Fifty years ago, Rod Hall and Larry Minor drove to victory at the Baja 1000 in Ford’s now-iconic red, white, and black Bronco with a blue roll cage. Today, in the middle of the hot Nevada desert, Ford unveiled its retrofuturistic successor, the 2020 Ford Bronco R, which in 15 days will take part in the 2019 Baja 1000.
And it’s probably the best preview of the new Ford Bronco, at least in terms of design, that we’ve had to date.
(Full Disclosure: Ford invited me to Las Vegas to witness the launch of this race vehicle, provided me with transportation, posh lodging, and food.)
The details of the race effort are still a bit thin on the ground, but we do know that “The Desert Assassin” Cameron Steele will be running the upcoming Baja race in this truck, sharing driving duties with Rod Hall’s granddaughter Shelby Hall.
Details of the race truck are also thin on the ground and Ford is being a little cagey about what exactly will carry over from the race truck to the production Bronco scheduled to debut next spring. Ford says it will be using this Baja test as an opportunity to put several road Bronco components through a torture test. Included among them is the drivetrain, which is still unknown.
What we do know is that it sounds like an Ecoboost V6. A pair of tiny turbochargers can be seen through the open wheel wells of the vehicle. The interior center console features an automatic gear shift. The truck will run in Class 2, which is for “Unlimited open-wheel, car/truck, 3.6-Liter Turbo.” If this is indeed running a stock drivetrain, it wouldn’t be a stretch to guess this is running a 3.5 V6 Ecoboost while still retaining class legality.
While the suspension is clearly very race-ready, with massive remote reservoir Fox shocks and beefy boxed control arms, it’s obvious that the chassis features independent front actuation with a solid rear axle. That should quell the rumors that Bronco would have a stick axle in the front.
There isn’t much on this race truck that can transfer visually to the street Bronco, as it is a completely one-off body. That said, elements like the upright windshield and B R O N C O grille are probably direct links to the stock vehicle we’ll see in a few months time. The visual lineage between the 60s race truck and the 2019 race truck is evident, needless to say.
Is it possible that Bronco will repeat its historic win at Baja? With a road chassis like this, it’s highly unlikely to beat the mega power trophy trucks, but crazier things have happened.
To provide a little backstory, Ford invited me to Las Vegas for a vehicle unveiling and to attend SEMA tomorrow. Nobody at Ford would tell me exactly what we would be seeing on Monday, and the speculation part of my brain has been running wild all week. We loaded into a Ford Transit and headed out into the desert.
We got off the highway at the exit where Speed Vegas is, and I momentarily thought we might be seeing a new Ford GT variant or something, but then we made a sharp turn away from the track and toward the wide-open nothing.
Shortly after arriving, Ford directed my attention toward a hill about a mile away and from behind it emerged the gorgeously restored 1969 race-winning Bronco, driven by Shelby Hall. Hall spoke briefly about her personal history with the race truck and mourned her grandfather’s passing earlier this year. Then, she introduced the surprise.
I’m excited to see what it can do out in the desert.