Ford says its Bronco R prototype “hints at the all-new Bronco to come,” though the desert racer just unveiled is a whole lot wilder than anything we’ll see in a showroom. But as teasers go, it’s also a whole lot more fun than the typical abstract artist rendering, extreme-closeup detail photo or shadowy silhouette.
Ford said that, beyond a tease, the Bronco R was created as a 50th-anniversary homage to the 1969 Baja 1000 win by a first-generation Bronco racer driven by Rod Hall. And the R is not all show — it’ll run the 1000 starting Nov. 22 this year with Hall’s granddaughter Shelby driving legs.
While details from Ford were sparse, the R — photographed above kicking up sand in the Mojave Desert along with the ’69 Bronco — does tell us at least a few things about the coming production Bronco. Here are three:
1. Squint and You Can See It
The Bronco R is no NASCAR-style racer plastered with civilian decals. The body gives you the outlines of the production Bronco, revealing in more detail the proportions, high pancake hood, squared-off corners and rear-mounted spare that we could make out in Ford’s long-ago teaser photo of a Bronco under a tarp. As Ford put it, the R “drops heritage-inspired design and proportion hints” of what we’ll see at the Bronco reveal in April. Overseeing the one-off R was the production Bronco’s chief designer, though it was developed by Ford Performance working with Geiser Bros. Design and Development and racer Cameron Steele. And don’t be surprised if the showroom Bronco shows up with the R’s bold “B-R-O-N-C-O” lettering across the grille.
2. It Won’t Be a Soft-Roader
While this is a racer with a lot of specialized parts, Ford’s announcement made a point of saying that the R is also about showing off a rugged 4×4 off-road capability — as well as saying that the R apparently incorporates at least some production-Bronco bits and pieces. It said the racer was designed using a version of the production Bronco’s body-on-frame architecture “to test its capability and durability.” And Hau Thai-Tang, chief product development officer, said the Baja 1000 “provides an authentic test bed to demonstrate our upcoming Bronco’s desert racing capability and durability.”
3. You Can Get a Twin-Turbo Under the Hood
Talking about the R, Brian Novak, Ford Performance off-road racing supervisor, said: “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.”
No word yet on whether the twin-turbo Novak mentioned might be Ford’s 2.7-liter V-6, the 3.0-liter or even the 3.5-liter available — but we’ll likely find out in the months leading up to the Bronco’s spring 2020 unveiling.
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Meanwhile, the Bronco R Prototype you see above also has a lot of things we won’t see on the production Bronco (but might want from the aftermarket the way rival Jeep Wrangler owners do), such as a lifted independent front suspension with 14 inches of travel, a “production-based” rear suspension design with up to 18 inches of travel, custom Fox shocks, 17-inch beadlock-capable aluminum wheels and 37-inch tires.
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