Retrospective

Original Bronco's design was conceived by Ford's first African American designer

McKinley Thompson Jr. was Ford's first African American designer and his influence lives on today.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford's design studio has churned out some of the most iconic models of all time. They're models so iconic that they need only be mentioned by one name - Explorer, Mustang, Bronco. With the Bronco, the design and engineering teams at Ford created not just the first Ford 4x4 sports-utility vehicle, but an iconic vehicle that has millions of fans nationwide.

McKinley Thompson Jr., like many automotive enthusiasts had his interest in the industry sparked by particular vehicle. The silver-gray DeSoto Airflow caught his eye when he was around 12 years old. "It just so happened that the clouds opened up for the sunshine to come through," he said in an interview documented by The Henry Ford. "It lit that car up like a searchlight." Thompson recalled running toward it, but the light turned green. "I was never so impressed with anything in all my life," he said. "I knew that's what I wanted to do – I wanted to be an automobile designer."

1963 Ford Bronco prototype This is one of the initial prototypes of the Ford Bronco from 1963.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

After high school, Thompson served in the Army Signal Corps in World War II, learning drafting and working as an engineering layout coordinator. After the war, Thompson found he couldn't kick his enthusiasm for car design - not that he wanted to. In the early 1950s, he entered a design contest in Motor Trend magazine, submitting a turbine car with a reinforced plastic body. Both of those concepts were trendy in postwar America. That design won him the contest and solidified his decision to go to art

The Queens, New York was hired at Ford Motor Company in 1956 fresh out of the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California with a degree in transportation design. Thompson is one of the many noted alumni the college has produced. The extensive list of venerable automotive designers that includes Chris Bangle (former Chief of Design at BMW), Wayne Cherry (Vice President of Global Design at General Motors), Willie G. Davidson (Vice President of Styling at Harley-Davidson), Larry Shinoda (Chevrolet Corvette, Ford Mustang designer), Jeff Teague (former Vice President of Global Design at Ford).

He was the first African American designer that the company hired, 10 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball but 12 years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregation was illegal. His first assignments included working on a light-duty cab-forward truck and Ford GT40, and several concept sketches for the soon-to-be Ford Mustang.

Thompson also worked on the futuristic space-age Ford Gyron, a two-wheeled concept car that was on display at the Century of Progress exhibit at the Ford Rotunda in 1961.

Ford Gyron The Ford Gyron, a two-wheeled, gyroscopically-stabilised concept car, designed by Alex Tremulis and Syd Mead, USA, circa 1961. A fiberglass show car was exhibited at the Detroit Motor Show in 1961. Photo by Getty Images

"McKinley was a man who followed his dreams and wound up making history," said Ford Bronco interior designer Christopher Young. "He not only broke through the color barrier in the world of automotive design, he helped create some of the most iconic consumer products ever – from the Ford Mustang, Thunderbird and Bronco – designs that are not only timeless but have been studied by generations of designers."

It was Thompson's sketch of a prospective 4x4 that would influence a buyers for generations. "Package Proposal #5 for Bronco" was rendered July 24, 1963. Its design attributes carried over to the final first-generation Bronco design. In Thompson's proposed design showed the form and function of the wheels positioned at the far corners of the body for a confident and aggressive go-anywhere stance, while the curve of the wheel arches smoothing out conveyed speed.

Package Proposal #5 for Bronco This is Package Proposal #5 for Bronco, the sketch series that set the iconic design in motion.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

"I believe the hardest thing for a person like McKinley to do was working within the constraints given him to make a beautiful product," said Young. "Engineering dictates size and functionality, then manufacturing limits how it can be stamped and assembled, and finance says you have to build it for a low price."

In the years following the Bronco project, Thompson continued to have a transformative influence on the brand, and on the world. From 1969 to 1979, he worked to create high dream car in a rented garage in Detroit. He enlisted the help of Wallace Triplett, who had broken the color barrier as the first African American draftee to play for the Detroit Lions in 1949.

Together, they built a prototype and pitched the plans to burgeoning automakers in developing nations. Thompson hoped to change these countries for the better, much the same way Henry Ford envisioned with the Model T. That project never came to fruition.

