Before the Ford Bronco came out a few months ago, we got our first taste at the new SUV brand November of last year with the Bronco R. It was designed to kick butt at the Baja 1000 (which it didn’t quite do, but will try again), look great, and build the hype for the production SUV. It turns out, they had to design a desert racer that did all of that in just three months, an impressive turnaround for any vehicle.
The story sounds like the similarly secretive Ford GT project. Bronco Chief Designer Paul Wraith led a small team of designer and engineers in a basement bunker, where nobody other than those directly involved knew about the project. The design work was different from past projects, due to the time constraints and racing vehicle nature.
The Ford Bronco R design process relied heavily on high-tech virtual reality, styrofoam prototypes, polygon modeling, and even role playing to solve problems. Obviously, being a single unit racer rather than a production vehicle also helped speed things along, but their blend of old and new tech helped too.
The design process brought an interesting balance of old and new techniques. The sketching provided a good base for design ideas, as with most car design. VR allowed them to view CAD designs from the sketches quickly and if they were good, modeling things in styrofoam gave the designers a tactile element in the process that was key to the Bronco R’s good looks.
It’s also a fascinating design because it had to hint at what the production Ford Bronco would look like, without giving it away entirely. Looking back on the design, it’s easy to see the boxy proportions with rounded edges, squared off grille, and wheels pushed to all four corners. All of these elements are seen in the production car. Still, the Bronco R didn’t show most of the design details, like the round headlights, of the final SUV.
The Bronco R, coming up on a year old, has accomplished most of its goals, impressive for a vehicle with such a short development cycle. Now, it just needs to improve on its performance at Baja 1000 last year. Ford tells us they have learned a lot since then, and it’ll put the Bronco R in “a strong position for the grueling event” this November.