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The Ford Bronco was originally introduced on August 11, 1965. And here it is, 55 years later, and one of the most-anticipated vehicles—or family of vehicles in this case—is the Bronco, a vehicle that has been brought up-to-date yet which has the sort of authenticity that sometimes gets lost when people create a new version of something that was and is revered by enthusiasts.

2021 Bronco

2021 Ford Bronco: Fresh yet iconic. (Images: Ford)

A large part of why that is the case goes to chief designer Paul Wraith and his team, who spent a significant amount of time with real people, discerning how they would interact with the 4x4 in their daily lives, and then using that information to create a vehicle (actually, there are a four-door, two-door and compact sport model) that they could live with. It is a human-centered methodology.

What To Do With the Doors

An example is a nanny who lives in the house where she works. Wraith says that during her free time, she might want to go driving in her Bronco with the doors off. While removing doors from vehicles of this genre is certainly nothing new, Wraith says that there were a whole lot of considerations that went into the design of the Bronco doors.

For example, while other removed doors end up going into one’s garage, the nanny doesn’t have a garage, as she lives in her employer’s house. So not only did the team design (and Wraith acknowledges that the engineers on the project were deeply involved in these executions) so that they’d be sufficiently light and that the electrical connection was, he says, as easy as plugging into a wall socket, but they designed bags that the doors could be placed in and then stored in the back of the Bronco.

In addition to story boarding of things like that, they took a number of alternative approaches—at least alternative from the point of view of how vehicles are normally developed—to create the Bronco.

Digital Meets Packing Material

That is, while they had access to the latest digital design tools and conducted plenty of virtual-reality sessions, Wraith says that they made lo-fi models out of packing materials. No, they didn’t make clay models. They made a full-size foam model that they were able to interact with in a variety of ways as they determined just how the vehicle would look and perform (e.g., by tipping the model on its side they were able to determine how to best design an interior shelf to keep a phone from flying off).

Bronco model

They built a model of a Bronco with packing material that allowed them to see how a physical property would look and—just as importantly—perform.

Not surprisingly, the team did benchmarking. But Wraith says that the benchmarking isn’t what one might think, as they looked at everything from all-terrain vehicles to boats (e.g., as they know there is a high likelihood that the interior will get wet—after all, not only are the doors removable, but so are roof panels—they offer marine vinyl seating surfaces and silicone sealing of upfitter switches).

Bronco interior

Interior execution took into account the fact that sometimes the great outdoors will be inside the Bronco.

Yet at the end they created a vehicle that is simple, pure and clearly a Bronco (just look at the front end, where there is a simple grille with the round headlights contained in that space and seemingly connected by two horizontal bars and the term “BRONCO” meeting them in the middle).

Wraith talks all about the development of the Bronco family on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Chris Paukert of Roadshow by CNET and me.

If you have any interest not only in the Bronco but in design or product development, you’re going to want to watch this hour-long discussion of how one of the most important vehicles announced in 2020 came to be.

And you can see it right on Autoline After Hours.


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