1966 Ford Bronco From the first-generation Bronco to today, the model has had an exterior that sends the message that it's adventure-ready.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

After his retirement from Ford in 1984, Thompson moved to Arizona and worked to design and build a concept he envisioned as an affordable all-purpose vehicle named the Warrior. The small utility vehicle was based on a one-piece fiberglass body.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

This 1984 Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe has been modded for off-roading.

Photo courtesy of Cars & Bids

Most but their Porsche 911 for its good looks and high speed capabilities. A select few have the sense to buy one for its safari capabilities.

This 1984 Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe is currently listed on Cars & Bids, ready time deliver a rally experience for the right buyer.

In November 2019, the 911 Carrera was professionally converted to a Safari replica. The conversion cost over $10,000 and utilized Elephant Racing parts.

This 911 Carrera was professionally converted into a Safari replica using Elephant Racing parts in November 2019. Service records confirm the seller spent over $10,000 having a taller suspension installed and making the necessary modifications to accommodate it.

1984 Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe

Photo courtesy of Cars & Bids

The long list of modifications includes all-terrain tires, mud flaps, Elephant Racing Safari suspension kit, strut bar, modified brake lines, relocated fuel pump, M&K muffler, front fog lights, a custom front bumper, fiberglass rear bumper, roof rack, decals on both sides, a RennShift shifter with wooden shift knob, and JBL Xtreme Bluetooth speaker.

Additional alterations include a 26.4-gallon fuel tank, LED headlights, a Momo steering wheel, and a five-point racing harness at each of the front seats.

It has a Ruby Red Metallic exterior paint job and a maroon interior.

The rear-wheel drive 911 comes powered by an air-cooled 3.2-liter flat-six engine that is paired with a five-speed manual transmission. The engine achieves 200 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. It was rebuilt in 2004.

It has 156,000 miles on the odometer. According to the Cars&Bids website, the AutoCheck history report “notes that this car's odometer was once described as exceeding its mechanical limits."

The Porsche rides on 16-inch wheels, has power window and seats, and an aftermarket CD player. Its interior features leather upholstery.

Like any true off-roader of its age, there are small scratches throughout the model.

The Elijay, Georgia-based seller assures that it comes with a clean title from Florida.

An Omega Speedmaster Automatic 38mm watch (reference 175.0033) is included with the sale. That watch features a rally-style leather band that is nearly a perfect match for the car's interior.

Current bidding for the car is up past $30,000.

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Ford is launching a new aspect of its rewards program.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company, in partnership with First National Bank of Omaha and Visa, is launching the FordPass Rewards Visa Card as part of a customer loyalty program expansion. FordPass first launched in 2019.

The credit card similar to credit card programs offered by General Motors and but Ford says that theirs offers a higher level of rewards than the other programs.

"Building trust and delivering the best ownership experience possible for our customers is our top priority at Ford," said David Loflin, manager, Customer Experience. "Not only does this card match the features of other major players in the credit card space, it offers customers a means to reduce the cost of ownership by redeeming Points to purchase, lease or service their vehicle."

FordPass Rewards Visa Card The card is available in two colors right off the bat.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

In exchange for using their FordPass Rewards Visa Card to pay for purchases, customers can earn 10 percent Back in Points on Ford service. That 10 percent is an accumulation of five percent Back in Points in Ford dealership purchases and an equal percentage Back in Points with FordPass Rewards.

Customers also earn five percent Back in Points on Ford dealership purchases; three percent Back in Points in gas, auto insurance, tolls, parking, and dining expenses; and one percent Back in Points on all other purchases.

The credit card is the only co-branded card with an annual statement credit. Users get $200 each year when they spend $6,000 in 12 consecutive billing cycles after opening the account. Customers get a $100 statement credit when they spend $3,000 within the first three billing cycles after opening an account.

There is also low-interest financing for six billing cycles on Ford dealership purchases over $499.

Additionally, the card gets users access to more traditional FordPass Rewards opportunities. For example, in June FordPass Rewards gave its members access to one month of complimentary Postmates delivery service and deployed a complimentary The Works oil change and tire rotation to members deemed essential workers.

Currently, the FordPass Rewards program has enrolled more than 4.5 million members

Cardholders will be able to customize their FordPass Rewards Visa Card by checking the options box. The card is first available in a Model-A Black or Blue Oval Blue color scheme. Beginning with the Bronco brand and the all-new F-150, future iterations of the card will allow model-specific customization.

To learn more about the FordPass Rewards Visa Card and to apply, visit FordPassRewards.com/Visa.

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