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Ford’s Early Performance Trucks: ’66 and ’69 Bronco Prototypes

With all the excitement of the Bronco coming back to market in 2020, it’s easy to overlook the line’s history. Scottsdale, Arizona was treated to the sight of two early performance truck prototypes from Ford. Hiding away in the Barrett-Jackson Salon showcase was the last place we expected these treasures to turn up.

1966 Bronco

The less well cared for of the two is the half cab version from 1966 that looks like it needs restoration. Reported to be the first ever Ford Bronco, it now sports paint that needs an update and loose doors. In 1967, it was sent from its home at the Michigan preproduction plant to Carroll Shelby in L.A.

Here it was treated to a new red and white paint job as well as an immediate engine swap. Its factory installed six came out and a 289 V8 took its place. Other smaller changes were made to fit this change in power output as well.

Shelby had it take up life as a ranch truck at the Christmas Mountains Land & Cattle Co in Texas. It stayed there providing muscle until it changed to Vinnie Yakubanski’s hands for just $100 in 1978. There’s not a lot of information what happened in between but Gateway Bronco picked it up on late 2016. Going forward, there are plans to bring the first ever Bronco back to how Shelby modified it back in 1967.

1969 “BOSS” Bronco

Much more eye catching is the flashy yellow 1969 “BOSS” that looks like it’s ready to roll out and find some fun. Coming right from Ford’s secretive Kar-Kraft, it was built specifically for “Bunkie” Knudsen. Its huge tires, hood scoop, and flared fenders are marks of the intention to build it for performance.

Just like Carroll Shelby, Knudsen was quick to get to work improving on the design for a specific purpose. A 1969 GT350’s 351 CID engine was brought in to replace the one that was originally in it. He also put 4.11:1 limited slip differentials in both the front and rear, giving it more capability.

When Knudsen was fired later that year, this “BOSS” Bronco was placed on a destroy list but somehow escaped. It still hadn’t been scrapped when Kar-Kraft was disbanded and went into hiding until 2016. It came out in near mint condition which is surprising considering how fast it disappeared at the end of Kar-Kraft.

Both of these vehicles, from the original itself to the performance model concept, are great pieces of history. We’re glad that they both surfaced in 2016 just a short time before confirmation of the 2020 Bronco return. Now the family tree of the Bronco is fleshed out just a little more with these two unique historic models.

Categories: Gear Grinding

James Murrell
About James Murrell

I love to read about and research all sorts of vehicles from restored classics to top shelf supercars, monstrous offroaders to weird concept vehicles. I always have a vehicle build happening on one side of my garage for myself and a second bay open for my friends to come and build their dreams too.