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