I took my 1989 Ford Bronco II off-road and learned some lessons

Of all the Bronco IIs Steve Davis has owned, this low-mileage Eddie Bauer Edition is his favorite. Courtesy Steve Davis

Years ago, my older brother and his wife took my wife, Donna, and me off-roading in their 1984 Ford Bronco II XLT. That experience and the just-right size of the Bronco II stuck with me. Before long, I started scanning want ads for a used Bronco II until I found a sharp ’89 XLT with low miles.

One spring weekend, I drove it to rural southern Virginia with my family. Eventually, we came upon a new housing development with dirt streets roughed out. As I turned into the unpaved entrance, my wife expressed her trepidation about going off-road with the family in tow—and with such little experience. “I have enough experience,” I said, thinking of that off-roading blast with my brother a few years earlier.

I engaged the hubs, dropped the shifter into 4L, then began to negotiate the muddy terrain. In short order, I got us thoroughly stuck. After many attempts to extricate ourselves using tree branches and floor mats, Donna and I locked glances and she nonverbally communicated the classic spousal, “Really?” with a deep exhale and a slow, eyes-closed nod.

1989 Ford Bronco II interior
Courtesy Steve Davis

In the distance, we could hear the clinking of a bulldozer, so off I trekked to go plead with the operator for a rescue, and he was happy to oblige. After he’d backed his leviathan up to the rear of my family fun machine, he told me to get my towrope. I didn’t have a towrope. I didn’t have a jack. I didn’t have any off-road survival tools. I did, however, have an enormous Craftsman screwdriver.

The guy handed me the end of a 1-inch wire cable, so I improvised a connection to my bumper using the screwdriver and the eyelet of the cable. He idled the dozer forward, I gunned the Bronco II in reverse, and we popped out of the soft, slimy mud. I jumped out of the Bronco II to unhook the cable only to find my screwdriver bent at a 90-degree angle.

1989 Ford Bronco II rear three quarter high angle
Courtesy Steve Davis

It took hours to clean the mud off, but I learned many valuable lessons from that experience: Don’t trespass in the name of fun; carry proper tools for off-roading; Craftsman stands by its no-questions-asked guarantee; and always be on the same page as your spouse.

I’ve owned three Bronco IIs over the years and now have a low-mileage ’89 Eddie Bauer Edition. It is by far my favorite of the lot. And no, I have not taken it off-road.

1989 Ford Bronco II front three quarter
Courtesy Steve Davis

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Comments

    I had a 1984 bronco that had the AOD transmission fail 7 times with out a penny of warranty. Never took it off the road. I have several great old fords and a way cool Ford FE Powered Jet Boat. The Bronco was my first and last new ford. This is the first article I have read with good results with a Bronco.

    I didn’t have a bronco II,but a similar era 1990 e150 conversion van, total money put, nice looking,and driving,but just couldn’t get it to run right, I swore off ford after that!

    Bought a brand new ‘79 Bronco XLT. Great truck only used it once off road on a maze of logging roads , some leading up above the snowline.
    Biggest beef was reinstalling the removable roof. The mounting holes never realigned with the bolts so I had to drill fresh holes into the roof.
    Still remember that truck.

    I still ha e my 79 Bronco, had her since 1986. She used to go off road. The first year I had her I took her to the rubicon (California famous trail) I quickly found out it was not set up for thwt sort of off road adventures. I boua 1985 Jeep CJ 7 in 1988 and heavily modified it. I still have both.

    I have the exact same 89 BII Eddie Bauer 4×4, same color too. I really like it, and have not seen another with the same paint colors until now. Nice rig. Just recently had a hail storm do a number on it though. Looking for a new hood with the factory paint color. If anyone knows of one in good condition, please let me know.

    I have almost the exact same Eddie Bauer edition as well! I need to replace the drivers seat upolstry, any info on how to do that? I’m new to owning this Bll

    To the author! Where can I get the same upholstery shown in your photos? I have the same! My drivers seat is in need of replacement.

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