History

A tale of two Broncos: The one in the chase wasn't the only Bronco O.J. Simpson made famous

O.J. Simpson wasn't the owner of the Bronco he helped make infamous.

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The Ford Bronco had been a beloved off-roader for decades before it became part of the story of one of the most notorious murders of modern day, and one of the most captivating television events in history.

McKinley Thompson Jr. was the first African-American designer Ford Motor 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.

This is one of the initial prototypes of the Ford Bronco from 1961.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

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 generation Bronco design, including the 1993 model owned by Al Cowlings.

The '93 Bronco was part of the model's fifth generation. It was built on the F-Series chassis. The new generation featured the most aerodynamic design to date and it received safety upgrades including front crumple zones, three-point seatbelts for the rear seat, and a center-mounted rear brake light.

By 1994, the prime of Al Cowlings's professional football career had long passed him by. He was drafted in 1970 by the Buffalo Bills, one year after the team drafted O.J. Simpson. The two had been teammates at USC. Known by the nickname "The Juice", Simpson quickly rose to fame from star running back at USC to Heisman Trophy winner to the the man with the highest paying contract in NFL history (at the time).

Simpson struggled during those early years but Cowlings did not. By the time Lou Saban took the helm of the Bills in 1971, their time playing together was coming to a close.

OJ Simpson Nicole Brown Simpson O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown Simpson pose at the premiere of the "Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Isult" in which O.J. starred on March 16, 1994 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Cowlings and Simpson remained friends. Cowlings is the godfather of Simpson's son Jason and he served as a groomsman at the wedding of Simpson and Nicole Brown in 1985. Cowlings also was the ring bearer at Robert and Kris Kardashian's wedding in 1978.

In 1979, both Cowlings and Simpson played their last professional seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

By 1994, Cowlings and Simpson were both living in the Los Angeles area - Simpson in Brentwood. On June 12, 1994, Simpson's ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her acquaintance Ron Goldman were found stabbed to death outside her condo in Brentwood.

When Brown Simpson was identified as the victim, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) went to Simpson's Rockingham estate (360 North Rockingham Avenue, Los Angeles) to notify him of the death. Officers buzzed the gate at the house for 30 minutes. While there waiting, they noted that Simpson's Bronco was parallel parked on Rockingham Avenue at a precarious angle with its back end further out into the street than the front.

They also noticed that the SUV's door had blood on it.

O.J. Simpson's House Rockingham O.J. Simpson's Rockingham Estate in Brentwood, is shown in June, 1994 in Brentwood, California. Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Archive Photos/Getty Images

This caused concern for the officers, who eventually decided to enter the estate, despite not having a warrant, because they were concerned that someone was injured inside.

Detective Mark Fuhrman interviewed Kato Kaelin, who lived at the estate, who confirmed that the Bronco belonged to Simpson. He also relayed that earlier in the night, Kaelin had heard thumps against the wall of his living quarters. Furhman walked around the area in an effort to investigate what may have made the thumping noise and came upon a bloody glove. The right-hand glove matched the left-hand one found at the Brown Simpson-Goldman murder scene. This evidence served as probable cause to issue an arrest warrant for Simpson.

The ensuing media frenzy was brought to a fever pitch when Simpson failed to surrender to LAPD on June 17 as previously agreed upon, the day after the funeral for Brown Simpson.

According to testimony during the prosecution of Simpson for the murders, Cowlings said that Simpson arrived at Cowlings's house that day and pointed a gun at Cowlings, instructing him to get behind the wheel of Cowlings' Bronco and drive. Simpson's personal Bronco had been impounded by LAPD as part of the investigation into the crime.

OJ Simpson bronco chase sign Motorists wave signs as police cars pursue the Ford Bronco driven by Al Cowlings, carrying fugitive murder suspect O.J. Simpson, on a 90-minute slow-speed car chase June 17, 1994 on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Archive Photos/Getty Images

With Cowlings behind the wheel, the Bronco led police on a slow speed chase around Los Angeles as Cowlings made a 9-1-1 call from his cell phone telling police that Simpson was armed with a gun and demanding that Cowlings drive Simpson to his Brentwood estate.

