Ford Unveils Bronco Race Prototype, Hinting at Production Model

November 04, 2019 by Jerry Hirsch, @Jerryhirsch

Ford Motor Co. unveiled a racing prototype of its Bronco off-roading SUV that it plans to bring back to the auto market this spring following a long hiatus.

The automaker showcased its Bronco R race prototype Monday on a dry lake bed near Jean, Nevada, ahead of the Specialty Equipment Market Association, or SEMA, show in Las Vegas this week.

Grille of the Ford Bronco R prototype. (Photo: Jerry Hirsch/

Although this is a prototype designed to run in the Baja 1000 race later this month, Hau Thai-Tang, Ford chief product development and purchasing officer, said the design foreshadows the production Bronco. Ford stopped selling the SUV in 1996 but plans to bring it back next year.

“It’s designed to showcase the capabilities of our all-new Bronco product,” Thai-Tang said.

Rear suspension of the Ford Bronco R prototype. (Photo: Jerry Hirsch/

The automaker built the racing prototype on a modified Ford T6 architecture that will provide the base for the production model. Reinforced for Baja, the Bronco R sports an independent front suspension with 14 inches of travel. It has a production-based five-link rear chassis design with up to 18 inches of travel, plus custom Fox shocks, 17-inch beadlock-capable aluminum wheels and 37-inch BF Goodrich tires. It is a body-on-frame design.

“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,” said 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 said it believes the race in the Baja Peninsula later this month will provide a 1,000-mile grueling off-road ordeal that will test the production Bronco’s powertrain and architecture.

The race marks the 50th anniversary of famed driver Rod Hall’s historic Baja 1000 win, an overall victory in a Bronco 4×4 that’s never been duplicated.

The Bronco R has a race livery inspired by Hall’s winning vehicle.

“Bronco’s win at Baja in 1969 was epic, something that even after 50 years has not been repeated,” said Thai-Tang. “Rugged endurance racing is such a big part of Bronco heritage. The Baja 1000 gives us not only the perfect setting to honor Rod Hall’s win, but it also provides an authentic testbed to demonstrate our upcoming Bronco’s desert racing capability and durability.”

The automaker built the prototype in a secure section of the basement of Ford’s design studio in Dearborn, Mich. A small team led by Paul Wraith, the Bronco’s chief designer, worked since July to make the race prototype. Ford is keeping most information about the production version of the Bronco secret until its reveal in the spring.

Cockpit of the Ford Bronco R prototype. (Photo: Jerry Hirsch/

Although the prototype has a one-off design purpose-built for racing, Wraith said the styling still points to the all-new Bronco. It has a compressed body height, long-travel suspension and a wide stance. The exterior incorporates 15 LED lightbars from Rigid, including a grille sequence framing the new BRONCO brand lettering.

Sue Mead May 17, 2019
Former champion off-road racer Rod Hall, now battling a degenerative disease, shares tips and tales from more than 50 years of adventure.

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