The Bronco II was designed to be a smaller alternative to the Bronco. While Ford’s F-150 acted as the base for the Bronco, the Bronco II used the Ford Ranger pickup for its base. This meant when it launched in 1984, the Bronco II was smaller in every dimension than the Bronco.
The Bronco II only lasted for a single generation that ran from 1984-1990. In those years, it saw substantial changes as well as controversy.
Bronco II Development
The original Ford Bronco was intended to be a small off-roader, but its competition with the Blazer forced it to stretch out in every direction. The Ford Bronco eventually became a full-size sport utility vehicle. While this increased its popularity, it left Ford without a compact SUV option. In the wake of two fuel crises, it was a glaring omission.
The Bronco II filled that void.
Ford wasn’t the only company scrambling for a compact. AMC and General Motors were in a similar boat. The 1979 fuel crisis prompted the creation of the Jeep Cherokee and S-10 Blazer. When the fuel crisis ended, there was no effect on the popularity of compact SUVs. Between 1983 and 1987, small truck and SUV sales grew from 20% to 33% of all vehicles sold.
Bronco vs Bronco II
1985 Bronco sales figures may help to shed some light on this sudden popularity. In 1985, Ford sold 106,554 Bronco IIs, in contrast to the 54,562 Broncos sold in the same year. That year the Bronco cost $12,782 while the Bronco II cost $11,501. Accounting for inflation, the price difference between the two was significant. But not enough to warrant a more than 2:1 sales ratio.
People simply preferred the smaller Bronco II to its full-bodied namesake. It had a better approach, departure, and breakover angle. It also weighed close to a thousand pounds less, making it nimbler in actual off-roading scenarios.
Ford brochure comparison between the 1986 Bronco and Bronco II
One indicator that the Bronco II was being used for off-roading were the number of manual transmissions sold. 88% of people who purchased the Bronco selected an automatic transmission. Only 60% of Bronco II customers were willing to surrender shifting control.
The Bronco II was the Bronco of choice for a younger crowd interested in off-roading but also looking for a vehicle that could be a daily driver. The Bronco IIs V6 engine and reduced weight meant it was less expensive to fuel up. There were also Bronco II exclusive paint colors designed to appeal to younger drivers.
In terms of trim packages, the Bronco II was nearly identical to the Bronco. The Eddie Bauer trim package is the best remembered and most luxurious trim package.
Bronco and Bronco II Specifications and Dimensions
| Specification||Third Generation Bronco 1980-1986||Fourth Generation Bronco 1987-1991||Bronco II 1984-1990|
| Wheelbase||104 inches||104.7 inches||94 inches|
| Length||177.7 inches||180.5 inches||158.2 inches|
| Width|| 77.2 inches|| 79.1 inches||68.0 inches|
| Height||74 inches|| 74 inches||68.2 inches|
| Approach Angle||37.6 degrees||30.8 degrees||29.3 degrees|
| Departure Angle||22.7 degrees||16.2 degrees||24.7 degrees|
| Breakover Angle||22.9 degrees||18.9 degrees||24.1 degrees|
| Ground Clearance||9.6 inches||9.1 inches||9.3 inches|
| Curb Weight||4,343 pounds|| 4,430 pounds||3,385 pounds|
Bronco II Controversy
Unfortunately, there was one area where the Bronco II didn’t excel. It was narrow, but tall. This created an unstable base and high center of gravity. When several Bronco IIs were in highly publicized rollover accidents, both the NTSA and the IIHS investigated. While the NTSA claimed that the Bronco II’s rollover risk was the same as other SUVS, the IIHS came to a different conclusion.
In the IIHS tests, the Bronco II fared worse than the Suzuki Samurai. The IIHS concluded that the Bronco II was three times more likely to roll over than the famously dangerous Samurai.
The IIHS study led to further investigations, all of which concluded similarly. The Bronco II was more likely to roll over than other SUVs. One out of every 500 Bronco IIs produced ended up in a fatal rollover accident. Though many of these accidents had alcohol or seat belt law compliance failure as a factor, that didn’t change the liability. Ford ended up involved in nearly 334 lawsuits. The vast majority of them were related to wrongful injury or death.
This doesn’t mean that the Bronco II is a death trap though. The rear-wheel drive version of the Bronco II was the more dangerous option. A four-wheel drive Bronco II is still relatively safe. Speed was also a factor in the majority of accidents.
If you prefer travelling off-road at moderate speeds, then a four-wheel-drive Bronco II is a perfectly safe choice. You’re also much more likely to find a Bronco II than a Bronco at a reasonable price.
Bronco II Year to Year Changes
If you’re considering purchasing a Bronco II, knowing production numbers for years can be helpful. If you’re looking for a 2wd version, you’ll have the easiest time finding a 1988.
