Welcome to What If, a new feature from imaginative illustrator Abimelec Arellano and Hagerty. We’ll be taking you back in time—and possibly forward into the future—to meet alternative-universe automobiles. Even better, our time machine is working well enough to bring “short take” reviews along with the photographs and advertisements. Buckle up and enjoy the ride! — Jack Baruth
(Originally published in Hagerty’s Michigan Powerboat And Lake Newsletter, Winter 1969 edition)
You all know Ford’s far-out little jeep, the buckin’ Bronco—but it’s always been a little square when compared to the groovy International Scout. You also know that Ford hasn’t gotten a lot of traction with sales, probably because the market for “utility wagons” is always going to be limited to beach bums, forest rangers, and people who live in Southern California. Imagine giving up the comfort of a modern standard Ford sedan so you can bounce around on top of a little truck! Crazy, right? Even so, Stroppe-Holman-Moody has been racing the heck out of them. Last year, Ford gave us a little more motor-vation by hooking the 302 Windsor V-8 to that trusty three-speed column-shift manual. We’re talking two hundred horsepower, which seems like more than enough for a utility wagon! But Henry’s boys aren’t done raising the bar yet. For 1970, there’s a new sheriff in town, and it’s called the Bronco Raptor!
You might remember The Flintstones from ABC a few years back, but chances are you’ve never heard of a “raptor.” It’s a vicious little dinosaur they discovered back in 1923, but thanks to the groovy appeal of big hitters like T. Rex you won’t be seeing these “raptors” on the silver screen any time soon. Raptors are about the size of a turkey, which is why it makes sense to put this name on the Bronco, which is Ford’s smallest truck. If you did this for the F-100, you’d have to call it the Brontosaurus!
The “secret sauce” in this hot Ford is the 390-cubic-inch V-8 with a four-barrel carburetor. We know this engine from most standard Ford and Mercury cars, with a super-hot version in last year’s Torino and Mercury Montego—and this one’s almost as hot, putting out 320 horsepower! Plus you get a real four-on-the-floor shifter, just like you’d see in supercars like the Pontiac GTO. Add some hot mag wheels and Baja-ready tires … you’ve got a real firecracker on your hands!
We drove the new Bronco Raptor, which is available in the popular “Wagon” body style right away, on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, where we promptly put the hurt on all sorts of competition. When you drop the clutch on the Raptor, you have to be prepared for the front end to go any which way but straight! Want to dig even harder? You can engage that Dana 30 front axle and really leave the line in style! The fourth time we did that, the transfer case took a groovy little vacation! The good news is that you can stop straight and true thanks to trusty drum brakes on all four wheels. Our testing showed that they held up for three stops in a row with only a 40 percent increase in stopping distance.
Our replacement Raptor test vehicle was a real gas on some Michigan dunes, where it showed its ability to run away from all those pesky Husqvarna dirt bikes. Maybe you’ve heard about those Meyers Manx “dune buggies” from out in California. They’re hot, but the Raptor is hotter! We recently saw the new “007”, James Bond, rescue a girl on a beach using an Aston Martin DBS—if he’d had a Raptor, those dastardly SPECTRE fellows never would have gotten close!
Now here’s the bad news. Compared to this year’s average new car price of about $3500, a Bronco Raptor is going to cost you big! How’s $4999 sound? That’s halfway between a Corvette convertible and the coupe from the same nameplate … but the little dinosaur is actually faster in the quarter mile than a base ‘Vette! Don’t tell your neighbor. Call your friendly Ford dealer and get your order in today, before this wacky idea of a utility wagon with a really big V-8 comes to an entirely logical and predictable halt!