OJ’s Bronco vs. Today’s

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2081
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Now that OJ’s in the news again, hopefully for the last time, it might be worth going back in time again – to remember the Ford Bronco OJ was slouched down in (his friend Al Cowlings was driving)  during the chase that made the Bronco almost as famous as OJ.

How did OJ’s Bronco stack up to the new Bronco? The differences – both good and bad – are a measure of how much has changed in the 30 years since the chase.

For openers, the Bronco of the ’90s was what used to be called a 4×4. “SUV” was just coming into currency in the ’90s as a way to market 4x4s to people who’d never owned one before. 4x4s like the Bronco of that era and prior were rugged – and rough – relative to the passenger cars of the era. They were basically enclosed-bed versions of an existing truck, such as the F-Series pick-up that the Bronco of that period was based on. Similarly, the Chevy Blazer of the same era – which shared its platform (that is, its underlying frame and most suspension) with the Chevy half-ton pickups of the era.

4x4s – like the trucks they were based on – put functionality first and things like a quiet and smooth somewhere back there. People didn’t buy them because they were easy to drive but because not everyone drove them. The people who did liked the rough-hewn challenge. They were manly vehicles. (Lee Majors – the onetime six million dollar man – drove a lifted 4×4 in the ’80s series, The Fall Guy.)

They came with V8 engines and manual transmissions.

The four-wheel-drive also had a shifter rather than a switch or a button and the presumption was the owner knew what four-wheel-drive (and Low range) was for and when and how to properly engage it. Some 4x4s required the driver to get out and lock the hubs – by hand.

The interior of a 4×4 was usually spartan. Some had carpet; some didn’t. Manual roll-up windows and cigarette lighters were among the standard features. But this didn’t make them less desirable. It made them popular – among the men (it was almost entirely men) who bought and drove them.

The SUV is a kind of fopped-out 4×4. It is still based on a truck or truck-type architecture and usually has four wheel drive but it is designed to be as approachable and as easy to drive as a Camry – so that women will want to buy one. Or at least not object if their man does. The four wheel drive is automatic and it’s just a matter of pushing a button or switch to engage it. Modern SUVs often ride better than the luxury cars of the OJ-era and some handle almost as well as the sports cars of the Fall Guy era.

Today’s Bronco is a 4×4 and an SUV.

It is one of the few that’s still available with a manual transmission – but it comes standard with a turbocharged four cylinder engine that’s less than half the size of the V8 that OJ’s Bronco came standard with that make 100 more horsepower.

It is also more capable than OJ’s Bronco – even though it does not require as much capability from the person driving it. It is a much easier-to-drive vehicle – and that is good (for Ford) in that more people (women as well as men) are likely to buy it .

Assuming, of course, they can afford it.

When OJ’s Bronco was on sale back in ’94, it stickered for about the same (just under $22k) as a compact-sized car such as Honda Civic does today and about $17k less than the new Bronco stickers for ($39,130). Granted, there is inflation. But the fact is that you didn’t need to be as rich as OJ to afford a Bronco back in the day. 

Today, you do.

A loaded 2024 Bronco can sticker for more than $60,000 and that’s not counting the taxes and insurance that have increased mightily since the ’90s and which have conspired to make even $40,000 vehicles (like the base-price ’24) Bronco mostly for-the-affluent-only.

There is also the cost to service a new one. Which you’ll probably have to pay a dealer to handle, unless you have the proprietary diagnostic equipment and specialized tools needed to service a modern anything.

Everything in the new Bronco is electronically rather than mechanically controlled, including even the accelerator pedal – which does not physically connect to the engine via a cable that goes back and forth, in time with the accelerator pedal being pushed down and released.

OJ (or Kato) could probably have fixed most anything went wrong with OJ’s Bronco – because 4x4s like OJ’s Bronco were put together to be easy to take apart.

They were not for everyone. But that’s just why so many of us who owned one back in the day did – or very much wanted to.

. . .

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35 COMMENTS

  1. Good points as always, but do keep in mind that a Civic SI (Now inflated to be a $30k car) had an MSRP of $13k in 1994. 4x4s have always been a bit steep compared to your average car.

