The Ford Bronco has returned to the market looking strikingly similar to the original SUV that debuted in 1966. The use of this boxy, retro design language may have been exactly what fans were hoping for, but it wasn’t always Ford’s plan. During an interview with MC&T, Paul Wraith, the man in charge of the 2021 Ford Bronco design, told us how the truck we see today almost looked very different.
When it came time to start working on a Ford Bronco once more, the most natural place for Ford to start was with the 2004 concept we’ve all come to know and love. The concept was essentially dead on arrival due to the global circumstances at the time, combined with the costs associated with the unique platform. Despite its warm reception from fans, the 2004 concept proved not to be the launching point Ford was hoping for.
“We brought the 2004 concept of hibernation and wheeled it into the studio,” said Wraith, recalling the early stages of the 2021 Ford Bronco design process. “It was probably with us for about a good six months. We began to analyze what we think the Bronco needed to be, and we started to recognize that (the concept) was not it.”
While not being entirely specific as to what caused Ford to rule this design language out, Wraith did state he believed the 2004 concept represented a take on the retro futurism design movement that took the auto industry by storm in the 2000s. An interesting critique to levy, considering how many might argue the Ford Bronco we now see on sale employs this strategy to a greater and more effective extent.
In a move that could have shocked the Bronco faithful, Ford apparently mulled over a couple Bronco designs that weren’t retro-inspired in the slightest, according to Wraith.
“One of our earlier themes… they were not anything like the Bronco at all,” said Wraith. “They were really wild.”
However, the intended use for the Bronco soon spelled the end of a rounder, more modern design language. Ford knew the SUV needed to be a serious off-road performer, and one that lived up to the decades worth of anticipation from fans. The Bronco brand was associated with a vehicle capable of handling any terrain, which presents some design requirements for the team.
“This sort of gravitational pull towards a vehicle that’s got very short overhangs, a very flat hood that peaks at the front corners, upright pillars… the vehicle started to become very square,” said Wraith. “It was rational criteria starting to take away from any prospect of the Bronco being a bubbling blob.”
Based on initial reactions, and over 100,000 pre-orders, the 2021 Ford Bronco design appears to be a hit, and it’s a relief that Ford didn’t botch the styling of the SUV. Perhaps it’s all for the same reasons that the Jeep Wrangler has maintained a consistent design for decades. As the old adage goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.