Most new cars lack that “wow” factor that used to generate excitement in the bygone days of motoring. Today, tech rules, and style has taken a backseat. Form still plays a role, but function is the priority.
Smooth lines, rounded edges, stamped body lines to increase panel rigidity while utilizing thinner, weaker steel, and bulbous dead space to house airbags, electrical modules and crumple zones have all boosted safety and efficiency, but the soul of the vehicle has been engineered out.
Capitalizing on the retro craze, there’s no shortage of design elements to tie the old flavor with the new models, including the use of familiar names.
Ford, in particular, has been busy recycling old monikers to help buyers recall the vibe of earlier, perhaps better, times.
The Ranger has recently made its long-awaited comeback to fill the small truck niche, though size is relative.
I had a 1985 Dodge D150 pickup, commonly referred to as a full-size half-ton, parked amid a Ranger and a Tacoma, Toyota’s small offering, and that old full-size Dodge sure looked little.
The reintroduced Bronco has been making automotive news lately. It's designed to compete with the Jeep Wrangler, a market that’s currently owned by Fiat-Chrysler and untapped by the competition, but Ford is hoping to change that.
The original Bronco was more utility than sport with few creature comforts, removable doors, folding windshield and different roof options. As with so many other purpose-built vehicles, the Bronco eventually became a larger, more luxurious spin-off before the name disappeared from the Ford lineup for 25 years, much to the consternation of fans.
The new Bronco hearkens back to its original intent, though much more modern. It intends to go head to head with Jeep, also reminiscent of an early rivalry. It’s nice to see an effort being made by a manufacturer to hype a vehicle that really has little practical application. Fun is also a reason to buy a car, and maybe some automakers are finally remembering that.
The new Bronco was set to be available earlier in the year as a 2021 model, but the current pandemic has wreaked havoc with most planned events and production schedules. Ford did manage to unveil the long-awaited SUV on July 13 after postponing the release. Originally, the public was supposed to see the Bronco for the first time on July 9 but the date got changed at the last minute.
There was speculation that the bosses at Ford felt bringing back the nameplate on OJ Simpson’s birthday wasn’t good marketing, though Ford claims it was just a coincidence.
Some of you may recall that a white Bronco was OJ’s getaway vehicle of choice when he infamously led police on a slow-speed freeway chase through Los Angeles in 1994, following charges brought against him of a double murder involving his ex-wife.
OJ was eventually acquitted in a drawn-out, scandalous trial that was broadcast far and wide. The Bronco still survives and has been a spectacle at various museums and sporting venues.
The Mustang nameplate has been affixed to Ford cars since 1964 and is projected to live on in the Mach E, an all-electric SUV line due out in 2021. Perhaps they feel the best way to get the public’s acceptance of a new concept is through nostalgic reminiscences, although I doubt the younger generation targeted for these vehicles recalls the aggressive, gas-guzzling muscle of the original Mustang Mach I.
Personally, I think this is a blasphemous use of an iconic moniker, but maybe I’m not the correct demographic.
Thrown into this naming shuffle is the likely comeback of the Maverick. The compact car based on the Falcon showed up in 1970 just as gas prices were rising and carved out strong sales as two- and four-door sedans. Though nothing particularly special, they were popular as commuters and second vehicles. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that my buddy Dave had one in high school and still credits that car with his difficulty getting dates.
The new Maverick is going to be based on the front-wheel-drive Ford Focus, whose Activ crossover wagon is exiting the U.S. market so Ford can concentrate on lucrative truck production.
The Maverick will also dip into the Transit parts bin and hopes to fill a slot that has little competition, though it remains to be seen whether Ford can build an audience for such a specialized vehicle.
The proposed crew cab pickup with an all but useless bed will fit in under the Ranger as a smaller, shorter choice. The diminutive open back is reminiscent of the Explorer Sport Trac or the Subaru Baja. From what I’ve seen, I doubt Dave would get any luckier with this version of the Maverick.
Names evoke different images for different people, and it looks like Ford has jumped on the nostalgia train with both feet. I wonder what the next Model T will look like?
Eric and Michelle Meltzer own and operate Fryeburg Motors, a licensed, full-service automotive sales and service facility at 299 Main St. in Fryeburg, Maine. More than a business, cars are a passion, and they appreciate anything that drives, rides, floats or flies.