The booming market for early Ford Broncos broke out of the corral years ago. But there are still exceptional examples to be found, including this completely restored 1966 Ford Bronco U13 Roadster. Ford introduced the Bronco as an All-Purpose Vehicle. The Bronco came as a complete surprise to most, announced on August 11, 1965 ready to appear in dealer showrooms in early September as a 1966 model. Ford General Manager Donald Frey described the new Bronco as a combination of both a car and truck “for men and women who seek adventure as well as practical transportation”. The Bronco was designed to go nearly anywhere and do nearly anything. Clearly, Ford Motor Company had Jeep in their crosshairs. Maybe the most surprising part of the Bronco lineup as we know it today, though, was the Bronco U13 Roadster. This Bronco was the most Jeep-like of all, with cut-outs for doors to ease entry and exit, a windshield that folded flat and a canvas-backed vinyl top and doors that came only as options. Other new Bronco models provided conventional doors and hardtops.
Viewed from the perspective of fifty years, the Bronco Roadster looks even more Jeep-like. Flat metal panels and exposed overlapping seams are shamelessly visible both in the interior and under the hood. The exposed metal floor is painted body color and the dashboard is also plain painted metal. Warn hubs in the center of the front wheels require the driver to jump down to the ground and turn the hubs manually before pressing a ridiculously tall black shift lever into high or low 4-wheel drive ranges. Body-colored fiberglass door inserts were the only concession to refinement. Anyone who has ever driven a Jeep CJ will even recognize some of the switchgear and the pedal placement. The standard engine was a 105 horsepower 170 c.i. straight-six, with the small 289 V-8 (later 302) as an option. Magazine covers and feature stories invariably featured the open Bronco Roadster. But the Bronco U13 Roadster was in production only from 1966-1968, and surprisingly accounted for fewer than 5,000 vehicles out of a total first-generation Bronco production of 225,585 ending in 1977.
This 1966 Ford Bronco U13 Roadster has been fully restored to very high standards. It is correct to factory specification and finished in the correct 1966-only color of Caribbean Turquoise with white trim. Other correct cosmetic details of note include the gray painted metal dashboard, square-end white painted bumpers and painted left outside rear view mirror. Mechanically, the 170 c.i. six-cylinder engine is equipped with a three-speed manual transmission mounted on the column and Dana 20 transfer case. Optional factory equipment on this outstanding example begins with the distinctive seating. A front bench seat for three was standard on the first Broncos, finished in black vinyl. Options included selection of a single left-hand bucket seat, left- and right-hand bucket seats and a rear bench seat, all with seat belts, covered in silver vinyl that was also a one-year option. The matching padded sun visors coordinate with the seats. A one-piece rubber floor mat covers only the area ahead of the front seats and is embossed with the Bronco logo. Other options found here include a switch for emergency flasher lights, heater and defroster controls, and a modern but period looking radio flanking the black two-spoke steering wheel on the austere dashboard. Visible from the exterior are also the inside tailgate mounted spare tire, chrome wheel covers and correct optional white side accent stripes that bear a close family resemblance to the Mustang GT’s rocker stripes. Modern BF Goodrich T/A tires are mounted on the 15-inch wheels, the single concession to modern driving.
The engine compartment is beautifully detailed and correct. The stark engine compartment is correctly painted in body color. The engine is painted in correct Ford blue and equipped with the oil bath-style air cleaner that is specific to the earliest Broncos. All hoses, fittings and belts appear as new, of course, as does the battery. A correct FoMoCo windshield washer bag hangs on front fender housing provided added authenticity.
This phenomenal 1966 Ford Bronco U13 Roadster is a virtual time traveler, a correct benchmark vehicle and a certain winner wherever it might be shown. Bronco owners and collectors are a varied and enthusiastic group. A Bronco Register and a myriad of clubs provide information, support and competition in many areas of the country. And, guess what? With all the significant automotive anniversaries being celebrated, 2016 is also the 50th Anniversary of the Ford Bronco. This is one of the finest examples available.