I read a recent article in Bloomberg about the rise in collectability of first generation Ford Broncos.
Some are now selling for over six figures.
I’ve owned first-gen Broncos (and even a Bronco II, but I don’t like to admit to it), and they are decent enough bare-bones utility vehicles. But no one has ever called them a joy to drive.
Broncos don’t handle, don’t stop, and the 302 V8 overpowers the suspension. Their off-road capabilities are about what you would expect from a rig of that era, which is to say limited in stock configuration.
I found myself wondering just what I would do with a six-figure Bronco? Would I take it on the Rubicon Trail? On local off-road events where it would surely get scratched and dented?
I doubt it. These “ultra-Broncos” are destined to live in collections where they will be admired and not driven.
I contrasted that with my own off-road machine, my 1984 Land Rover Defender 90 Turbo Diesel. Before I got the D90, I had a Discovery and a Range Rover Classic, They were both great off-road, but I found they were in such nice condition that I was terrified whenever a tree branch rubbed against them.
By contrast, the D90 was used in off-road competition in England before I imported it. Every panel is dented and scraped. It’s been fully kitted out with an air-locker and a lift kit, plus a variety of skid plates.
There’s no place that I’m afraid to take it. When I slid into a tree last year and mangled the front left fender, the shop just pulled it out and made it “straight enough.”
It’s the same with my other cars. I only own them because of the joy they bring me in use. In fact, the car I drive the very least is our 2000 Dodge Viper GTS ACR. It’s a magnificent machine — a Corvette for real men. But it is so powerful that by the time I’m starting to enjoy its capabilities I’m going uncomfortably fast on a public road. And with no traction control to save me, if I drive stupid I’m going to pay the price.
As I look at the ten cars in my modest collection, each one brings me joy in use. When I take out an Alfa or the Lotus, I’m reminded of just how much I love to drive small-displacement vintage cars. Their capabilities are so meager compared to modern cars that it takes a thoughtful driver to make them perform. And the better I pilot them, the more eager they are to perform for me.
For me, banging the D90 over rocks and through streams reminds me of why I drive old cars and trucks in the first place. I respect those who pay top dollar for a car and then keep it as a display item. But it’s simply not the way I enjoy my cars.