The chase went on Interstate 5 near Lake Forest to California State Route 91 and then onto the 405 in Torrence. News crews captured the scene from seemingly every angle. Airing live, it grabbed national attention, interrupting coverage of the 1994 NBA Finals. Approximately 95 million people watched the drama play out in the U.S. alone - just 90 million watched the Super Bowl that year.

World watches as police chase O.J. Simpson www.youtube.com

It was as the Bronco neared Torrance that cameras began capturing bystanders showing signs with messages for Simpson on them lining the freeway. The pursuit ended when Cowlings reached Simpson's Rockingham estate and Simpson surrendered after an hour-long standoff during which Simpson spoke with his mother and drank a glass of orange juice.

The estate has since been torn down.

Simpson and Cowlings were both taken into custody. Cowlings was charged with aiding a fugitive and was released about 12 hours later after posting a $250,000 bail. Eventually it was determined that the case against Cowlings would not proceed.

According to reports published at the time the police search of the Bronco turned up $8,000 in cash, a loaded .357 Magnum, a United States passport, family pictures, a change of clothing, and a disguise kit with a faux goatee and mustache.

1993 Ford Bronco The 1993 Ford Bronco was part of the company's last generation of the model.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

On January 24, 1995, the trial of O.J. Simpson began. The nation's attention was once again captivated.

Three months into the trial, limousine driver Allan Park testified that when he arrived at Simpson's home at 10:25 p.m. on the evening of the murders, Simpson's personal Bronco was not there. At approximately 10:50 p.m. Park said that he saw a, "tall African American shadowy figure resembling Simpson" approach the front door of the estate before turning toward the Southern walkway that led to Kaelin's bungalow.

Park had been scheduled to pick up Simpson ahead of Simpson's red eye flight to Chicago, where, the next day, he was to play golf with representatives from Hertz Corporation. At the time, Simpson was a spokesperson for Hertz.

This testimony was key for the prosecution, which was attempting to link the Bronco and Simpson to the glove. Along with the testimony, 108 exhibits of evidence were presented, including 61 drops of blood. The case relied heavily on physical and DNA evidence.

Judge Ito Simpson trial Judge Lance Ito oversees a drive-by shooting murder case May 20, 2004 nearly tens years after he presided over the high-profile case of former football star, O.J. Simpson, accused of murdering Nicole Brown-Simpson, in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Robert Galbraith-Pool/Getty Images

Prosecutor Marcia Clark drew a DNA line from the murder scene to Simpson's bedroom, including drops of blood containing the DNA of Brown Simpson and Goldman on the outside door of Simpson's Bronco.

Fibers found on both victims, both gloves, and a knit cap purported to have been worn by Simpson, were only used in the 1993-1994 model year Ford Bronco. Additionally, the glove found near Kaelin's bungalow had hair and clothing fibers that were consistent with hair and clothing fibers from Simpson, Brown Simpson, Goldman, Brown Simpson's akita dog, and a 1993-1994 Bronco.

Eighteen months after the trial began, FBI shoe print expert William J. Bodziak testified that bloody footprints found inside Simpson's Bronco were made from a size 12 pair of Bruno Magi shoes. Only 29 pairs of those shoes had been sold in the U.S., however the prosecution was unable to produce evidence that Simpson owned a set, though they were the right size for his foot.

Simpson's defense team was filled with attorneys who have since gone on to fame and fortune outside of their law careers. Robert Shapiro, Johnnie Cochran, F. Lee Bailey, Robert Kardashian, Alan Dershowitz, Gerald Uelmen, Carl E. Douglas, Shawn Holley. Barry Scheck, and Peter Neufeld were among those at the table.

The defense proceeded to cast doubt on the DNA findings citing shoddy police work, and explaining that Simpson was not physically capable of committing such an act.

A supporter of O.J. Simpson wears a hat with a "Not Guilty" sign for the descision of the O.J. Simpson verdict at the Los Angeles Courthouse on October 3, 1995 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Michael Montfort/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Scheck told jurors, and millions watching at home on Court TV, that police had planted evidence inside Simpson's Bronco. However, the prosecution proved that the Bronco had already impounded for the investigation at the time this alleged planting was to have taken place. Further, the officer accused of planting the evidence was not at the estate.

