The first version of the Ford Bronco was timeless. It remains, more than half a century later, one of the coolest cars on the road; people pay well into the six-figures for exquisite restored Broncos, and the off-roader’s enduring popularity has forced Ford to bring the model back in all-new form (which will be arriving a couple of weeks from now, at long last).
Unlike Jeep with the Wrangler, however, Ford definitely messed with success. Rather than stick with what worked, FoMoCo designed and built underwhelming Broncos all the way through the mid-1990s. (Need we remind you of the rollover-prone Bronco II?)
Ford also attempted a couple of reimaginings of the Bronco in the 1980s that were very much of their time. These concepts never made it to production — and, judging from leaked photos — have provided no inspiration whatsoever to the new Bronco. Which, as you can see in the pictures below, is probably for the best.
Ford Bronco Montana Lobo (1981)
The Ford Bronco Montana Lobo debuted at the 1981 Chicago Auto Show. It was definitely…something. Built on a first-gen 1977 chassis, the Bronco Montana Lobo was imbued with a style we can only describe as Malaise Era avant-garde.
It was painted the color of mustard, and looked like the ideal Bronco for a 1981 party boy named Chaz who needed a vehicle that could transition seamlessly from his parents’ lodge in Vail to his side hustle moving controlled substances.
This baby had a T-top and removable, tinted plexiglass doors, plus sliding glass doors for access to the bench seats in the open-air rear party deck. The Montana Lobo bodywork also included side rails containing both louvers and flying buttresses and a rooftop airfoil, because, sure, why not?
And somehow, its side pipe exhaust is the last thing you notice.
Ford Bronco DM-1 (1988)
Ford once had a design sketch so wonderful, it just had to become a functional car. That became the Bronco DM-1. It takes us to the future of the SUV…where SUVs look absolutely nothing like an SUV.
It abandons all pretense of being boxy for a completely rounded, seamless look designed for maximum aerodynamic efficiency, and features what comes close to being a 360-degree bubble top for maximum visibility. Ford said it could accommodate the Bronco II’s four-wheel-drive setup…yet they built it on the Escort’s car platform.
The white version looks semi-acceptable, with a dash of RoboCop futurism — as though someone had made a Ford Probe crossover.
Unfortunately, Ford also made a yellow prototype. It had matching yellow rims, and looked like someone had made a car out of flan.
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