OJ’s Bronco vs. Today’s

  • April 14, 2024

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 drove 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 Blazer 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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