Off-Roading

Ford confirms Bronco's return to off road racing, announces Baja 1000 entry

Ford has confirmed that the Bronco will return to off road racing this year, as a prototype.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford will mark the new Bronco's return to off road racing in this year's Baja 1000. AutomotiveMap's first reported that Ford was working on an off-road racing variant of the SUV earlier in October.

Today, the automaker unveiled the Bronco R next to the 1969 Baja 1000 winner Bronco, which was piloted by Rod Hall and Larry Minor. The new Bronco R will be driven in part by Shelby Hall, Rod's granddaughter, who will drive in honor of her grandfather.

The top-secret event took place at the start of SEMA week in Las Vegas, on the day that Rod Hall is being honored at the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame, located nearby the dry lake bed where the new race vehicle was revealed to a small contingent of the automotive press.

The one-off tribute vehicle will test the powertrain and suspension of the forthcoming Bronco model, which will officially debut in the spring of 2020. It features numerous tributes to the Hall Racing history including the No. "2069" on the rear quarter panel wing. The "20" tells of the class of the vehicle while the "69" signifies what year Hall Racing first won the race, which was then known as the Mexican 1000.

Ford Bronco R

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The new Bronco R will race in the 2019 Baja 1000.

"I am so excited and so honored to be a part of Ford's team to bring the Bronco back to off-road racing," said Shelby Hall as the dust settled and she stepped out of the restored Bronco that her grandfather Rod Hall drove in the 1969 Baja 1000. That legendary win spawned a career that bestowed him with the accolade of "winningest racer of the Baja 1000" and made him one of the most-renowned desert racers in the world.

Shelby Hall is a third-generation Hall family racer, who was trained by and had raced with her grandfather many times, and now will be part of Ford's team when this year's Baja starts in Encenada, Mexico later this month. "The adventure continues for my family—and for Rod, even though he passed away earlier this year. It will be his 50th birthday the day the race starts and the 50th anniversary of his Baja 1000 win, when we strap into the new Bronco R race truck. We will be taking the Bronco back to the Baja and I can imagine him sitting in this new race Bronco—and whooping it up!"

The Bronco R's story all began in July, hidden behind a security door in a Ford studio basement. Led by Paul Wraith, Bronco chief designer, the Bronco R was co-developed by Ford Performance in collaboration with builder Geiser Bros. Design and Development and Baja 1000 Trophy Truck champion Cameron Steele.

Ford Unveils Bronco R, Will Return to Baja 1000 | Ford Performance www.youtube.com

"For me, it's an awesome opportunity to step into the new Bronco R in the upcoming Baja 1000 and follow in the footsteps of a famed racer that I got to see and know as a kid growing up, " said Cameron Steele, one of the country's top off-road racers who started watching the Baja races at age 2, began navigating for his Dad 36 years ago and started his own career 32 years ago. "It's mysterious to be in these shoes."

The team created a design that is informed by Ford's Bronco heritage and modern off-roading equipment requirements. The team used cutting-edge tools including virtual reality, polygon modeling, and 3D printing to develop parts. Low-fidelity prototyping and role-playing aided their problem-solving during development.

Ford says that this model has a compressed body height, long-travel suspension, and ultra-wide stance, giving a few solid clues about what to expect from the forthcoming Bronco.

It has a slightweight composite body that includes a clamshell hood and roof. There are also clean body panels that are reminiscent of the first-generation Bronco. Washers inscribed with the Bronco name are can be found around the exterior.

Recaro seats provide the interior accommodations for three. There is also a MoTeC data acquisition system.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The sale of every Ford Bronco will benefit America's wilderness. Ford Motor Company is establishing the Bronco Wild Fund, a charitable effort aimed at supporting the enjoyment and preservation of America's wilderness through a variety of grants and initiatives.

The endowment of the Wild Fund will be funded by a portion of the proceeds from Bronco two-door, four-door, and Bronco Sport sales, as well as Ford licensed merchandise. Ford says that the goal is for the fund to raise up to $5 million annually.

2021 Ford Bronco four-door Many orders have already been placed for the 2021 Bronco. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

As part of the announcement the company is taking first public steps today to showcase an aspect of what the fund was designed to do.

