Ford Bronco II

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For the Ford Bronco of 1966 to 1996, see Ford Bronco.
Ford Bronco II
Ford Bronco II.jpg
Manufacturer Ford
Model years 1983–1990
Assembly Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Body and chassis
Class Compact SUV
Layout Front engine, rear-wheel drive / four-wheel drive
Related Ford Ranger
Engine 2.8 L Cologne V6
2.9 L Cologne V6
2.3 L Mitsubishi 4D55T turbodiesel I4
Transmission Manual
4-speed Mazda TK4
5-speed Mazda TK5
5-speed Mazda M5OD-R1
5-speed Mitsubishi FM145
5-speed Mitsubishi FM146
3-speed C5
4-speed A4LD
Wheelbase 94.0 in (2,388 mm)
Width 68.0 in (1,727 mm)
Successor Ford Explorer
First generation
Ford Bronco II (Mexico).jpg
Model years 1983–1988
Length 158.3 in (4,021 mm)
Height 68.2 in (1,732 mm)
Second generation
89-90 Ford Bronco II.jpg
Model years 1989–1990
Length 161.9 in (4,112 mm)
Height 69.9 in (1,775 mm)

The Ford Bronco II is a two-door compact-sized four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle (SUV) that was manufactured by Ford from 1983 to 1990. The original compact-sized Ford Bronco was marketed from 1966 to 1977, but became the full-size Bronco from 1978 to 1996. The Bronco II used the Ford Ranger pickup platform with a 94-inch (2,388 mm) wheelbase.


The first Bronco II was developed in parallel with the Ranger pickup truck. The Bronco II was introduced in March 1983, and marketed as a "vehicle for men, single people, or young couples ... almost like John Wayne vehicles ... that gave people the sense that they could conquer anything ..."[1] Using the Ranger platform helped Ford lower production costs by using one assembly line for both vehicles, as well as to catch up and compete with the Chevrolet S-10 Blazer.[1]

The restyling of the Bronco II and Ranger was introduced in 1988, but ended for the Bronco II with the end of production on February 7, 1990, replaced by the larger Explorer. The restyling is marked not only by difference in physical appearance, but also improved structural support. The 1990 models produced after November 1989 with four-wheel drive came equipped with the Dana 35 front axle, as opposed to the Dana 28 front axle used in earlier production.

The Explorer started where the Bronco II left off with a similar Ranger-based platform, sharing essentially the same front end, but with Ford's new 4.0 L OHV Cologne 155 hp (116 kW) V6 and a four-door model with a two-door Sport option. The Explorer retained the Ranger-based platform until 1995, when the model was overhauled with a major exterior restyling and chassis modifications to allow the addition of Ford's 302 cu in (4.9 L) V8 engine.

Ford would not market another compact SUV until the release of the Escape in 2001.


The 1984 and 1985 models were equipped with the German-built carbureted 2.8 L Cologne V-6 with 115 hp (86 kW) at 4600 rpm, which was also used in the 1984 and 1985 Ford Ranger. It was originally available exclusively with four-wheel drive.[2] The 1986 model year introduced the 140 hp (104 kW) fuel injected 2.9 L Cologne V-6. Due to a design flaw, overheating the engine could lead to cracks in the cylinder head between the valve springs or at the base of the rocker shaft pedestals. This results in internal coolant leaks causing contamination of the oil, which if not caught in time causes severe internal engine damage. Although there were slight improvements to the head castings in late-1989, these heads were not installed on production engines before the production of the Bronco II ceased. Bronco IIs that were still under warranty, or at the owner's desire, were retrofitted with the improved heads.

An 86 hp (64 kW) 2.3 L Mitsubishi diesel I4 engine was also offered through the 1987 model year, but this engine was rarely[clarification needed] ordered.[citation needed]

Safety controversy[edit]

Stability problems with Bronco II were noted during the design phase in 1981, as well as in the verification tests.[1] For example, the J-turn test was canceled during the testing procedures by Ford officials "out of fear of killing or injuring one of its own drivers."[3] Engineering modifications were suggested, but Ford officials declined the modifications because they would have delayed the marketing of the new vehicles.[3] Eight months before production began, Ford's Office of General Counsel collected 113 documents concerning the new vehicle's handling problems.[1] However, 53 of these test, simulation, and related reports about stability of the Bronco II "disappeared" in an "unusual document handling procedure" that forebode the lawsuits against Ford starting in the late-1980s.[1]

The Bronco II was dogged by reports that it was prone to rollovers.[4] Some of the headlines in 1989-90 included "NHTSA Investigates Bronco II Rollovers," Automotive News (March 20, 1989) "Magazine Gives Ford's Bronco II 'Avoid' Rating," The Wall Street Journal (May 8, 1989), and "Consumer Reports Criticizes Ford Bronco II's Handling," The Washington Post (May 18, 1989).