  2. Most ford dealers have over 100 F150 Lightning EV’s sitting on their lots, collecting dust…they aren’t selling….

    They also have a lot of Ford Mustang Mach E EV’s sitting and not selling…so Ford halted production…..

    Lots of $100,000 pickups are not selling…if you finance a big part of that…the payments are around $2,000/month….

    New car inventory has doubled in the last 12 months…so prices are falling….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEfMbSk2LbY

  3. Also, regarding the 1978-1996 Broncos vs. the new ones, does anyone else prefer the pitman steering of the old Broncos vs. today’s rack and pinion? It may be a matter of personal taste, but I prefer the pitman arm steering; I don’t feel bumps and holes as much (especially off road) and it feels more solid to me

    • Yes. Note the “old school” recirculating ball steering box with pitman arm, was isolated somewhere up the steering shaft with a fabric reinforced rubberized gizmo to limit impacts you’d feel at the steering wheel. Also a competent shop could change the power steering effort via a part change in the box. I had a box changed for me in the ‘91 Silverado to the “pinky finger” easy steering effort of my ‘79 Grand Prix.

      The WORST is rack & pinon with electric assist instead of hydraulic. I had a ‘99 Grand Prix and now the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee both with rack pinion electric assist, neither drove/drive worth a damn. Vague on center feel and all over the road in the wind.

      I’ve had two Alfa Romeo sports cars, ‘63 and a ‘69. NEITHER used rack and pinion and both drove like they were on rails.

  4. I just heard that the current owners of OJ’s white Bronco are considering selling it. The last offer they received was $750,000. They are planning to auction it and hope to get one million for it. So if you have a spare million dollars laying around and want some OJ memorabilia, maybe the slow speed chase Bronco is for you. It’s probably better than a recall-plagued new one!

  5. Re: The Bronco’s brother…the F150 Lightning EV….

    Nobody wants to buy these useless, defective, expensive EV’s……the ice Bronco is far better….

    Censorship……

    This journalist says his contacts within the MSM have been told to stop writing negative articles on EV’s….

    Soon there will be a total ban in social media, etc., against printing negative stories on EV’s?….

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVJj8coSpkE

    • Hi Anon,

      In re: “This journalist says his contacts within the MSM have been told to stop writing negative articles on EV’s….”

      Edunds.com hides (by not mentioning) EV range, especially the standard battery’s range. They no longer publish this info. Instead, the post the bullshit “MPGe” numbers and also various other sly/tricky metrics to make the EV appear more practical than it is.

      They’re all owned.

  6. Enough already…

    Youse Guys are driving me nuts with your logic…
    Here I am… “a hapless waif cast adrift upon a sea of rapacious 1% filth exploitation “…SO… what’s one to do 🤔”?

    Obviously a kinda kool BUG OUT location should be “on the menu “…

    BUT WHERE??

    Still like the Dominican Republic for “Omega Man “ last ditch defense……
    But as a “Half way House “…. For “USA, USA “ Types attempting to transition
    Puerto Rico.. will work Right Fine

    Just finished a full circumnavigation of the territory +.
    Must admit…El Morro is World Class 👍
    No wonder Every Cruise Ship in the Western Hemisphere stops here…
    Catch the place WHEN NO CRUISE SHIPS ARE SCHEDULED…
    Otherwise I recommend drinking lots of cheap wine with ReZidant alcoholics in side alleys for a more pleasant experience 🎯

  7. Something like OJ’s now 30 y.o. Bronco is LONG GONE.

    To me, a “Bronco” was more or less a light pickup with a squared wagon body instead of a cab and bed. But, like a WORK truck, it’d have a rubber mat floor and a basic, utilitarian layout inside. Interior choices were LIMITED, after all, it wasn’t intended to be the “Family Truckster”! No, it was a WORKING vehicle. This was something avid hunters and fishermen drove out into the “sticks” to do their thing. Although you could get them with an automatic, preferred drivetrain for the 4WD was a three-or-four speed manual. Engine? If before ’76, I believe it came standard with the 240 cube Six, and the 300 Six was the first option, with a 302 or even 351 (two-barrel on the smaller V8, four-barrel on the larger) as options. The ideal combo, IMO, was a four-speed with lockable hubs powered by that 300 Six, which put out TORQUE.