"The Bronco Wild Fund will help Bronco owners and off-road enthusiasts connect with the outdoors on a deeper, more personal level – ultimately enabling them to become responsible stewards of our nation's treasures," said Mark Grueber, Bronco brand marketing manager.

Strategic alliances will make the fund's efforts possible. The first two beneficiaries of the fund's support are the National Forest Foundation and Outward Bound USA. The National Forest Foundation, created by Congress in 1992, is the only nonprofit solely dedicated to protecting and promoting America's 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands. Ford has pledged to plant 1 million new trees by the end of 2021 in cooperation with the National Forest Foundation.

Founded in 1941, Outward Bound USA pioneered outdoor adventure learning around the world and now operates in more than 30 countries. The organization will receive funds to provide access for young people to learn and grow through outdoor experiences in some of our country's great wilderness spaces.

Outward Bound USA Outward Bound USA provides outdoor experiences for America's youth.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford says that future preservation initiatives will include financial support for reforestation and trail maintenance programs, forest health, fire mitigation, and restoration work.

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is expected to arrive at dealerships soon. The Bronco two-door and four-door will following in 2021.

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The Ford Ranger is a solid entry into the midsize truck segment

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The Chevrolet Colorado is a good working man's truck. Want a step up? Get the GMC Canyon. Toyota's aging Tacoma is built for reliably tooling around. The Nissan Frontier is anxiously awaiting an upgrade while the Honda Ridgeline is busy being the best-kept secret of the segment. The Jeep Gladiator is the Wrangler of trucks.

What is the Ford Ranger besides just a slot-filler for the Deaerborn, Michigan-based automaker? A week behind the wheel would surely sort that out. Surely.

2019 Ford Ranger Not much changed on the Ranger between the 2019 and 2020 model years. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

As tested, the 2020 Ford Ranger Lariat is a top-tier option that starts at $38,675 but had a number of add-ons driving the price up to just under $46,000 all-in. While the exterior isn't particularly striking sans lift or beefy tires, the Ranger is, by most accounts, a reasonable looking truck. It's certainly not nearly as polarizing as the Ridgeline.

In the Lariat trim level, the Ranger comes with a long list of desirable features including LED headlamps and fog lamps, front tow hooks, cargo box tie-downs, power-folding side mirrors, and approach lights. The interior features list includes dual-zone automatic climate control, a 110-volt power outlet, cruise control, Ford MyKey, push-button start, eight-way power-adjustable driver and passenger heated seats, and flip-up rear bench storage.

In its cabin, the Ranger begins to show more of its true colors. The truck's dashboard and center console design earn Ford a solid "alright" in terms of design and appointments. It's all functional though not particularly modern and without any revolutionary components. The 8.0-inch touch screen infotainment system, 4.2-inch driver's information display, and steering wheel date the model more than anything else - and that's saying a lot in a segment where the Tacoma and Frontier live.

2020 Ford Ranger The wheel of the Ranger is a bit dated in its appearance, but completely funtional.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

That's not to say that the Ranger's interior doesn't have a lot to like. The Medium Stone leather-trimmed seats were comfortable and the front row's seat design allow the driver and passenger great visibility.

Ford also gets points for its strong 270-horsepower, 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine. That's the same engine that will power the new Bronco - the two are manufactured at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan. The engine is paired with the same 10-speed automatic transmission that's is in the F-150 and proves to be just as smooth in the Ranger as in its big brother.

Operation of the switchgear inside the cabin is just as smooth. There's not particularly special about the buttons, knobs, and dials, but they do the job without much hassle.

In their most off-road proficient variety, the Colorado and Tacoma are forces to be reckoned with. The Ranger, though capable off-road, doesn't come in the ultra-proficient Ranger Raptor variant in the U.S. that is sold globally, and that's a shame. So, we're left with the more pedestrian variety and some available add-on packages. Still, it's a good daily driver leaving the average customer little to complain about.

2019 Ford Ranger The interior of the Ranger is not as outdated as the Frontier's, but it's not the most modern either.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

None of this moves one any closer to deciphering what the 2020 Ranger is. But, what if that's the magic of it? The Ranger doesn't have a defining characteristic or package or specialty. This U.S. model is a well-rounded machine that quickly leaves the impression that maybe what this Ranger is, is really good.

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