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Classic Broncos With Desperately Slow Performance

Classic Broncos With Desperately Slow Performance

In the off-road world, performance figures like 0 to 60 times and top speeds are generally considered secondary to engine power, suspension components, differential technology, and chassis architecture.

Back in the day, off-road enthusiasts drove fun but hopelessly slow vehicles, and nobody even thought that something along the lines of a "performance SUV" was even possible. In those glorious days when US manufacturers produced rugged, cheap, simple, and durable off-roaders, even the models equipped with V8 engines struggled to keep up with ordinary passenger cars.

Today, we'll concentrate on a lesser-known part of Ford Bronco's history and tell you more about the slowest Broncos ever built. As you might guess, the models we're talking about are classics equipped with carbureted straight-six engines -- often with three-speed manual or automatic transmissions and basically, mid-20th century technology.

Even though those Broncos are still desirable and undeniably cool, they also illustrate just how far technology has progressed.

Currently, the slowest modern Bronco is 1.5-liter, three-cylinder Bronco Sport, which can reach 60 mph in about 8 seconds. Compared to the models on our list, this is lightning quick!

1966 Ford Bronco six-cylinder

The Ford Bronco debuted in August of 1965 as a 1966 model and was immediately met with praise from the motoring press and interest from the buying public.

Its arrival heralded a brave step for Ford, which had a successful pickup truck line, but never made an SUV before. Under the hood, Broncos received a lineup of standard Ford's engines, starting with a small 170 CID, followed by a 200 CID six-cylinder with 105 and 120 hp, respectably. Interestingly, a V8 option wasn't available right from the start.


Those early Broncos with six-cylinders were desperately slow, despite being plenty capable on the trail. Getting from 0 to 60 took a full 22 seconds, and the top speed at that time was barely 80 mph. However, customers really didn't care, since the Bronco was never intended to be a muscle car.

1978 Ford Bronco

In terms of engine power and performance, the late '70s were the darkest of times for the American car industry. Gone were the days of the potent V8 engines of the late '60s, high horsepower ratings, and cheap fuel.

Although this was generally a time of downsizing, in 1977 the Bronco nevertheless grew drastically in terms of size and engine displacement. It was built on shortened F-100 truck chassis and shared its mechanics, front end design, and interior. The concept of offering several body styles that made the first-generation model so famous was abandoned in favor of one body style – a 3-door SUV with a lift-off rear hardtop.


Since it used the F-Series truck chassis, Ford gave the Bronco the 351 V8 as a standard engine and 400 V8 as an option. Both engines had a similar power output of 156 and 158 hp -- despite their large displacement, the power output of each of the engines was minimal, owing to emission restrictions. As a result, so was the performance. The second-generation Bronco could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 14 seconds and reach a 92 mph top speed.

Today, those numbers might sound ridiculous, but for the late '70s, those were respectable figures.

1983 Bronco 300 six-cylinder

Despite retaining the same philosophy as that of the '77-'79 model, the third-gen Bronco was much improved and efficient. It also used F-Series chassis as a platform and had the same dimensions, but it was lighter, better constructed, and more efficient than the outgoing model.

The engine lineup was changed and modernized, featuring a six-cylinder for the first time in years. The 300 straight-six was a base engine and the only one in the lineup offered with the manual.


The 300 six-cylinder was already familiar due to its inclusion in the truck lineup, and it was very dependable, tough, and easy to maintain. However, with a meager 124 hp, it wasn't very powerful and, as a result, it provided the Bronco with very slow acceleration times and top speed. Drivers who pushed the '83 Bronco 300 cid really hard could see 60 mph in 14.3 seconds, and those brave enough to chase the top speed could see 90 mph.

1987 Ford Bronco II Diesel 

During the third-generation production cycle, Ford decided to introduce a completely new model under the Bronco moniker. Called the Bronco II, it was a significantly smaller and lighter SUV, designed to fight increasing foreign competition in the segment.

The Bronco II was built on a Ford Ranger platform and featured two-wheel-drive as standard and all-wheel-drive as an optional.

We can rightfully say that the Bronco II was underpowered from today's perspective, since it was offered with 2.8 and 2.9-liter V6 engines offering 115 and 140 hp, respectively.

Interestingly, Ford decided to introduce Mitsubishi's 2.3-liter diesel unit as an option, but it was soon withdrawn, due to poor performance and slow sales. That diesel unit was an especially slow performer, with just 86 hp on tap.

So, even though the Bronco II was smaller and lighter than the standard Bronco, it didn't help its performance. Accelerating from 0 to 60 mph took 16.5 seconds, and its top speed was just 83 mph.

1992 Ford Bronco six-cylinder

By the early '90s, SUVs had become a new trend, and customers wanted modern design and luxury features, as well as the comfort of a passenger car. Despite looking thoroughly contemporary, the Bronco was an old school off-roader with a live rear axle and rugged mechanics and driving dynamics.

Also, engine offerings remained the same as before and started with a 300 cid straight-six as a base engine, followed by a 302 and, ultimately a 351 V8 as the top-of-the-line engine choice.


The venerable six-cylinder was modernized with a fuel injection system, which helped it gain more power (145 hp) and torque, better fuel economy, and improved emissions.

It was again the choice for buyers who needed their Bronco to be a workhorse and didn't care much about the performance. Speaking of which, the 1991 Bronco with the base engine could accelerate to 60 mph in 13 seconds and top 95 mph.

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