Buying a Classic Ford BroncoLast Updated August 8, 2023 | Meghan Drummond
Buying the right Ford Bronco sets you up for success, regardless of your build goals. During the classic Bronco’s decade-long production, available equipment changed each year. Some Bronco years are easier to find than others due to fluctuating production numbers.
To find the right Bronco you’ll need to decide which Bronco will suit your needs. Then you’ll need to find your classic Bronco. Finally, you’ll need to evaluate the Bronco you find. Not all Broncos can be restored. If there’s serious frame damage, you’ll have to assess if it’ll be worth the significant time and money investment you’ll need to make. While some features are easy enough to add, others you’ll want to hold out for, even if production was very limited.
Best Ford Bronco Years
The term “best Bronco year” may be a little misleading. Truthfully, each year of Bronco offered something special. This means it’s likely that one year has more features you’re interested in than others.
If needed, you can do a full engine-swap or change a manual to an automatic transmission. But these are time consuming and expensive endeavors. It’s important to include that in your budget as well. It may be easier to select a Bronco year with your preferred options available.
|Bronco Year||Roadster||Half-Cab||V8 Engine Option||Six-Cylinder Engine Option||Automatic Transmission||Sport Trim||Ranger Trim||Explorer Trim||Total Produced|
Bronco Body Styles
The very first Bronco debuted in three body styles. The roadster, the half-cab, and the wagon. All three of these body styles have their own charm and style. Unfortunately, finding the roadster or half cab is challenging.
The Bronco roadster was only in production between 1966 and 1968. It was discontinued due to a lack of popularity. This makes it even more challenging to find than its short lifespan would indicate.
The half-cab lasted longer than the roadster, but not by much. The Bronco half-cab was discontinued in 1972.
That means that for a solid half of the Bronco’s first-generation the only body style in production was the wagon. Can you convert a wagon into a half-cab or a roadster? With welding equipment and ambition, sure. But it won’t be inexpensive or easy.
Bronco Mechanical Limitations
The first-generation Bronco debuted with a single engine choice and a single transmission option. While engine and transmission swaps are possible, it’s worth deciding in advance if that’s an option you’re interested in. If you want your Bronco to feature its original equipment, but also want an automatic transmission, that will limit your year choices.
There are other minor differences in equipment as well. In 1971, the Bronco upgraded from a Dana 30 rear axle to a Dana 44. This makes post-’71 Broncos desirable for the off-roading crowd.
Trim packages add unique details and comfort features to a Bronco. Unfortunately, in the first generation, there were only a few trim packages. These trim packages were also limited to specific years.
Though you can hold out for a specific trim, and should if showing is your goal, you can also add many of these features on your own. Unlike mechanical features, trim features like dash appliques are easy to install even for amateurs.
For a complete list of what was included with each Bronco trim package, check out our Bronco trim guide.
Bronco Year-to-Year Production
Not surprisingly, years that offered more options were also more popular. This is great news for Bronco enthusiasts looking to purchase today. The years with the most available models are also the years where you’ll have the most options.
1974 and 1975 Broncos are some of the most desirable and also the most available.
Classic Bronco Conditions
The number one factor determining a classic Bronco’s value is the condition that it’s in. Broncos in near-mint condition will be more expensive than Broncos missing half of their parts. Of course, by the time both Broncos are restored their total costs might be a lot closer than you’d think.
The condition of the Bronco affects the price as well as where you should be looking. To determine the right condition for you, consider your budget as well as how much work you’re interested in doing.
Broncos in this condition look better than new. They’re mechanically sound, but they’re also physically perfect. The paint looks new, without a single scratch or dent. If you bought a Bronco in this condition, you could drive it straight to a show and do reasonably well.
Broncos in this condition are difficult to find. When you do find them, it’s likely they’ll be expensive.
Broncos in this condition are almost perfect. Sure, there may be a scuff mark or two, but they’ve clearly been cared for. Their mechanical components have been maintained, and the owner’s kept the interior and exterior clean. These Broncos will still be difficult to find and will still be pricey.
This tends to be the sweet spot for most people. A condition 3 Bronco will make a good driver right away. But it might be a little rough around the edges physically. Maybe its chrome parts have started to pit, or it’s got a few dings.
