The first era of the Ford Bronco — 1966-96 — in pictures

The second coming of the Ford Bronco may be upon us, but it wasn’t too long ago that the notion of the return of Ford’s iconic Bronco nameplate was rooted almost entirely in the realm of fantasy. Nostalgic enthusiasts watched the years go by as it seemed more and more likely that the Bronco’s absence would extend to a third decade — which would have marked a period as long as the nameplate’s original run. 

To mark the introduction of the 2021 Bronco, Ford released an absolutely mind-boggling array of images from its archives. We culled this gallery from more than a thousand historic press and brochure photos, and even these 60 just scratch the surface of the rich history of this nameplate.

The Bronco evolved alongside similar offerings from other manufacturers — domestic and foreign alike — seeking to appeal to the Greatest Generation as it found itself forming the core of the thriving middle class. Many came home from World War II with fond memories of their go-anywhere “Jeeps” and the notion of having something similar in their driveways. 

Ironically, the last-generation Bronco’s death was blamed at least partially on the very thing that guaranteed its rebirth: the rise of SUVs. “But the Bronco was one of America’s quintessential SUVs,” you may protest, and you’d be right. Here, effectively a quarter-century later, an SUV in just about any form is a license to print money.

The difference? Practicality. Today, SUV/CUV is effectively the default choice for family haulers because they’ve become plentiful, inexpensive and versatile. The modern four-door crossover gives up capability in exchange for everyday usability and placid road manners. The 1996 Bronco was bigger than today’s Jeep Cherokee, and while ultimately more capable in its intended mission, didn’t offer anything remotely in the realm of that modern crossover’s day-to-day usability. Even Chevrolet’s iconic Blazer nameplate returned in this vein, caving to mass appetite. This left Jeep as the sole holdout — in the mainstream market, anyway — and the Wrangler has thrived as a result.