage-inspired design and proportion hints" about what the all-new Bronco will look like when it makes its debut next year. The R brings back the strong, stout two-box styling of the SUVs of yesteryear, staying quite true to the original Bronco's rough, powerful look. The front-end stands vertical, providing a wide billboard on which to highlight the "Bronco" name, its "R" highlighted in red. From there, the flat, broad hood zips backward, fading into a strong, horizontal character line that joins with the flared-out rear fenders to provide a rock-solid foundation for a cabin outlined by a near-vertical rear, level roofline and sturdy A pillars. The design looks even more powerful than the 1969 Bronco Baja race car accompanying it in some of the photos and shows Ford has no intention of pulling a Chevy by crossing over its iconic off-road nameplate.
As for the Bronco R itself, the capable race truck is designed as an homage to the Bronco that Rod Hall and Larry Minor piloted to an overall Baja 1000 victory in 1969. Along with its classic Bronco-inspired styling, it features livery derived from the 1969 Bronco. It will be driven in parts of this year's Baja 1000 race by Rod's granddaughter Shelby Hall, an off-road racer herself. Behind the composite body, the Baja R features the upcoming production Bronco's powertrain and body-on-frame architecture, which will be put to the test during the race.
"The Baja 1000 gives us not only the perfect setting to honor Rod Hall’s win, it also provides an authentic test bed to demonstrate our upcoming Bronco’s desert racing capability and durability," said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford chief product development and purchasing officer.
The Bronco R includes a total of 15 Rigid light bars, a variety of aerodynamic components, an independent front suspension with 14 in of travel, a production-based five-link rear suspension with 18 in of travel, custom Fox shocks, and 37-in BFGoodrich tires on 17-in beadlock-capable aluminum wheels. It even has a cut roof, through which rear passengers can drop in. Ford Bronco chief designer Paul Wraith and his team developed the Bronco R in collaboration with Ford Performance, Geiser Bros Design and Development, and Baja 1000 Trophy Truck champion Cameron Steele.
"Like the original Bronco, we kept Bronco R’s design authentic and simple, with a roll cage on a production-style frame, and a five-piece lightweight body on top,” says Brian Novak, Ford Performance off-road racing supervisor. "For the endurance needs of Baja’s 1,000 grueling miles, we built in a limited number of race-focused parts. But even the twin turbos of the EcoBoost engine are representative of what the production Bronco will offer."
Ford will be build excitement around the new Bronco with its Baja effort, which begins November 22. Those waiting anxiously for the production Bronco will have to be patient for a few more months, as Ford will hold the world premiere in Spring 2020 (Northern Hemisphere). We suspect it will drop a few more breadcrumbs leading up to that premiere.
Check out Bronco desert running action in the video below.