    Broncos, Blazers, Power Wagons, and, of course, JEEPS, were the kind of vehicle that if Klingons had developed automobiles, a real “Warrior” would have driven!

  8. I wonder why they don’t make pickup based 4×4’s. It’s not like they couldn’t make them and call the current Bronco something else, since they are selling well too. You would think a real pickup based Bronco would have as good a profit margin as the pickups. And they wouldn’t cost so much to develop as they would be based on the same platform. Guessing CAFE and other government crap..

    • Hi Rich,

      The old Bronco and vehicles like it were based on simple trucks; leaf springs and solid axles, coils and shocks. A cast iron V8, etc. Today, they’d share parts with a modern truck and so be as or even more expensive. Another toy for those who can afford it.

      • But there would still be plenty of people who would buy them, even with the tech and high price tag. I have seen custom builders actually make a “modern” one out of a donor pickup!

  9. “it might be worth going back in time again – to remember the Ford Bronco OJ drove during the chase that made the Bronco almost as famous as OJ.”

    Hi Eric,
    You’re posting even more misinformation about the OJ thing. The Juice was NOT driving that Bronco at that time. It was driven by Al Cowlings, one of OJ’s former teammates on the Buffalo Bills. OJ was riding in the back seat. So much easier to post your opinion without worrying about the facts, isn’t it 😉

  10. On this date in 1912, 112 years ago, in about 11 hours, the unsinkable Titanic struck an iceberg and sank. Humans do make mistakes.

    Looks like a plethora of mistakes are happening all at once.

    How many more bombs will it take to have some peace?

    New Broncos are designed and approved by government busy bodies. You see plenty of them, there are buyers. You gotta want one pretty bad, for that matter.

    You can buy a restored 1978 Bronco for 38,000 dollars. Prices increase after 38,000 USD.

    A used one for salvage value is 8500 dollars, part it out or restore it.

    “It looked so uneventful
    So quiet and discreet
    But a lot of lives where changed
    Down on that little one way street

    ‘Cause they walk away from everything
    Just to see a dream come true
    So God bless the boys who make the noise
    On 16th Avenue” – Lacy J. Dalton, 16th Avenue

  11. Back in the olden times I don’t remember seeing as many SUVs on their side in the median either. And the number of 4X4 vehicles were a fraction of what they are now. “You have to get out and do what with the hubs?” kept a lot of people from buying. That also had a pretty big self-selection bias to people who bothered to learn how to drive in snow, and well enough to keep it on the road without having to get out and lock the hubs. Or just stay at home because why bother with the hassle.

    OTOH, the nicety of having a switch on the dash is appreciated here. No muss, no fuss, just “push the button, Frank!” and off you go. Still need to keep your wits about you. But like all technology that makes it easier, things that weren’t possible for the novice become so with the update. Without learning the manual methods the newbie gains unwarranted confidence in their ability, only to be schooled in a much less forging way.

    Problem with that is people want to have shortcuts. And the best shortcut is blaming someone else for your own failure. Every once in a while that’s justified, you got a bad trainer or someone oversold the capabilities of the technology. But Barnum’s famous quote “There’s a sucker born every minute” still holds true, and if you think your predicament is someone else’s fault (possibly outside of conscription), you might want to take a long hard look in the mirror for the source of your hardship.

