Newly published patent filings from Ford lend further credence that the company might offer the new Bronco with a fully removable roof and roll cage. The applications are for a Removable Roof Structure and Vehicle Roof Joint Assembly. The accompanying drawings suggest these ideas are related.
Gallery: Ford Removable Roof Patent
Ford's applications say that these drawings apply to "specifically a five-door sport utility vehicle." There would be lower and upper B-pillars that could slot into each other and a similar attachment for the C-pillar. For additional security, there would be holes in the insertable portions that bolts with nuts or some other fastener would go into. A hinge on the A-pillar would connect to another portion of the roof assembly.
The patent application for a Vehicle Roof Joint Assembly is largely the same as the other one but goes into greater detail about the fastening process. For example, the A-pillar attachment would include a sleeve that would connect to a bracket on the roof piece.
One of Ford's patent applications includes a graph that compares the strength of this removable top to a fixed roof (see it in the gallery above). The test pushes a metal plate against them from the side "at a slow but constant speed," and engineers stop the process when the roof crushes inward 5 inches. A good result happens when the piece can withstand a force of at least four times the vehicle's weight. In the evaluation, the removable top performs well within this range, although not quite as well as the fixed roof.
From its introduction for the 1966 model year through 1968, the Bronco was available as a roofless Roadster model, in addition to other body styles. Even afterward, it was still possible to remove the hardtop from the SUV to enjoy open-air driving.
The patent filing is never a guarantee of technology entering production. For example, these applications don't answer the question of how the Bronco could have adequate performance in a rollover.