|Vehicle:||1976 Ford Bronco Sport|
|Number Produced:||13,625 (1976)|
|Original List Price:||$5,966 (1976)|
|Tune Up Cost:||$200|
|Chassis Number Location:||Stamped on the frame rail adjacent to the steering box; data tag on the driver’s door jamb edge|
|Engine Number Location:||Basic casting numbers only, on the side of the block|
|Club Info:||Early Ford V8 Club, American Truck Historical Society|
|Alternatives:||1961–71 International Scout, 1971–80 International Scout II, 1976–87 Jeep CJ-7|
This truck, Lot 5, sold for $55,000, including buyer’s premium, at Gooding & Company’s Amelia Island auction in Amelia Island, FL, on March 13, 2015. Offered at no reserve, it was estimated to sell between $35,000 and $45,000.
More of a Ford Scout than a Ford Jeep
When it comes to classic American 4x4s, most people think of the post-war CJ Jeep as the rig that started it all. That’s true for the most part, but it was certainly not the only player in the market for very long.
The 1966 Bronco brought Ford into the personal 4×4 segment. While it might seem like it was designed to take on the longstanding Jeep, the Bronco was actually more of an answer to the popular International Scout, which started production in 1961.
The Scout was more civilized on the highway than the Jeep CJ-5, yet more nimble off road than the truck-based Jeep wagons or Wagoneer. Ford was also well aware that IH truck dealers were taking in all sorts of unconventional trade-ins on Scouts — from economy cars to sports cars. That was the action Ford was interested in getting, as the Bronco could fit well within Ford’s total marketing campaign as a specialized vehicle among their other cars and trucks.
Any configuration, as long as it’s 4×4
Like the Scout, the Bronco was originally offered in three configurations, but unlike the Cornbinder, every single one had four-wheel drive. The Bronco wagon proved to be the standard bearer for its entire 11-year first-gen production run. An open roadster model with cut-out panels instead of doors was offered until 1968, and a pickup cab was built too, but discontinued after 1972. Also like the Scout, the open roadster wasn’t successful and the pickup sold in sustainable numbers — the wagons are what made both the Scout and Bronco successful.
One thing the Bronco had over the Scout was power — if barely. Out of the gate in 1966, the Bronco bested the Scout’s 93-hp 152-ci slant four with a 105-hp 170-ci straight six. However, the Scout offered a turbocharged version that boosted power to 111 ponies. Halfway through the year, Ford upped the ante with an optional 200-hp 289-ci V8. The Scout countered with both a larger 196-ci slant four (making an easier 111 hp than the turbo) and IH’s truck-based 155-hp 266-ci V8 as options. For 1969, Ford’s 289 gave way to the 210-hp 302-ci small block, used through the end of first-gen Bronco production. Automatic transmissions and power steering were available starting in 1973.
Updates and redesigns
The Bronco was all but locked into a dozen-model-year time trap that saw minimal changes — even when GM upped the ante again with the truck-based K5 Chevy Blazer/GMC Jimmy in 1969. It took Ford until 1978 to super-size the Bronco into the F-series platform, but when they did it proved an unbridled success — going from 13,593 units built in 1977 to 69,120 for ’78.
The untrained eye might be hard pressed to tell the difference between a 1966 Bronco and a 1977, yet there were occasional updates that were more obvious than others. Externally, the biggest change was the federally mandated side marker lights in 1968 and a fixed windshield replacing the hinged piece in 1969. The Sport package, fitted to our subject rig, was first offered in 1967, consisting of enhanced trim and brightwork. The Ranger package was first offered in 1972 in one of three color combinations: Ginger, blue metallic and Avocado. Rangers also upped the ante with a standard rear bench seat and carpeting. Regional spring special Explorer packages were also available in the 1970s, plus a Special Décor Group in 1976 and ’77 — featuring a black-out grille and Boss-style stripes.
Off-road cult following then and now
Broncos had a cult following pretty much from new, although their popularity was greater and broader from the Central Plains into the Rockies. They also disappeared rapidly from the northern states, as they were a good platform for a small snowplow and the perfect get-around vehicle on salty winter roads. As such, rust was a real killer here.
The aftermarket began catering to Broncos by the early 1980s, focusing mostly on off-road performance. Authentic restorations were all but an afterthought. One of the most common tweaks was to cut out the rear wheelwells and fit them with wide flares to fit bigger off-road tires.
Due to the tin worm’s efforts, these were also among of the first vehicles to have fiberglass replacement body tubs available. Today, most that are reworked are restorations, and most are “credit-card restoration” vehicles, meaning everything is available — for a price. Fiberglass tubs have given way to Ford-licensed all-steel bodies. However, Broncos are rarely restored to as-left-the-factory bone-stock configuration, and our example is indicative of this.
Most Broncos on the market today tend to have suspension modifications, powertrain upgrades, and editorial license taken in the paint booth. All of that is spot-on for this truck. Actually, the only thing missing from the norm is a set of aftermarket wheels and tires — this example still wears stock wheel covers, also used on the 1966 Galaxie 500. Nobody cuts up a good body anymore, as uncut examples bring a premium over cut or patched examples.
If the top stays up, the price likely will
You might think soft-top Broncos would bring the most money, yet by and large, that’s not true. Despite low production, roadster models don’t command significantly more than wagons, since they are fair-weather friends. They tend to bring about the same as Bronco pickups — if not less. While more plentiful, the wagon is the most heavily desired variant, and those generally bring the most money.
Values have been strong for almost two decades, but in the past half-dozen years, prices have really started to escalate. Yet unlike Toyota FJ-40 Land Cruisers, Bronco values didn’t skyrocket and then plummet back to reality within the past decade. Instead, it’s been a steady climb, with lower- and medium-grade examples stabilizing, and top-tier examples continuing to move upwards. Six-digit sales of the best examples are not out of the question.
This was no minty original, but it was typical of the higher-end offerings in the current market. It sold $10k stronger than the high auction estimate at no reserve, which further confirms that the first-generation Bronco is still a rising star. Consider this well sold today, but next year it just might look well bought at this price.
(Introductory description courtesy of Gooding & Company.