An American SUV is born.

Ford introduced the original Bronco in August 1965 as a response to the needs of active Americans who sought adventure as well as practical transportation. Bronco, with a 92-inch wheelbase, was available in three body styles: a four-passenger wagon with a removable full-length roof, a pickup with a half roof and open rear, and a two-door roadster with a choice of two- or four-passenger seating.

Like the other no-frills off-roaders of the day – such as the Land Rover Defender and International Scout – the Bronco was both adept and adaptable. Owners loved its ruggedness and the ease with which they could customize it for their needs. Ford offered an array of work-and-play options including winches, snowplow blades, locking front hubs, tow hooks, air-lift springs, an auxiliary gas tank and more.

The original Bronco was powered by a 105 horsepower (78-kilowatt) inline six-cylinder engine from the Ford Falcon and was mated with a fully synchronized three-speed manual transmission with a column-mounted shifter – its location affectionately dubbed "three on the tree."

First-Generation Bronco

The Ford small-block 289-cubic-inch V-8 became available as an option in 1966, upgraded to 302 cubic inches in 1969. Full-time four-wheel-drive uniquely mounted for maximum ground clearance and a solid front axle made it an ideal choice for off-road enthusiasts.

Bronco’s sturdy shape is instantly recognizable. The simple, upright stance, signature round headlamps and basic, functional interior are hallmarks of the original design and have made it an icon among hard-core off-roaders.

Bronco was an immediate success, leading the emerging recreational four-wheel drive market with sales of 18,200 units in its first full year of production. Ford continued to update the original Bronco until 1977 – its best sales year, but its last. More than 230,000 were produced from 1966-1977. A much larger Bronco took over in 1978.

Source: Ford

The Bronco Is Back:

Gallery: First-Generation Ford Bronco