Baja Bronco Briefing
by Andrew Norton, Baja Broncos Unlimited
Bill Stroppe became involved with the Ford Bronco
immediately after its release in 1966. The relationship resulted in an excellent racing
record for Ford, Stroppe, and the Bronco. It also marked the beginning of many famous
desert racers' careers, not to mention playing a large part in the popularity of desert
racing itself. By 1971, Stroppe Broncos had won both the Baja 500 and 1000. Ford saw this
as an opportunity to create a special Bronco for public sale that would bring off-road
enthusiasts a capable vehicle and also promote the Stroppe team in honor of their success.
On January 28, 1971 Ford announced the release of the Baja Bronco, a "limited
production duplicate" of Stroppe's team cars.
Ordering & Baja Bronco Basics
From what I understand, a Baja Bronco could be
ordered from most any Ford dealer. The customer just had to complete the Baja Bronco order
form and have the dealer put the order in. Ford would then build a semi-complete Baja
Bronco and send it to Long Beach, California for completion by Stroppe. Once Stroppe was
finished with the conversion, the completed Baja Bronco was sent to the ordering dealer
for customer delivery.
The Baja Broncos all started life as Sport Broncos with special
paint by Ford. The paint scheme was as follows: metallic blue on the roof, Wimbledon White
from the driprail to the beltline, and Poppy Red from the beltline down. The hood was
painted semi-gloss or flat black except for the leading edge of the hood which was painted
Poppy Red to match the line where the grill and fenders meet. Additional Ford-supplied
equipment consisted of the Extra Cooling Package, reduced sound exhaust, and the heavy
Ford left the rest of the conversion to Stroppe. Stroppe installed
fender flares in the rear and trimmed the front fenders for clearance of the Gates
Commando XT tires on either painted steel wheels or slot mags of 8.5x15" size. Also
included in the Baja Bronco conversion were dual shocks at each wheel, padded rollbar,
rubberized steering wheel, front bumper braces, trailer hitch, and Baja Bronco tire cover
and fender decals.
Baja Bronco Options
Perhaps the most important feature of the Baja
Bronco was its powertrain options. In '71 and '72, the only way to buy a Bronco with
automatic transmission and power steering was to order a Baja Bronco from Stroppe. If so
ordered, Stroppe converted the early Baja Broncos to Saginaw power steering and
installed a C4 automatic transmission and trans cooler. Contrary to popular belief, not
all Baja Broncos were converted to automatic and power steering. However, the later Baja
Broncos were all equipped by Ford with power steering and automatic.
The fact that most Baja Broncos were power steering and automatic
transmission and some were manual is just the beginning of many of variations in the Baja
Bronco production. There were many different options one could order in addition to the
base Baja Bronco package, or "Phase I Package" as Stroppe referred to it.
Stroppe offered a lot of aftermarket equipment in his Bronco Off Road Accessories catalog that could be
ordered-from middle seats to air bags for your springs and from full cages to engine
modification kits. Whoever ordered my '73 wanted competition seatbelts and shoulder
harnesses, a middle seat and Cibie '35' off road lights. Others I've seen have Stroppe
installed pushbars, winches, swaybars and air conditioning. In short, it is quite unlikely
that any two Baja Broncos would be exactly alike.
Production, Prices & Originality
An estimate for a production figure for these
vehicles has always been said to be around 650. A better estimate is closer to 450 based on Ford records. I have seen several different years for the vehicle's production in
off-roading magazines, but the Baja Broncos
were produced from '71-'75. Of the ones I've seen for sale, the current prices have ranged
from $6,000 to $35,000.
Telling an original from a fake could be difficult since Stroppe
Motorsports claims they no longer have the invoices of the trucks they built. I've never
seen a fake Stroppe Baja Bronco, but if they ever become rampant it will be important to
keep documentation through past owners or keep the vehicle in original (unrestored)
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