Exactly How Will Ford Revive the Bronco’s Success?
What are the possibilities for drivetrain? How about suspension design? We dream up ideas with John Currie of Currie Enterprises.
Rumors continue to spread about the upcoming Bronco revival from Ford, and the biggest one that gets all the rage regards what type of front axle it will have. No matter which way it goes, the aftermarket will have it covered. In anticipation of the new truck, we consider all the possibilities of how the Bronco can meet our expectations. We also discuss with automotive expert John Currie of specialty rearends and components manufacturer Currie Enterprises exactly what Ford should to do to make the Bronco the success that it needs to be.
The definite thing that we know is that the new Bronco and new Ranger will be based on each other to some degree.
“The rumors I’ve heard about the new Bronco is that it’s based on the overseas Ranger that’s also coming over,” says Currie to Ford Trucks Enthusiast. “But that’s all rumor at this point.”
Related: How Long Will Ford Make Us Wait to See a Bronco Prototype?
What that might possibly mean though is that the new Bronco could be an independent front with a leaf sprung rear. However, the new rumor is that it’s coming with solid axles front and rear. That’s what most enthusiasts want, but why is that? And would it make sense for Ford to do it?
Well, let’s talk about each type that could possibly become a reality at this point because a good guessing game is always fun.
Solid Axle with Coil Springs, Front and Rear
This would put the new Bronco in line with the ever-popular Wrangler from Jeep. A solid front axle would mean it could be more capable as a crawler out of the box, and coil springs would mean better axle articulation with good spring rates.
“As an aftermarket manufacturer, we’ll be looking to see if the axle is strong enough to take a 37-inch-tall tire,” says Currie, whose Corona, California-based Currie Enterprises is renown for making some of the industry’s best rearends and components. However, this also brings about another problem: “Can the body be easily modified to take it as well?”
Related: Why the New Bronco Will Beat Wrangler
We’ll talk a little more about that later, but why would Ford go thought the trouble of a solid front and rear axle with a quadra-coil suspension? “If you look at the disadvantage of a Wrangler – how tall it sits, how hard it is to get into and out of because of the rocker panel placement, the horrible gas mileage – you still find people who want one because it’s a niche vehicle — one that Ford doesn’t have but wants,” says Currie.
Independent Front Axle, Solid Rear, Coils All Around
This is still a stretch but not out of the realm of possibility for Ford. You get the easy driving of the independent front that doesn’t move around from every bump and groove in the road but can still get a great off-road suspension out of it.
“The advantage of going with an independent front axle would be better ride quality,” says Currie, speaking from an OE standpoint. “You would even reduce the noise over what a solid axle would create because it transfers all the road to the body when you do a solid axle front.”
Related: Poll: Besides Solid Axles, What Are Other Bronco Must-Haves?
If anything, this makes the most sense for Ford if they aren’t going solid axle front but not completely following the Ranger. The aftermarket, including Currie Enterprises, would still make something for it if it’s a viable off-road vehicle.
“The first thing we’d do is see if we could make it a better off-road truck with a better suspension with our Johnny Joints. If it proves to be viable and a big seller, then we’d start looking into doing a straight axle conversion and upgrading the rear axle as well,” adds Currie, whose father, Frank Currie, began designing and building differentials for material-handling equipment back in 1959. John and his siblings, Charlie and Raymond, joined the family business in the late-Seventies.
Independent Front Axle with Coils, Solid Rear with Leaf Springs
This is the most likely scenario for the Bronco, even as enthusiasts cry out for a Wrangler rival with solid axles front and rear. With the Bronco already believed to be based off of the overseas Ranger, this is most cost advantageous way the Bronco could come back. The Ranger already comes like this in the overseas model.
“A leaf spring can not only take a good load but it is also a very compact package,” says Currie. “A lot of it has to do with room constraints. And when you think about it, a leaf spring is pretty easy to do because it’s linear.”
There is also proof that this type of drivetrain and suspension setup works thanks to the SVT Raptor. However, there is a big limitation when it comes to leaf springs for the off-road.
“From the stuff we do [rock crawling and off-roading], you spend a lot of money for something that lasts probably a year,” continues Currie. “You’re flexing the leafs to their maximums and then they break and you have to spend that money again. It’s why we’d rather see coil springs. And while, yeah, they take a set, they also seem to last longer. Even if you do need to replace them, they are cheaper, too.”
However, for load holding, you can’t beat a leaf. But, then again, this is an SUV that’s potentially focused on the niche. Does it really need that load holding like a pickup truck does?
Make It for the Enthusiasts
If the Bronco is indeed based off the overseas Ranger, the one good thing is that it will be a narrow body. Now, that would sound odd until you start considering that it might come with a solid front axle. It would open itself to better fender fitting for those larger tires. If you look at the Wrangler, it’s a narrow body with wider, replicable plastic fenders. “Hopefully they use the forethought of, ‘Hey, let’s put on a bolt-on fender extension that’s easily modified, and the aftermarket can easily build another fender extension,” says Currie, who is pictured above at Currie Enterprises.
This would put it right in line with what the Wrangler can do out of the box and with a narrow body, taller rocker panels and easily modified fenders. It could open a very large world to Ford that has been dominated by Jeep for a long while.
“I’m in to the full-size Broncos, and there is a lot of fiberglass stuff out there, but the problem with that is when you put those aftermarket fenders on it, you also need to cut away whole bodysides of the vehicle,” says Currie. “I don’t think there will be many people who would be willing to do that to their brand-new vehicle.” Including bolt-on fender extensions would remove this problem so long as the inner fenders are large enough to work with larger tires, too. Again, this wouldn’t be an issue with a narrow-body Bronco.
If Ford does do this with the Bronco then maybe, just maybe, we could see another Bronco versus old school K5 Blazer rivalry. As Currie points out, GM already has the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon that are sold around the world. They are also narrow-body vehicles that could be modified to become the new Blazer.
Related: Ford to Invest $1.2 Billion for Ranger & Bronco Production
How awesome would that be to see a new Blazer, new Bronco and the JL Wrangler fighting it out for the best off-road vehicle with solid axles front and rear?! One can dream, can’t they? We certainly are, and if they become a reality, what a wonderful reality that would be.