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How The Bronco Underground Kept The Project Alive

2021 ford bronco black diamond edition sasquatch package

The return of the Ford Bronco has garnered massive attention from buyers and the industry alike. Now that the most anticipated vehicle of the last year is finally upon us, we are starting to learn more about its journey back to production. Bloomberg Businessweek got to speak with the Bronco team directly about the entire process. Here’s what you should know about Bronco’s decades long hiatus, and the work that went into reviving the nameplate.

Like with many of the great cars that we’ve all come to love, the resurrection of the Ford Bronco started out as an after-hours kind of project. The work began all the way back in 1999, when a group of Ford employees known as the Bronco Underground began to inquire with their superiors about bringing the 4×4 back. Despite Ford’s clear disinterest in the project, the team went about planning and designing anyway.

2021 Ford Bronco Outer Banks
Image Via Ford.

The resulting project was codenamed U260, which represented the basic principles of the vehicles. The “U” stood for utility, the two represented door count, and 60 denoted the T6 platform the Bronco would share with the Ford Ranger. With platform sharing in place to cut costs, the team lead by current VP of design Moray Callum designed a truck heavily inspired by the original roadster. According to the report from Bloomberg, the upper brass at Ford even appeared to be on board with the project after getting to see it.

However, disaster would strike the Bronco Underground team. Ford found itself embroiled in a massive scandal related to the Explorer and its Firestone tires. As more than 250 people lost their lives in roll-over accidents, the Blue Oval was put under investigation by congress and soon faced massive recalls. The financial strain related to the event resulted in some belt-tightening at Ford, and the Bronco program was officially axed.

Image Via Ford.

The public would first see the Bronco again in 2004 in concept car form, but the SUV didn’t make as much sense as the U260. It rode on an independent platform, and the conflicts abroad were contributing to rising gas prices. Soon the recession came and further buried any hopes of a true utility vehicle returning to the Ford lineup. Ford was adamant the project needed to be laid to rest for good.

However, once Ford saw the popularity of GM’s mid-size truck offerings, and that of the Jeep Wrangler lineup, things started to change. It was decided that Ford would in fact bring the T6-based Ranger stateside to fight the Colorado and Canyon, but they needed a vehicle to be built alongside the pickup. The Bronco Underground team got their chance after decades of persistence, and they delivered us the off-roader we see today.

Image Via Ford.

So despite almost a herculean effort from Ford’s top brass to deny us all a new Bronco, as well as pressures from rising fuel costs, the recession, and a massive scandal, the truck is here today. Ford may have worried about the financial implications of bringing back the 4×4, but we’re certain those feelings are far behind them now.

Written by Lucas Bell

Lucas holds a journalism degree from Wayne State University, and is a Automotive Press Association scholarship recipient. While an American muscle fan through and through, he once wrote a fascinating comparison review about eScooters.

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