Imagine a parallel universe where the iconic Wrangler off-road SUV was not a Jeep, but what would later turn out to be the Ford Bronco. That alternate reality almost happened, as Ford was considering ‘Wrangler’ as a name for the first generation Bronco, among others. This was discovered by Hagerty, when they were granted access to Ford’s secret Bronco vault, which contains all sorts of information on the model’s history.
In the vault, Hagerty found nine possible names Ford was debating when the Bronco was in development, with some of them being quite humorous and interesting to look back on today. Most odd is that Wrangler name, ironic because Jeep was technically already making the Wrangler.
During the Bronco’s development, Ford was essentially making a competitor for the Jeep CJ5 (which would go on to become the Wrangler) and International Scout. These vehicles didn’t really have a name at the time, as they weren’t cars but weren’t trucks, but could also go off-road better than just about anything. Ford did intensive market research of owners of these cars, and found these owners liked their vehicle’s go-anywhere approach, but wished for a better daily driver.
Lee Lacoca, the legendary President of Ford at the time, instructed a team to create a vehicle that was four-wheel-drive, maneuverable, and great off-road as well or better than the Jeep and Scout. Project Bronco, as it was codenamed at the time, needed to have better performance, NVH and a more comfortable ride. As we know, Bronco stuck, a clever equine marketing connection to the Mustang.
The other proposed names are also interesting and ironic. It could have been the Explorer, a fitting name, and one that would later become a popular family SUV. Trail Blazer was also on the table, which GM eventually used. The Gaucho and Caballero names connected to a cowboy rather than the horse. Finally, Bravo, Custom, Rustler and Sprint were considered. But none of them sound better than a Bronco. Great choice, Ford. We can’t wait to see the new one.