There’s a significant drop in price from a condition 1 or 2 Bronco to a condition 3 Bronco.
A condition 4 Bronco may have difficulty passing inspection. Maybe it can drive, but it’s likely that it has a few mechanical issues that make driving it for a longer distance unappealing. It may have more significant physical issues, including rust. These Broncos vary in cost based on driveability and how likely it is they’ll deteriorate further.
Sometimes referred to as “rollers,” you’re going to need a way to drag a condition 5 Bronco home. There’s some dispute as to whether these vehicles should be “everything but the engine” or “missing all electronics.” What’s undisputed is that these Broncos need a ground-up restoration.
These are great finds for those looking for a long term project or who are more than a little mechanically savvy. They tend to be the least expensive options, though with Broncos that can still run pretty high.
Is it a Bronco? It’s hard to say. What’s easy to say is that it will never see the road again. A Bronco rated at condition 6 is basically just a parts vehicle. Many people buy a condition 6 vehicle to supplement a condition 5 vehicle they’ve purchased.
Where To Buy a Classic Bronco
After looking over options and availability, you should have an idea of must-haves for your future Bronco. Now it’s time to begin your Bronco buying search in earnest.
Unfortunately, buying a classic collector car isn’t usually as easy as going to your local dealership. While it’s possible that your perfect Bronco will show up in your town with a for sale sign, that probably shouldn’t be your only plan.
Word of Mouth
Many people forget the easiest method of classic Bronco hunting. Let your friends and family know you’re looking. Tell everyone you know that you’re in the market for a classic Bronco. Having many sets of eyes and ears is better than one, and often word of mouth sales are where the true barn finds end up.
You never know when a neighbor will casually mention to one of your friends that they want to sell their Bronco. If you’re the first person your friends think of, you’ll likely get first dibs.
You should also mention that you’re looking for people who may be tapped into the automotive scene where you live. These can be other vehicle enthusiasts, cars and coffee friends, or your favorite mechanic.
Buying In Person
If you’re the type of person who needs to kick the tires, then you most likely want to buy in person. The benefits of buying in person are pretty obvious. You get to conduct a thorough in-person inspection before committing to purchase. This makes it harder for the seller to obscure any issues. You also get to bypass expenditures like shipping costs.
Though the selection in your local area is limited, so is your competition. That means it’s definitely worth your time to put some feelers out.
Check out local listings on Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. Though these postings are online, you can limit your search to your preferred range. Arrange a public meetup spot, and then go check out the Bronco.
Car dealerships are unlikely to have a classic Bronco for sale, but car salespeople are frequently tapped into local sales. Mentioning that you’re in the market and leaving your e-mail address means you’ll be in the loop as well.
In-Person Classic Vehicle Auctions
There are a number of classic vehicle auctions around the world. Mecum and Barrett-Jackson are probably the two best known auctions for classic vehicles. If you’re unfamiliar with auto auctions, you can actually watch both of these live on television.
The catalog is listed in advance, and bidders pay to attend. As a result, most of the people know what they’re there for and come prepared.
Both of these auctions only take the highest-quality vehicles. As such, prices tend to be pretty steep.
|Classifieds||Easy to sift through.||Posters aren’t always honest.|
|Dealerships||Happy to keep you in the loop||More expensive and less likely to have what you want.|
|Auctions||Highest quality vehicles.||Hard to attend, very expensive.|
Online Bronco Buying
In-person options are pretty limited, so most people eventually turn to the internet. There are a lot of options for buying a classic Bronco online. Each site is just a little different.
One of the first online auction sites, eBay is a great place to look for classic vehicles. Unlike many other sites, eBay takes an active role in the sales process. This means you’ll have an intermediary in place in the event of a dispute.
eBay’s available services include shipping cost estimators and vehicle purchase protection. Vehicle purchase protection is designed to keep buyers from being defrauded.
Bronco values are determined entirely by buyers’ bids, which makes them hard to estimate. Sellers do have the right to set a reserve price though. If the highest bid doesn’t meet the reserve price then the seller has the option to remove the listing without selling the Bronco.
While some have found exceptional deals on eBay, others have been swept up in bidding and overspent.
