American ClassicsFord

1973 Ford Bronco – Wild Horses Run Free

The Ford Bronco is ready to re-introduce itself to an entire generation of drivers. On hiatus since 1996, this classic American off-road vehicle (ORV) is an important part of automotive history. Unleashed as a competitor to the Jeep CJ-5 and International Scout, the Bronco carved its own path through the rocky terrain.

While designing the first generation Bronco, Ford focused on keeping the project economical and simple. All first-gen Broncos came with four-wheel drive as a standard feature to streamline production while keeping bean counters happy. From 1966 to 1977, the first generation Ford Bronco proved to be a commercial success. The rest is history.

Today, the market is full of SUVs capable of delivering practical versatility with all-wheel drive convenience. Although the original Ford Bronco looks similar to what are now called compact SUVs, its intended purpose was as an ORV. The Bronco’s evolution into a passenger SUV is the result of market demand, but its soul desires to steer off course.

The off-road racing success early Bronco models experienced eventually led to an avid aftermarket tuning arms race. Even Ford recognized the model’s off-road success by producing limited editions such as the 1971 “Baja Bronco” package. Ford’s Bronco was a hit, offering drivers off-road capability with racing pedigree.

Early examples of the Ford Bronco’s marketing campaigns include tagging the two-door pickup version as a “Sports Utility” civilian off-roader. The initial success of the Bronco led to more competition, followed by a shift in demand toward SUVs with more on-road capability.

What makes the 1973 Ford Bronco so special is it is the first model to offer an automatic transmission. Ford listened to buyer demands by offering a 3-speed automatic transmission as an available option. You could still buy a ‘73 Bronco with a 3-speed manual transmission, but the new automatic was a very popular choice.

The standard 6-cylinder engine saw an increase from 2.8L to 3.3L for the 1973 model year. An optional 4.9L V8 was also available, this engine is Ford’s 302 cubic inch Windsor design. Many people classify this V8 as a 5.0L, but its actual displacement is close to 4,942 cc.

1973 Ford Bronco models equipped with the 6-cylinder engine feature 84 horsepower. V8 models had about 137 hp. Buyers and collectors usually consider factory V8 models to be more desirable. 

Retro 4×4 styling captures the nostalgic glory days of wild Broncos running free on the 1973 version. It sits on a chassis using box-section, body-on-frame construction. Many fans and enthusiasts customize or modify 1973 Ford Broncos in an effort to preserve the raw, vintage off-roading experience.

All 1973 Broncos feature two doors with seating for four. An adventurous spirit came standard with every ‘73 Ford Bronco. The stock suspension featured coil springs up front and leaf springs in the rear.

Another new feature available for 1973 was power steering, most drivers cannot imagine handling a vehicle without it. There was a time when drivers did not have a choice, Ford gave them the option in ‘73.

Ford offered the first generation Bronco as a Roadster, a half cab Pickup and a Wagon. The Roadster and Pickup became discontinued due to a lack of popularity among consumers. By 1973, only the Wagon remained. 

Factory configurations available for the 1973 Ford Bronco, these are mostly trim packages:

  • Ford Bronco
  • Ford Bronco Sport
  • Ford Bronco Ranger
  • Ford Bronco Explorer

Luckily, Ford produced 21,894 Broncos in 1973, so there are still quite a few of them on the road. Many saw off-road action or spent time as a workhorse, but enthusiasts have preserved and restored plenty of them. Expect to pay more for well-maintained or close-to-original 1973 Ford Broncos, but a project should cost right around fair market value.

Although the ‘74 and ‘75 models are more desirable to collectors, 1973 Ford Broncos still have their place in the market. Prices range from about $25k to over $200k for the ‘73, with close-to-original and unique models fetching the most. With such a wide range of Bronco customization possibilities, expect to see some features not available from the factory in 1973.

At the end of the day, the first generation Ford Bronco is still capable of riding off into the sunset whenever it chooses to. The Ford Bronco’s legacy lives on while preparing to pass the torch to the newest generation upcoming from Ford. Just don’t expect the 1973 Ford Bronco to go away anytime soon.

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