On October 3, 1995, Simpson was acquitted of both counts of murder. That same year, Cowlings's Bronco was purchased by Simpson's former agent Mike Gilbert, and two other men. It sat in a parking garage for the next 17 years and was rarely used. In 2017, the Bronco was loaned to the Alcatraz East Crime Museum, where it is currently on display as part of an exhibit about the trial near John Dillinger's car and Ted Bundy's Volkswagen Beetle.

Ford discontinued the Bronco shortly after the trial ended. On June 12, 1996, the last model rolled off the Wayne, Michigan assembly line. The Bronco was replaced in the Ford lineup by the Explorer and Expedition.

The next-generation Ford Bronco will be revealed July 13, 2020.

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Hardcore off-road SUV

Ford Bronco Raptor is real and on its way in 2022

Ford's video gave up very little on the new SUV.

Ford

The long-awaited Ford Bronco went on sale earlier this year and overwhelming demand has many buyers waiting months for the opportunity to own one. Ford isn't resting on that success, however, and is already hitting the gas on the SUV with the tease of a new model. The even longer-awaited Ford Bronco Raptor is coming, though we don't yet have many details to share, but Ford CEO Jim Farley shared a video to Twitter this morning that gives us a little to go on. More importantly, the video confirms that the Bronco Raptor is coming, which is music to our ears.

Ford Bronco Raptor Pause the video at the exact right moment, and you can catch a blurry glimpse of the Bronco Raptor.Ford

Being a tease, it's not surprising that we don't get a big, clear picture of the SUV. We can see that the Bronco Raptor's grille is different, with the Ford name spelled out in bold letters, just like the brand's other Raptor vehicles. We can also see that the Bronco's daytime running lights have shifted to orange.



Ford did not share any other details, but other Raptor models paint an enticing picture for the future hardcore Bronco. The SUV should get upgraded off-road suspension, brawny bodywork, and fat all-terrain tires. One of the biggest questions is what Ford will choose for the Bronco Raptor's powertrain. Two engines are currently offered for the standard Bronco, including a turbo-four and turbo-six. Rumors have pointed to the possibility that the Explorer ST's EcoBoost engine could make an appearance in the Raptor, which would bring up to 400 horsepower to the SUV. There may also be more than one wheel and tire option, which is the case for the upcoming F-150 Raptor, where buyers can choose to upgrade the stock 35-inch tires to 37-inchers.

There's no word on release date or pricing, but it's a safe bet that the Bronco Raptor will outpace its "normal" counterparts by more than a few dollars. Regardless of price, Ford should sell a ton of the SUVs, assuming it can keep up with demand on the production side.

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New American pickup truck

The new 2021 Ford F-150 is an all-around performer

The Ford F-150 got a complete overhaul for 2021.

Chris Teague

The Ford F-150 is one of the most popular vehicles of all time, coming in second only to the Toyota Corolla in lifetime sales. That makes the F-150 a vitally important model for The Blue Oval, so it's not surprising that it takes updates to the truck very seriously. That was absolutely the case with the all-new 2021 F-150, which sees a load of new tech, evolutionary styling changes, and an impressive new PowerBoost hybrid engine option.

2021 Ford F-150 A new hybrid powertrain option is a headline feature for the new F-150.Chris Teague

Ford offers the F-150 in a staggering number of trim, bed lengths, and powertrain options. Trims include XL, XLT, Lariat, Tremor, King Ranch, Platinum, Raptor, and Limited. Powertrain configurations include:

  • 3.0-liter turbo diesel V6 with 250 horsepower and 440 pound-feet of torque
  • 3.5-liter PowerBoost hybrid V6 with 430 horsepower and 570 pound-feet of torque
  • 3.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged V6 with 400 horsepower and 510 pound-feet of torque
  • 5.0-liter V8 with 400 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque

I spent a week testing the F-150 King Ranch with a SuperCrew cab and the new hybrid powertrain. Pricing for the base F-150 XL starts at just under $31,000, but my King Ranch test truck checked in at $77,125 after a $1,695 destination charge. That bottom line price includes almost $16,000 in options, such as a $1,995 King Ranch chrome package, a $1,495 twin-panel moonroof (worth it), a $1,005 FX4 off-road package, and more.

To find out if the new F-150 justifies its price tag, let's take a closer look at what makes it tick.