After analysis of SUV crashes of the Suzuki Samurai, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened a formal study of the Ford Bronco II in 1989.[5] There were 43 Bronco II rollover fatalities in 1987, compared with eight for the Samurai, but accident data in four states showed the Bronco II's rollover rate was similar to that of other SUVs, so the investigation was closed. NHTSA declined to reopen the investigation in 1997 after more Bronco II crashes.[6]

It was estimated that 260 people had died in Bronco II rollover crashes, a rate that is several times more than in any similar vehicle according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.[7] By 1995, Ford had paid $113 million to settle 334 injury and wrongful death lawsuits.[8] A class-action settlement with owners of its controversial Bronco II provided "new safety warnings and up to $200 for repairs and modifications."[8] Ford ended production of the Bronco II in 1990, but "always contended that rollovers are overwhelmingly caused by bad driving or unsafe modifications to the vehicle."[7]

Individual lawsuit examples include famed jockey Bill Shoemaker, that awarded him one million dollars. Shoemaker was paralyzed from the neck down after rolling his Bronco II in California in 1991 while intoxicated.[9] Thereafter, he was confined to a wheelchair. The largest award involving the Bronco II up to 1995 was a $62.4 million verdict for two passengers, one of whom who received brain injuries and left her in need of a legal guardian, after the 1986 model in which they were riding rolled over.[10]

The safety record was "frightening" with "one in 500 Bronco II's ever produced was involved in a fatal rollover."[11] Automobile insurer GEICO stopped writing insurance policies for the Bronco II.[10] By 2001, Time magazine reported that the "notorious bucking Bronco II" rollover lawsuits had "cost the company approximately $2.4 billion in damage settlements."[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e Baura, Gail (2006). Engineering Ethics: An Industrial perspective. Elsevier. p. 135. ISBN 9780080458021. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  2. ^ Bryant, Thos L. (1983-06-02). "La nouvelle vague des tout terrain made in USA" [The new wave of off-roaders "made in USA"]. Le Moniteur de l'Automobile (in French). Brussels, Belgium: Editions Auto-Magazine. 33 (770): 2. 
  3. ^ a b Bogus, Carl T. (2003). Why lawsuits are good for America: disciplined democracy, big business, and the common law. New York University Press. p. 160. ISBN 9780814799161. Retrieved 21 October 2015. 
  4. ^ "Safety Research Report Index - Ford Bronco II Rollover" (PDF). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved 2011-04-01. 
  5. ^ Williams, Linda (March 16, 1989). "Agency to Launch Study of Ford Bronco II After High Rate of Roll-Over Accidents". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 27 November 2015. 
  6. ^ Plungis, Jeff (March 4, 2002). "Rollover complaints dismissed". Detroit News. Retrieved 2008-11-11. [dead link][dead link]
  7. ^ a b Geyelin, Milo (January 30, 1997). "Ford Reaches a New Settlement In Bronco II Rollover Litigation". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 27 November 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Ford Settles Again With Owners of Its Bronco II". The Los Angeles Times. Reuters. January 31, 1997. Retrieved November 27, 2015. 
  9. ^ Nack, William (April 19, 1993). "From Fame To Shame Bill Shoemaker, a casualty of his own drunk driving, has lost respect by launching lawsuits to shift the blame for his tragic folly". Sports Illustrated. 
  10. ^ a b Darin, Ann Therese (November 6, 1995). "Ford loses $62.4 million Bronco II case". Automotive News. Retrieved November 27, 2015. 
  11. ^ Kiley, David (September 7, 2010). "Behind Fords Recent $131 Million Rollover Judgment - Another Reminder of Tragedies From A Decade Ago". Retrieved 27 November 2015. 
  12. ^ Greenwald, John (May 29, 2001). "Inside the Ford/Firestone Fight". Time. Retrieved November 27, 2015. 

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