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Inside the underground Ford Bronco operation that lasted for years

Bronco was constant buzz inside Ford for 24 years

DETROIT – Over the past 24 hours, the automotive world buzzed with the Ford Bronco’s rebirth.

PHOTOS: Ford unveils design of new 2021 ‘Bronco Family’

But the Bronco was actually a constant buzz for 24 years inside the glass house that made Monday night’s reveal a reality.

Ford discontinued the Bronco not long after the infamous O.J. Simpson chase. Many inside the Ford world headquarters mourned and set up a quiet lobbying operation to try to bring it back.

Over and over again, they asked to reinvent the Bronco, only to be rebuffed. Mark Grueber of the Ford SUV marketing team was in the middle of it all.

“Leadership literally told us to stop using the ‘B word,‘” Grueber said. “They didn’t want to hear it anymore.”

Well, the “B word” is no longer verboten. The new, body-on-frame, midsize Bronco SUV bounded back to life Monday.

Ford insiders who knew the Bronco’s history loved it and worked tirelessly for a generation to make this possible.

The original Bronco nickname was the Goat -- not for the “greatest of all time,” but because Lee Iacocca wanted a vehicle that could drive on any terrain.

It kept that codename for the serious underground operation that lasted for years.

“Working lunch hours and after hours and weekends, trying to figure out what we need to do to bring this product back,” Grueber said.

By 2015, Ford had a dilemma: It was moving the Focus from the Wayne Assembly Plant to Mexico and started building the Ranger, but that only took half of the plant’s capacity.

Grueber and his underground friends realized the Bronco could ride on the Ranger platform and could fill out the plant.

“For me it was just unbelievable,” Grueber said. “Are you kidding me? We knew the Ranger was the perfect base.

“I’m super proud of it, and I hope you -- the enthusiasts out there and all the Bronco lovers -- feel the same way and hope they say, ‘Ford, you did it right.‘”

The Bronco blew up the internet Monday night. Ford sold out the reservations for the limited version, and customers crashed online servers. There’s high hope the pent-up demand will move many of the Broncos.


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