The Ford Boss Bronco Prototype Was a Bronco Raptor Preview in 1969
Google search is sometimes more than just a search result. Take Wes Eisenschenk’s discovery of a lost and incredibly rare 1969 Ford Bronco prototype, which appeared after plugging the platform’s serial number into Google in 2016. As he says: “There you go, the Ford Boss prototype Missing 1969 Bronco, in an expired eBay ad. “The Internet had flirted with what amounts to a 40-year-old Ford Bronco Raptor too early designed at the height of the sports car era.
What is a Boss Bronco?
Boss Bronco? Yes, Ford built a high performance Boss Bronco 4×4 prototype in 1969 in its legendary underground company Kar-Kraft. The rugged SUV featured a 1969 Mustang Shelby GT 350 engine, a Hi-Po C4 automatic transmission, and 4.11 limited-slip gears in the front and rear, among other really muscular details. Either way, the Boss Bronco has survived under the radar for over 40 years in a state of fantastic origin.
Wes, who discovered Boss Bronco, is editor in chief at CarTech, the editor behind the book, “Kar-Kraft: Race Cars, Prototypes and Muscle Cars from Ford’s Special Vehicle Activities Program“ by Charlie Henry. Research for this book has raised the VIN of the Boss Bronco prototype, which was built to prove the concept of a high performance production Bronco for the then president of Ford, Bunkie Knudsen, who, along with his cohort of General Motors, Larry Shinoda, was largely responsible for the original Ford Mustang program from 1969-1971.
The original Kar-Kraft team started with a specially equipped 1969 Bronco Sport, which was sent to them directly from the Ford assembly line. It was fitted with a 302 V-8, 4.11 gears, a limited slip differential and, probably coincidentally, it was finished in a coat of rare Empire paint for the year, a known shade of yellow to be Knudsen’s favorite color. After all, nothing is sacred when one seeks to have a prototype approved by the boss of the Boss!
To ensure that this project – originally called simply “Special Bronco” in internal documents – was all that a high performance Bronco should be, Kar-Kraft called Bill Stroppe to oversee construction. Stroppe, who led the Ford off-road racing team, certainly had more than enough experience to know what it would take to build a fair Bronco. After all, he had aligned a team of things to off-road Baja victories for Ford.
Among the modifications chosen by the Kar-Kraft team and Stroppe for the Special Bronco (which was soon renamed the Boss Bronco, apparently to associate it with the existing range of Ford Boss cars), included additional power. The 302 V-8 came out and a Windsor four-cylinder engine 351 1969 GT 350 210-S-code 351, although the one supplied for the Boss Bronco by Ford was also balanced and designed, just like the so-called “stock d ‘os “The engines used for magazine test cars would have been back in the day. The V-8 exhaled through a real double exhaust with Glasspack silencers. The backup of this heated 351 Windsor was a custom adapter manufactured by Kar-Kraft which allowed to install a Hi-Po C4 automatic transmission; it would be the first Ford automatic transmission installed in a Bronco.
Double Stroppe shock absorbers have been installed at all four corners to help keep the large 15-inch chrome wheels and Gates Commando 10-15LT tires on the ground when things go wrong. Inside, a padded Stroppe steering wheel, a Stroppe roll bar and a Mustang shifter for the C4 were installed, as well as custom padded panels and aluminum trim to complete the interior of the rear side panels and tailgate for a more upscale look. The rear wheel arches have been cut – sorry, first generation Bronco fans! – and Stroppe fender flares installed for the required tire clearance, a bolted Cougar Eliminator hood scoop, and finally, the black hockey stick bands in Boss Mustang style with “BOSS BRONCO lettering” was applied.
. . . And why is there not more?
Lee Iacocca fired Knudsen before a production Boss Bronco could take off and deliver. Subsequently, the inventory records show that Kar-Kraft was supposed to crush the one and only prototype of Boss Bronco. Either way, he escaped. It’s still unclear exactly how, but experts suspect it was just sold to an employee when Kar-Kraft was liquidated in late 1970.
No matter how the Bronco got into the wild, Wes was the extremely lucky soul that found the Boss Bronco decades later. The muscle truck had sold outside of eBay (remember, the list had expired by the time Wes came across it), so Wes searched and found the ultimate buyer, a man from Washington State, who agreed to sell the Bronco for a good profit. Wes then posted a photo of the rare prototype on an Internet forum looking for more information on this. This is when Colin Comer saw it.
Colin owns Colin’s Classic Automobiles in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is also an unconditional Ford and Shelby authority and collector and has written many books on the subject. He and Wes had worked together in another publishing house, that’s how they became friends.
“As soon as I saw Wes’ post on Boss Bronco, I immediately emailed him and told him I should have it,” said Colin. “Being a huge muscular guy from Ford, as well as a long-time former owner of Bronco, how could I not? I didn’t know that the Boss Bronco had survived. For me, he was one of the first Ultimate Broncos. Plus the Kar- The connection with Kraft and Stroppe is so cool. I didn’t sleep much before I convinced my boyfriend Wes to sell it to me! Once we came to an agreement, I had to sell my 1969 Bronco built by Holman-Moody to help finance the Boss, but I have no regrets. “
Colin was clearly delighted to be the owner of a major Ford prototype built at Kar-Kraft.
“The truck was painted once but otherwise intact. There is no rust everywhere, which is very rare for an old Bronco. It still has all of its original finishes underneath. It has the Mustang gear lever original installed by Kar-Kraft for the automatic C4. and the manufactured transmission adapter they made, and still had the original engine with its original 210-S label. It all depends on the carburetor original and the original dual exhaust prototype is still on the truck. It shows 60,000 miles and 47 years of use, but it’s – surprisingly – all there. And that’s what counts. “
Colin compared the original Ford photos of the Kar-Kraft truck to find that the original dimensions of the SUV hockey stick strip had been slightly changed when repainted, and the Boss Bronco decals were long gone. Most likely, Kar-Kraft removed them before selling the truck to hide its prototype status.
Colin calculated the original dimensions of the scratches using the 1969 factory photos and finding remains of the originals in the door jambs, then sprayed the scratches correctly. He then had a new set of Boss Bronco decals made to make the truck look like an original prototype. The Boss Bronco, now out of hiding, sees frequent use by Colin, who has already added a few thousand kilometers to his odometer. He thinks it’s a shame that the Boss Bronco never came into production, because it “would have been a great success” in 1969 “, just like the Ford Raptor is today”.
Specifications of the 1969 Ford Boss Bronco
- Owner: Colin Comer
- Engine: V-8 Windsor 290 hp 351-ci 210-S
- Transmission: 3-speed automatic C4
- Axles: Dana 30 front, Ford 9 inch rear with 4.11 gears and limited slip
- Interior: White vinyl bucket seat
- Wheels: 15×10 custom
- Tires: 32×11.50R15LT BFGoodrich All-Terrain T / A KO2
- Special parts: Shelby GT 350 210-S engine; C4 transmission with Mustang gear lever; special paint, stripes and decals; Stroppe roll bar, double shock absorbers and fender flares; Eliminator scoop hood scoop; custom wheels
This story originally appeared in Hot Rod in March 2018.