Ford Bronco II – Vilified Cheap-O or Awesome Collector?

1984 Ford Bronco II.
(Image: Ford)

Don’t ask Ford Bronco II fans about the hate!

Bronco II fans are more numerous than you might think and they find their small SUV to be better than many of us remember. Other SUVs at the time the Bronco II had to battle (Jeep Cherokee, Chevrolet S10 Blazer, Mitsubishi Montero etc.) were less vilified and had much longer lifespans. Bronco IIs are now becoming somewhat collectable and are gaining in popularity – a bit.

In 1983, the Ford Bronco II debuted as a 1984 model. Killer dimensions (for off-roading) including a 94-inch wheelbase made for a very maneuverable SUV. New Ford Bronco IIs initially came only with four-wheel drive (locking front hubs) and a Cologne 115 hp 2.8-liter V6.

Over time, the displacement expanded to 2.9-liters and hp increased to 140. With the first gen Bronco IIs, a five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed was only offered its first year) standard, and a three-speed automatic was optional – a four-speed auto came in ’85. With Ford’s 7 and 1/2-inch rear end (28-spline) rear and Dana 28s up front, it was a decent off-road package right out of the box (axle ratios were: 3.45:1, 3.73:1, or 4.10:1). Hearing the complaints about the front Dana 28s, Ford stepped up to a Dana 35 in ’89.

Second generation Ford Bronco II. Note the similarity to the first generation Ford Explorer’s front end. (Image: Ford)

Eventually, Ford released a less expensive, rear-drive, base-mode version of the first generation Bronco II. Ride comfort with the twin I-beam (rear-drive) or twin-traction beam setup was a bit bouncy for some. Everyone was aware of its small, narrow wheelbase when they drove it.

You could get a limited slip rear differential as an option in some vehicles, but it was rare. Other rare options: a Mitsubishi-sourced I4 turbo-diesel, which wasn’t a popular option and the butch looking XLS trim.

Ultimately, Ford sold over 764,000 Bronco IIs from 1984 – 1990. Although the second generation was a tad larger, it still had the same underpinnings (except for a now standard shift-on-the fly 4×4 setup). Regarding its narrow, tight wheelbase, it was sighted by Consumer Reports for its rollover potential. Even its replacement, the Ford Explorer was dogged by this reputation.

Collector potential?

First and second generation Ford Bronco IIs are cheap as chips – if you can find them. Many rotted away and were lost to time, but there are still some gems out there. I found a nice example in Los Angeles for $2,500. It’s an automatic with the better V6 and it looks pretty clean.

This 1986 Bronco II is for sale in Southern California for $2,500.
(Image: Craigslist)

The bottom line, which is also explained in the video below, is that the Bronco II may have been an unloved SUV for some, it still connects to the modern age. Its small dimensions and packaging were impressive, but its build quality and safety issues could not be denied. Still, it may have had a great influence than many thought. Think about it: the newest one is also based on the Ranger and it’s also poised to do battle against Jeep.

Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.