  12. OT: In case you missed it, this was nice to see:

    ‘”Read Ludwig von Mises, Motherf**kers!” – Brazilian UFC Fighter’s Victory Speech Pumps Austrian Economics’

    […] “Renato Moicano’s televised speech came after he pulled off a comeback win over Jalin Turner at Las Vegas. Joe Rogan joined him in the ring to discuss the fight, but Moicano had other priorities, and proceeded to drop a profanity-peppered liberty bomb on the T-Mobile Arena crowd and a worldwide audience:

    “I’m a huge advocate of the First Amendment. Today, of course I want the $300k bonus but they not going to give [it to me] because somebody say, ‘hey, this is fucking Disney, you cannot curse’…so I’m not going to do my speech, but…

    First off all I love America. I love the Constitution. I love the First Amendment. I want to carry all the fucking guns. I love private property. And let me tell you something: If you care about your fucking country, read Ludwig von Mises and the six lessons of the Austrian economic school, motherfuckers!” …

    https://www.zerohedge.com/political/read-ludwig-von-mises-motherfkers-brazilian-ufc-fighters-victory-speech-pumps-austrian

    • Also read: “Fire in the minds of Men” by James Billington. None of the woketard nonsense is a mistake that didnt fail 230 years ago.

  13. @Eric – Is Toyota about to repeat Ford’s Bronco mistake by releasing a new Land Cruiser fit for garage queen duty but not much else?

    I’ve heard about ADM on those locally projected at 100% when they become available.

  14. My neighbors have a new Bronco which is a garage queen, hitting the road only on nice days on weekends.

    The vehicle disappeared for a couple of weeks last year, following the recall for the possibility of bolts getting loose in the transmission.

    A truly rugged Bronco priced around $40k and sharing parts with an F150 would sell, especially if it was designed to be put back together again easily after taking abuse.

    The fragile vehicle ensconced in my neighbors’ throne room is not anything like the old Bronco.

  15. Flash back and forth between the photos above of a 1990 Bronco and a 2024 Bronco. What’s the first difference you notice?

    The wheels … they’ve grown about 7 inches in diameter, and now bulge out of their fender flares. Just as auto makers once copied the aftermarket mag wheels of the 1960s (now standard as styled aluminum wheels), now they’ve aped the stance of lifted trucks with bulging fat tires. I call it the Tonka toy truck look.

    Aesthetically, the happy medium probably resides somewhere in between. The wheels of the 1990 Bronco look diminutive, while those of the 2024 Bronco resemble a child’s Gigantic Pickup Truck toy (ages 2+; batteries: none).

    https://americanplastictoys.com/product/gigantic-pick-up-truck/

    ‘Car buffs’ (when those existed) used to complain that Detroit innovated trivial features like ‘electric eye’ headlight dimming and motorized radio antennas, while European makers introduced solid stuff like radial tires and overhead cams, both now ubiquitous.

    Today their products in each government-defined category all look the same. ‘Let ten thousand chips bloom’ is the auto makers’ mantra, riffing on Chairman Mao. But at least when it comes to the Bronco and its big brothers, designers can tap into their inner two-year-old, let boys be boys, and produce these strange caricatures that are as wildly misproportioned as a manga emo-girl’s preposterous, impossible curves.

  16. Always loved the Bronco when I was a teenager. The church youth group leaders had one, so I got to ride in it. There was something about being in that big (for its day) thing. Never got to experience its off road abilities, but it was a nice ride.

    By the time I could think of affording one, they stopped making them and seemed no one wanted to part with theirs.

    I still see the OJ version on the roads occasionally and it still looks good.

  17. My buddy, Crazy John, had a Bronco like OJ’s. Unlike OJ’s Bronco, Crazy John’s was dark green with a brown interior. That thing was a BEAST! I know, because I drove it back in the summer of 1999. It was nicely appointed; it had captain’s chairs, stereo, A/C, a big, thirsty V8, and so on. The cabin was so big that it was a stretch to adjust the rearview mirror. We went to a race at the long since gone Flemington Speedway in NJ for a Saturday night race. John tossed me the keys and said, “Drive, Marky!” On I-195, proceeded to fall asleep in the passenger’s side captain’s chair, sawing logs as we went. The race was good too. Ah, precious memories!

