This is a Ford Bronco U13 Roadster from 1968, it’s one of the lesser-known variants of the Ford 4×4 that was designed as a lightweight off-roader with no frills – as well as no roof and no doors.
When the Bronco was introduced in 1965 it was offered in three primary versions, the Wagon which came with a roof and doors, the Half-Cab which had a smaller cab and a short pickup truck style rear, and the Roadster – a version with no doors and no roof. The Roadster was only offered until 1968 at which point it was discontinued, today it remains one of the rarest Broncos in existence.
Fast Facts – The Ford Bronco U13 Roadster
- The Ford Bronco was introduced in 1965 (1966 model year) as a competitor to the International Harvester Scout and the Jeep CJ-5. It was consistently updated over its production run and it was replaced with the second generation Bronco in 1978.
- The first generation Bronco came in three primary versions: the Wagon which had the standard roof and doors, the Half-Cab which had a smaller cab and a short pickup truck style rear, and the Roadster which had no doors and no roof.
- The Roadster was always the lowest-selling version of the vehicle, and as a result it was axed after the 1968 model year, a year in which Ford had sold just 212 of them in total. Today they’re among the rarest and most collectible of the early Broncos.
- The vehicle you see here is from the last production run of the Roadster – the 1968 model year. Just 212 were made that year, and only 26 are known to have survived to the modern day. This Bronco will be going across the auction block with Mecum in mid-August in Monterey, California.
The First Generation Ford Bronco
The Ford Bronco was conceived as a compact SUV designed to compete directly with the Jeep CJ-5 and the International Harvester Scout. Development of the Bronco began in the early 1960s, with the intention of creating a capable off-road vehicle that could also serve as a practical daily driver and an agricultural vehicle.
Interestingly the development team behind the Bronco included many of the influential figures who would launch what was arguably the most important Ford of the 1960s – the Ford Mustang. These figures included Ford product manager Donald N. Frey and Ford engineer by Paul G. Axelrad, with the project being directly overseen by Lee Iacocca.
The first-generation Bronco was officially introduced in 1965 as a 1966 model year vehicle. It was built on a shortened version of the Ford F-Series truck platform, featuring body-on-frame construction. The Bronco was offered in three different body styles: a two-door wagon, a half-cab pickup, and a convertible roadster known as the U13 Roadster – which we’ll delve into in more detail further down.
In terms of styling, the Bronco had a rugged, utilitarian appearance, characterized by its flat grille, round headlights, short wheelbase, and a boxy silhouette. It featured removable doors and a removable hardtop, allowing for open-air driving and versatile configurations – this versatility was a common theme shared by many 4x4s at the time including the Jeep, Scout, Land Rover, and Land Cruiser.
Under the hood, the early Bronco models were offered with just one engine option – the 2.8 liter straight-six offering 105 bhp. In 1966 Ford also offered a 4.7 liter V8 engine as an option, providing significantly more power for those who wanted it, though some have argued that the brakes and suspension of the early Bronco was perhaps not ideally suited to the power of a V8.
The Bronco quickly gained a reputation for its excellent off-road ability, its design used the industry standard layout (at the time) of live axles front and back, to had coils up front and leaf springs in the rear, a dual-range transfer case, and selectable four-wheel drive. The Bronco’s compact size and rugged design made it popular among outdoor types, off-road enthusiasts, and those in need of a reliable workhorse for both on and off-road use.
The second generation Bronco would appear in 1978, in total there would be five generations made until production ceased in 1996.
This seemed like it would be the end for the model series however in 2021 Ford introduced its all-new Bronco – a vehicle with design cues taken straight from the first generation Broncos of the 1960s but offering full modern amenities. The model has proven to be a best seller with Ford struggling to build enough vehicles to meet demand.
The Ford Bronco U13 Roadster
The U13 Roadster was produced from the introduction of the Bronco in 1965 until the 1968 model year. It’s likely that the model was discontinued due to low sales, as just 212 were built for 198, a mere fraction of total Bronco production.
The U13 Roadster is relatively easy to spot from a distance thanks to the fact that it has no doors and no roof, the door gaps are partially filled with fiberglass covers which were painted in the same color of the body – underneath the covers Ford fitted all of the fixings needed to mount doors should the owner wish to do so later.
The steel body of the Roadster, Wagon, and Half-Cab were all identical, which meant that you could convert any Bronco into any other version. As a result many Roadsters were converted into the far more practical Wagon configuration at some point in their lives, with the hardtop and doors, making them usable year round.
Bronco collectors are now on a perpetual hunt for original, authentic Roadsters. They can match VINs to find hitherto unknown U13s that had been long ago converted into Wagons (or Half-Cabs of that matter), and then return them to their original format.
The 1968 U13 Roadster Shown Here
The vehicle you see here is one of the original Ford Bronco U13 Roadsters, it’s a 1968 model year which was the final year the variant was produced. It’s fitted with the desirable Ford 289 cubic inch V8 with power sent back through a 3-speed manual transmission with the shifter on the tree.
The floor shifter is for the transfer case, allowing the driver to select two high, four high, or four low depending on their needs. The Bronco is finished in Raven Black with a Parchment interior and it has been restored under the supervision of Andrew Norton of Baja Broncos Unlimited, a well known Bill Stroppe/Baja Bronco authentication and restoration expert.
It was originally sold new at Boyer Ford in Oak Harbor, Washington and after its more recent restoration it won the coveted the Bill Stroppe Award at the 2016 Fabulous Fords Forever Car Show.
It’s now due to roll across the auction block with Mecum in mid-August with a price guide of $115,000 – $135,000 USD in Monterey, California. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images courtesy of Mecum
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Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with well over a million monthly readers from around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.