The 1986 Bronco II is one of the best to search for. Production numbers were high, so you won’t be hindered by scarcity. There were also significant improvements by then.
These production numbers were the ones provided by Ford, but the 1984 Bronco II production numbers were omitted.
Bronco II Production Numbers by Year
| Year||4WD Bronco II Production||2WD Bronco II Production|
| 1987||96,077|| 23,958|
1984 and 1985 Bronco IIs
The 1984 and 1985 Bronco IIs weren’t very highly thought of. The 2.8L V6 was fine, but lacked the “oomph” people expected from a vehicle named Bronco. The 1985 Bronco II had a slight advantage due to a transmission upgrade.
The 1984 Bronco II debuted with a four-speed manual transmission and three-speed automatic. Just one year later Ford upgraded both of those to a five gear manual transmission and four speed automatic.
The manual upgrade was an obvious advantage. Unfortunately, the new automatic transmission’s overdrive gear was notoriously spotty. If you have a 1985 or are considering one, the automatic transmission can be replaced with a manual or an improved automatic.
Bronco II Transmission Specifications
| Transmission||Years Available||First Gear||Second Gear||Third Gear||Fourth Gear||Fifth Gear|
| Toyo Koygo 4-speed Manual|| 1984-1985||3.96||2.08||1.39||1.00||N/A|
| FM145 5 Speed Manual|| 1985-1990||3.76||2.21||1.51||1.00||0.812|
| C5 Automatic Transmission|| 1984-1985||2.46||1.46||1.00||N/A||N/A|
| A4LD Automatic Transmission|| 1985-1990||2.47||1.47||1.00||0.75||N/A|
1986 Bronco II
1986 was probably the biggest year for the Bronco II in terms of major upgrades. In 1986, Ford introduced a 2.9L updated V6.
Though the bearings, valvetrain, and most major components were identical between the Bronco II’s V6’s, the 2.9L created more power. It had been upgraded to an electronic fuel injection system. It also had improved cylinder heads, and an updated timing chain. The result was that the Bronco II went from 115 to 140 horsepower.
The 1986 Bronco II also could come in a rear-wheel drive model. One strange thing about the Bronco IIs that were 2wd is that they still had a transfer case. The transfer case is simply sealed where the front driveshaft should have entered. Though no one has figured out exactly why this is, some have theorized it was to lower the center of gravity. Given the controversy surrounding the Bronco II, this is possible but would indicate that Ford knew about the issue prior to shipping.
1987 Bronco II
In 1987, Ford introduced another Bronco II engine option. This time it was a four-cylinder turbodiesel. Saying it was despised may be putting it too lightly. It didn’t get much in the way of power, a mere 86 horsepower in comparison to the 140 horsepower the naturally aspirated V6 generated. It also was known for its shoddy reliability.
Bronco II Engine Specifications
| Engine||Years Available||Horsepower||Torque||Notes|
| 2.8L V6|| 1984-1985||115 hp @ 4,600 RPM||150 lb-ft @ 2,600 RPM||N/A|
| 2.9L V6|| 1986-1990||140 hp @ 4,600 RPM||160 lb-ft @ 2,600 RPM||EFI|
| 2.3L 4-Cylinder|| 1987-1990||86 hp @ 4,200 RPM||134 @ 2,000 RPM||Turbodiesel|
1988-1989 Bronco II
During the next two years, there were almost no mechanical changes. The front end styling changed to keep up with that of the Ranger. The smaller front of these years looks sleeker, which might account for the major bump in sales. The Bronco II became a couple of inches longer and a couple of inches wider, but was largely unchanged. The 1988 Bronco II was the best-selling year, with 148,433 sold. It seemed that Ford’s engine improvements and expanded options had paid off.
Before and after the Bronco II’s facelift
1990 Bronco II
The final year of the Bronco II is without a doubt the best one to purchase used. In late 1989, four-wheel-drive Bronco IIs saw an improved front axle. They also received improved cylinder heads to help with an issue some earlier models had with cracking if they became overheated.
The Bronco II’s swan song year produced the best of the bunch. A four-wheel drive 1990 Bronco II is a solid find. Whether or not it’ll ever be collectible is uncertain, but it’s certainly a worthwhile off-roader.
The First Bronco Sport
It makes sense for the Bronco to have a compact companion. Much like the Wrangler comes in two-door and four-door options, compact and full-size off-roaders accommodate a wide range of people who love off-roading. The Bronco II was the original baby Bronco and helped to expand the Bronco’s appeal.
Though the Bronco II may be best remembered for its reputation as a rollover risk, few remember that issue primarily affected the rear-wheel drive models. As time marches on, the Bronco II becomes more of a collectible every day.
Image Credit: Ford