    • I got many a face-full of dirt standing behind the chain-link fence at turn 1 in Flemington when it was real stock cars on clay. Old street machines, mostly from the ’40s and some late ’30s, bought for $50 (or less) and with the main mods being an added roll bar and almost everything else gone. Most of the chassis mods, and engines built, by the driver in a barn or garage where he lived. Numbers were generally hand painted on the front doors and maybe a local businesses’ name painted on if the guy could find a local sponsor. If we went in Jack’s ’52 Chevy that night, some us would get in free since he had a rear seat-back that could be folded down from inside the trunk.

      • I’ve seen replays of the dirt races at Flemington. I imagine anyone sitting near the turns would be COVERED in dirt!

    • ‘We went to a race at the long since gone Flemington Speedway in NJ’ — MarkyMark

      Even there, Wikipedia reminds us, the hand of Big Gov intruded:

      ‘The track remained dirt until the end of the 1990 season when the decision was made to pave the track due to local resident / business complaints and EPA standards.

      ‘After being paved, speeds at the track dramatically increased. The higher speeds led to a series of horrible crashes.

      ‘The track continuously lost money after being paved, and closed on November 8, 2002. A Lowe’s store sits on the defunct speedway property.’

      Think of all the greenhouse gas ’emissions’ we avoided! /sarc

      • Thanks to the F*CKING GOVERNMENT AGAIN!

        Flemington Speedway became yet another shopping plaza mixed with office space, restaurants, and residences. It’s called Raritan Town Square. The only reminder of the speedway is the small, house like building that stood at the speedway entrance along NJ Route 31; that was a racing hall of fame museum. That front entrance that once led to the speedway parking now leads to Raritan Town Square’s parking. That’s the only clue that Flemington Speedway once existed, but only people who knew the speedway would know that. Since that area of NJ has grown like crazy in recent years, I doubt that many of the newcomers know that.

        BTW, they’re right about the horrible crashes, though I don’t know if I’d solely attribute it to the fact that the racetrack was paved. Paving the track increased the speeds; there’s no question about that. The increased speeds left the drivers with less reaction time, as they were covering more ground in a given period of time. The increased speeds also damaged the cars more, thanks to the increased kinetic energy of those higher speeds-laws of physics and all that.

        However, the pavement alone can’t be blamed. After the speedway was paved, Flemington had an Armco barrier around much of the track; this was for safety, so as to keep wrecks on the track. On the far side, or the backstretch and its connecting turns (I.e. turns 2 and 3), the Armco barrier formed a steel canyon, which would prevent the drivers from looking very far ahead. Because that steel canyon obstructed the drivers’ vision, a couple of cars up front could tangle, and they’d take out the whole feature’s contestants before most of the guys behind them knew what was happening, let alone be able to react to it.

        The night Crazy John and I went, they had two 20 lap modified features. I remember it because John Blewett III was taking part in it. The Blewetts were and are fixtures at Wall Stadium, where John and I usually went. Anyway, a couple of guys tangled up front. Blewett was running around the middle of the pack and moving up, and he got taken out. It wasn’t his fault, as he didn’t know the wreck was happening until he was caught up in it. His car was TRASHED! There was no way that it could’ve been fixed in the pits. Luckily, he had an extra car, so he was able to run the 2nd 20 lap modified feature that night. But yeah, because of the Armco barrier forming a steel canyon around much of the track, such wrecks were all too common.

        In closing, while paving the track didn’t help Flemington Speedway, it wasn’t the only reason for more wrecks at the track. No, I blame the Armco barrier that was installed around much of its perimeter. The barrier formed a steel canyon, which obstructed the drivers’ vision; drivers couldn’t look ahead far enough to avoid any developing trouble. Finally, thanks to Big Daddy Gov’t, we lost yet something else we, the people, enjoyed.

        • As a kid, I was taken to an old-school destruction derby at the Houston Astrodome. It consisted of 1950s clunkers, with their thick metallic hides, banging into each other until only one gap-toothed, faded-paint dinosaur still wobbled along on its steel wheels and bias-ply tires.

          The vast indoor space filled with thick blue smoke. I hollered my little head off.

          Today, EPA red guard Michael Regan would shut down those billowing clouds of gasified hydrocarbons and deadly CO₂ [/sarc] in a trice. Think of the children!

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