Ford heads back to Baja with the new Bronco R prototype

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Ford Bronco R Race Prototype Ford

Ford has unveiled a race-inspired Baja 1000 race truck called the Bronco R prototype—which, apart from the ludicrously long-travel shocks, meteor-proof roll cage, and composite bodywork, is basically the Bronco…as seen through wax paper.

According to Ford, the Bronco R features a “compressed roofline,” which makes it sound as though the production version of the vehicle will be boxier and more upright compared to the lower, wider version seen here. Should this be the case, it’s looking like the production version of the 2020 Bronco will have a similar silhouette to the original, a feat worth commending, given how often vintage nameplates tend to spring up on vehicles that look nothing like the originals. (We’re looking at you, Chevy Blazer.)

The grille of the race truck also sports the Bronco brand lettering, prominently framed by two small-suns’-worth of LED light-bars, a desert racing must-have when the sun sinks below the dunes. Lest you forget the beast you’re looking at is just a race truck, Ford has kindly highlighted the “R” in Bronco with a different color. Ya know, because this might be your only indication this is a race truck.

Ford Bronco R Race Prototype
Ford
Ford Bronco R Race Prototype
Ford

Ford Bronco R Race Prototype
Ford

You could also look at any of the mechanical bits. The prototype rides on a custom set of Fox shocks that offer 14 inches of travel up front and 18 inches out back. It features independent front suspension and a production-based five-link setup in the rear, along with 17-inch beadlock-capable aluminum wheels sporting 37-inch BFGoodrich tires. Between the Fox shocks and BFGoodrich tires, you’d be forgiven for drawing parallels to Ford’s other prominent desert stomper, the Raptor.

The Raptor parallels don’t stop there, either. Listen closely to Ford’s unveiling video below, and you can hear the muted snort of a modern-day EcoBoost engine. Ford Performance off-road racing supervisor Brian Novak confirmed as much when he explained the challenges of making a vehicle Baja-ready. “For the endurance needs of Baja’s 1000 grueling miles, we built in a limited number of race-focused parts. But even the twin turbos of the EcoBoost engine are representative of what the production Bronco will offer.”

The unveiling coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Bronco’s first victory in the grueling Baja 1000 in the hands of icons Rod Hall and Larry Minor. The new Bronco R will compete in this year’s Baja 1000 later this month, likely hoping to reproduce the same historical alignment of stars that Ford was able to conjure in 2016, when the then-new Ford GT race car won its class at Le Mans 50 years after the original legendary battle.

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