Hemmings has two ways of purchasing classic vehicles from their site.
The private seller listings have been around the longest. These are just classifieds, but the only items you’ll see are classic vehicles. For the most part, the people listing their vehicles are also enthusiasts.
If you’ve ever heard the saying “I know what I’ve got” it was pretty much coined here. In some cases, they really do, but only want to sell to another collector. In other instances, prices can be a touch inflated.
Hemmings other vehicle purchasing option is through their auctions. Hemmings auctions are relatively new, but well-organized. Hemmings claims the thing that makes their site different is “living human Vermont-based listing specialists.” Hemmings has a great reputation with people who love vintage cars, and their listings are thorough. If you win an auction, one of these Vermontians will assist you with figuring out shipping options for your new Bronco.
Bring a Trailer
Before Hemmings’ auction service, Bring a Trailer was an unchecked juggernaut for collectible car listings. Every day the auction site features 50 auctions. Vehicles have to apply to be featured on Bring a Trailer. With so many applicants, only interesting vehicles tend to make the cut. Most listings have detailed specs, high-quality photos, and a dedicated commenter pool asking the seller questions.
One of Bring a Trailer’s major upsides is that it charges quite possibly the lowest fee of any auction house. This makes buying classics from BaT especially appealing.
You can often find online classifieds through a variety of sources. These include Bronco-specific Facebook groups and forums, as well as more general vehicle sites. The reliability and quality of these listings varies considerably.
In general, there are only a few absolute rules:
- If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- If the person doesn’t communicate, then it might be time to walk away.
- Never be afraid to ask questions.
|Auctions (eBay, Hemmings, Bring a Trailer)||Get to see a wide variety of options. Varying degrees of protection.||Fees and some dishonest sellers.|
|Online Classifieds||Can be a good way to cut out the middleman.||Individual responsiveness may vary. No protection.|
Purchasing Your Bronco
Once you’ve found a good Bronco candidate, you’ll be faced with the toughest part of the process. Making up your mind. Unless you manage to stumble on a perfect Bronco at an amazing price, it’s likely you’ll have to make some compromises.
The trick is making sure they’re all compromises you can live with.
Inspecting a Bronco
Depending on how you’re purchasing your Bronco, this step may come before or after purchase. No matter when it comes, it’s an important part of the process. The inspection stage is when you’ll find issues that you’ll need to repair. It’s also when you may find deal-breakers that are beyond your skill set.
Take your time during the inspection. It’s better to find out that something’s amiss now rather than later.
Broncos and Rust
When you’re looking for rust, don’t just use your eyes. Touching the parts most prone to rust can let you know if there’s been a poor surface rust removal job. Rust doesn’t always feel rough, sometimes it feels like a slightly thicker patch.
- Floor Pans
- Rocker Panels
- Behind the Rear Axle
Rust Prone Areas:
If these areas are rust-free, it’s probable that the rest of the Bronco is as well. Still, do a thorough visual inspection.
Test Driving a Bronco
If you can test drive the Bronco, you should. Though you can turn the radio on to test it out, make sure that it’s off and the windows are down during the test drive. While some noises, like a bad wheel bearing, are loud, others can be more subtle.
Take the Bronco on a long enough drive to get the engine warm. Many leaks only emerge after the engine has been warmed up and fluids have become more viscous.
Once parked, check for leaks, unusual signs of strain, or other issues.
Though negotiation is a traditional part of the vehicle purchasing process, that goes out the window for rare vehicles. The classic Bronco is in limited enough supply that it is rare. That gives the seller the upper hand in almost every purchase negotiation.
Don’t be afraid to walk away if you’re not happy with the Bronco. Just realize it might be a few months before you see another one.
Once you’ve found and purchased your Bronco, there’s still a lot of paperwork to complete. Our guide on what to do after the sale walks you through what forms will need to be filled out to complete your sale. It’s important to make sure everything at this stage is organized and thorough.
Enjoying Your New (Classic) Bronco
Buying a classic vehicle may be more involved than picking up a simple commuter. It’s also more rewarding. By the time you find your perfect Bronco, it’s likely you’ll already have a list of Bronco restoration projects. You may even want to upgrade to disc brakes, or add a modern engine.