FORD has chosen to release the revamped version of its Bronco SUV on July 9, the birthday of OJ Simpson, the America football player and TV star who made a sensational televised attempt to evade the Los Angeles police in 1994 as a double murder suspect … in a Ford Bronco.
Originally launched in 1966, the Bronco has acquired a cultural significance across the Atlantic matched only by a small number of other cars — the Mustang, for example, or the El Camino.
A large portion of its notoriety can be traced directly back to June 17, 1994 (26 years ago tomorrow), when Simpson, driven by friend and American football player Al Cowlings, led police on a low-speed, two county-long car chase in a white Bronco. The chase was watched live on TV by nearly 100 million people.
Five days before the chase, Simpson’s ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson was murdered, alongside her friend Ron Goldman. The chase occurred when the LAPD asked OJ to surrender himself in connection with the murder, according to the LA Times.
Beginning a few minutes before 6pm and ending at his home in Brentwood two hours later, when Simpson allowed himself to be taken into custody, footage of the chase even interrupted the NBA Finals. Simpson was acquitted of both murders, in one of the most controversial and widely publicised trials of all time. He was later found responsible for both deaths in a civil trial, and ordered to pay $33.5m in damages. He has since gone to (and been released from) prison in connection with an armed robbery in Las Vegas.
Since the chase, the famous Bronco, owned by Cowlings, has largely been sitting in a garage and has only been taken out to keep it healthy. Since 1994, only 20 miles have been put on the odometer. It is now on loan at the Alcatraz East Crime Museum.
Sales of the model reportedly rose after the chase, perhaps in some kind of show of public solidarity with Simpson, but the SUV was discontinued in 1996. A new iteration was confirmed by Ford at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show, and the car maker said that it would produce the model at its assembly plant in Michigan. The new SUV will reportedly share a chassis with the Ranger pickup, and have an aluminium body. Ford has taken a leaf out of the Range Rover playbook and will put on sale a smaller “Bronco Sport” at the same time.
Some predictions suggest that Ford will put its EcoBoost engine under the bonnet, which is the one used in the Raptor off-roader and the GT supercar. Some believe it’s likely to employ the F-150’s 2.7-litre, twin-turbocharged V6.
Ford has said that any coincidence with OJ’s birthday is “purely coincidental”, and it is possible that the debut date was dictated as much by coronavirus as anything else. It’s also true that Ford doesn’t need to employ marketing tactics to build hype around the release of the Bronco, an American cultural icon that is sure to be a commercial success in a country with a soft spot for SUVs.
However, no one can deny that the “coincidental” overlap between The Juice’s 73rd birthday and the release of the Bronco has got people talking.