Following World War II, the idea of a civilian-focused utility vehicle gradually began to catch on among manufacturers and buyers alike. The Willys Jeep had made a name for itself serving in virtually every theater of the war, and the civilian version sold respectably well among farmers, businesses, utilities or anyone that needed a vehicle capable of traversing rugged terrain. In conjunction with the “domesticated” Jeep, the British had developed the Land Rover, a similarly versatile vehicle but with alloy body. Both the Land Rover and the Jeep were primarily purchased for their versatility in the field, they were not considered for their style nor did they find much favor as recreational vehicles. But in the early 1960s that began to change. Soon Jeep began to offer more equipment and comfort options to appeal to a broader audience and vehicles such as the International Scout and Toyota Land Cruiser competed for buyers. As sales picked up, companies looked for new ways to broaden the appeal of their utility vehicles and marketing departments began targeting youthful, outdoorsy-types. Jeeps, Scouts and Cruisers became popular beach vehicles and the ideal machine for sportsmen to access their favorite grounds. It didn’t take long for Ford to realize they were missing out on an important market.
In 1966, Ford was still riding the wave of success created by the Mustang. They had a firm grasp on the youth market, and as utility vehicles became increasingly popular among young buyers, Ford introduced the Bronco to the market. The Bronco was a two-door, short wheelbase (just 92 inches) four-wheel drive truck which was based on an all-new platform, with unique body, frame and suspension. It was powered by existing Ford engines and borrowed from the F-series pickups for the drivetrain. A variety of trims packages were available, and the Bronco was offered as a station wagon, half-cab pickup or roadster. The styling was simple and functional with flat-pane glass, simple bumpers and minimal chrome trim yet still attractive thanks to the contoured body sides. Ford did not forget the foundation of the off-road vehicle market, and the Bronco could be equipped with a power takeoff, winch, and tow bar, among many other accessories. Ford even made sure to modify the 170 cubic inch inline-six to better handle off-road situations, with solid lifters and a carburetor designed to work at steep inclines. The original Bronco became a mainstay of the off-roader market and remains hugely popular among off-road enthusiasts today.
Of the original three body styles offered, the Roadster, often known by its body code “U13”, is the rarest. Just 5,000 were produced over three years before the option was dropped due to slow sales. The U13 Roadster differed from its siblings in that it was the most overtly sporty of the three body styles. Intended as a sporty and functional beach buggy, the U13 Roadster is most notable for the lack of doors, no top and ultra-basic interior trim. The spare wheel is affixed to the inside of the tailgate and all came with distinct silver upholstery. The U13 may have been a little too utilitarian to appeal to most buyers, and those who did purchase the roadster often used them hard, so survivors are quite rare.
This outstanding 1966 Bronco U13 Roadster has been treated to an incredible ground up, nut and bolt restoration to exacting original standards. It is finished in light Arcadian blue with optional white rocker panel stripes. The paint and body fit are excellent, with careful attention to detail ensuring it does not appear over-restored. As correct for the U13, the original fiberglass door opening inserts are fitted and nicely finished. Chrome trim is limited to the bumpers and hubcaps, all of which are excellent. The hubcaps in particular are the very rare original fluted-type as fitted only to the 1966 U13. They are affixed to correct original steel wheels wrapped with correct bias ply whitewall tires.
This Bronco’s interior is an exercise in basic accommodations. A pair of front bucket seats is supplemented by a narrow, two person rear bench. The seats are trimmed in silver vinyl upholstery as original, and the floors lined with just a simple rubber mat up front. The remaining interior surfaces are sprayed in the same blue as the exterior. Unique to the U13, the windscreen folds flat for the ultimate open-air experience. Instrumentation is limited to a single multi-function dial that houses the speedometer with temp, fuel and amp gauges surrounding it. Switch gear is limited to controls for the vents, wipers and lights. It is about as basic as you can get, yet retains a charming functionality that is a welcome counterpoint to today’s complex modern vehicles. This Bronco gives you all you need, and nothing more.
Power comes from a carefully detailed, original specification 170 cubic-inch inline-six. These legendary engines are known for their toughness and in the lightweight Bronco, deliver respectable performance thanks to the 105 horsepower output. Detailing is as original with correct Ford blue engine paint, black ancillaries, FoMoCo branded hoses, correct tower hose clamps, a period-look Autolite battery, original decals and markings, even the black over-spray in the firewall has been carefully duplicated. The engine is backed by a three speed manual transmission shifted on the column, and a standard Dana transfer case distributes power to all four wheels when needed.
This rare and endearing Bronco U13 Roadster is about as basic a vehicle as one could imagine in 1966. We love the basic, no-nonsense appeal and simple yet attractive styling. So many Broncos have been modified beyond recognition, making this pure and factory-correct example a welcome and rare sight. The quality of the restoration is outstanding, and it is ready for its next keeper to relish in its charming simplicity.
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