2021 Ford F-150 Though new, the 2021 F-150 sports familiar styling.Chris Teague

Powerful, efficient hybrid engine

Don't let the word "hybrid" fool you here – this is a serious powertrain. The PowerBoost twin turbocharged V6 and 35 kW electric motor produce a combined 430 horsepower and a whopping 570 pound-feet of torque, while a ten-speed automatic transmission pairs seamlessly with the engine and delivers smooth, almost imperceptible shifts. The hybrid setup feels a little clunky at low speeds, as the gas engine and electric motors trade off propulsion duties, but it's not a constant issue and does not detract from the truck's overall driving experience.

Depending on the configuration, the F-150 can extend to over 20 feet in length. It's also around eight feet wide, so there's no getting around the fact that it's not ideal as an urban commuter. Even so, the truck's quick, responsive steering makes it feel slightly smaller than it reads on paper, and it offers excellent outward visibility, which makes it less likely that you'll bump into, or run over, an unseen obstacle.

When equipped with the hybrid powertrain, the F-150 also comes standard with a generator built into the bed. A 2.4 kW Pro Power generator is standard, but the system can be upgraded to a 7.2 kW unit for just $750, which is a tremendous bargain in the world of generators. During the winter storms that ravaged Texas earlier this year, there were several reports of people using their new F-150s to power heaters, refrigerators, and other vital household systems while much of the state's power grid was down. Thankfully, my time with the truck was far less dangerous and dramatic, but the generator did get put to use charging my battery-powered chainsaw and tiller while helping a friend clear a small plot of land.

2021 Ford F-150 The new F-150 can be had with a giant 12.0-inch touchscreen.Chris Teague

User-friendly tech and an ultra-plush interior

I've always felt that Ford SYNC 3 was one of the best infotainment systems on the market, and the latest SYNC 4 software improves on that already successful formula. The base F-150 XL runs the system on an 8-inch touchscreen, but my King Ranch test truck came with an available 12-inch display. The screen itself is bright and responsive, and the software's simple, intuitive menu structure makes the whole package less distracting to use while driving. The system offers wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Bluetooth, SiriusXM radio, HD radio, wireless smartphone charging, and the King Ranch I tested came with an options package that included an upgraded "B&O Sound System Unleashed."

If you had even a slight doubt that pickup trucks are really just lifted luxury cars with towing capabilities, the new F-150 will change your mind. The King Ranch trim comes with soft, exceptionally comfortable leather upholstery, and the front seats offer 10-way adjustability that allows the driver to dial in a near-perfect seating position. At this trim level, the front buckets come with heating and ventilation, but my truck came equipped with the $4,650 601A High package, which brings a massage function with a handful of different programs. It also adds a power tailgate, power-deployable running boards, a better B&O stereo, and 20-inch wheels. The options group is far from cheap, but after a few minutes spent being massaged at a traffic light, the price tag will likely feel like much less of an issue.

Ford stepped up the safety game with the F-150 for 2021. The truck now comes standard with the Co-Pilot360 package, which includes automatic headlights and high beams, a lane-keeping system, pre-collision assist with automatic emergency braking, forward collision warnings, and a rearview camera with hitch assist. The XLT trim and above come with blind spot monitoring and a reverse sensing system, and the King Ranch trim adds adaptive steering, adaptive cruise control, evasive steering assist, intersection assist, and navigation.

2021 Ford F-150 The King Ranch trim features an over-the-top interior with soft leather and premium finishes throughout. Chris Teague

Pricey, but worth the money

Full-size pickup trucks are excessive in many ways, but there's no denying that they are some of the most useful vehicles on the road today. My need for a pickup truck is limited, as I don't tow and rarely haul anything that a midsize SUV can't carry. The cost of a full-size pickup truck, both to buy and operate, is hard to justify for me, but for someone who truly needs a full-size pickup, the PowerBoost-equipped F-150 is a compelling option.

At 24 mpg all around, fuel economy is solid, and the refinement of the powertrain means that there's no operational penalty for choosing the hybrid. On top of that, towing capability climbs to 12,700 pounds when the truck is equipped with an optional trailering package. All of that adds up to an F-150 that earns its price tag and looks good while doing it.

2021 Ford F-150 In case you forgot which F-150 trim you bought.Chris Teague

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