Ezra Dyer: The Circle of Bronco

the circle of bronco

Illustration by Derek BaconCar and Driver

From the June 2022 issue of Car and Driver.

I sold my Bronco. I’m sorry I didn’t let you know, but vehicles of this caliber rarely change hands in public. Frankly, the idea of the unwashed masses slobbering over such a singular machine at Pebble or Amelia fills me with revulsion. So I sold it to my friend Dave. The transaction price remains undisclosed, but it was a sum characterized by Dave’s wife as “way too much” and by mine as “Didn’t you spend more than that?”

Dave lives in Massachusetts, and he planned to fly to North Carolina and drive home. So the week ahead of the sale, I fixed things I’d want to fix before attempting an 800-mile drive in a 1993 Ford Bronco with the wrong engine. Annoyingly, most of it was easy and made me mad that I didn’t do it on my own behalf. The leaky transmission drain plug just needed tightening. Replacing the tailgate window motor was more involved, but not the finger-removing ordeal I’d built it up to be. Completion of that job allowed me to reinstall the hard top and have a lockable, (reasonably) dry interior.

Dave drove it 13 hours home without incident, unless you count long-term hearing damage in the “7.3 Power Stroke at 2500 rpm” frequency range. He then immediately started fixing other stuff I’d ignored. This caused serious mixed emotions—it’s like hearing about an ex who’s doing better than ever now that you’re gone. Dave got the windshield washers going. He eliminated the squeak from the clutch pedal (which involved removing all the pedals, plus the steering column). He fixed the fuel gauge, which required cutting a hole in the floor to pull the sending unit out of the tank. Yeah, I was never going to do that. You see, my conflicting desire to drive something extremely unique but also totally reliable torments me. So I tend to satisfy the former requirement and then just pretend I’ve met the latter by ignoring the inevitable cascading failures. It’s a tough way to live.

A Big Bend in the Road

But as much as these convoluted repairs reduce my Bronco nostalgia, I still miss it and occasionally question the anti-materialistic urge that prompted me to banish it. My old Ram is fun, but for warm-weather ice-cream trips, it pales in comparison to an open-top Bronco. Most things do.

Fortunately, through a bizarre chain of events, I can now satisfy my Bronco cravings by borrowing the keys to a 2022 Bronco Black Diamond four-door. It has black steel wheels, 32-inch tires, and, best of all, a manual transmission. It’s my sister-in-law’s, and she fell into ownership by accident. Literally.

Scene: Her daughter is home from college. She asks to take the family’s new Bronco Sport Big Bend to the store. Ten minutes later, she calls to say the Big Bend now has a big bend where it got broadsided by a Buick. Luckily, she’s okay, but their household is down a Bronco. Just like mine.

Because used-car prices are bananas, insurance paid $6000 over MSRP for the destroyed Bronco Sport. This, I immediately pointed out, pushed the payout into actual-Bronco territory. And one of our local dealers is honorable enough to sell those at sticker. It took a few months, but eventually the Big Bend’s spot in the driveway was filled (and then some) by the Black Diamond. I like the Bronco Sport, but as my brother-in-law observed, “That thing next to a real Bronco looks like Danny DeVito next to Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins.”

So, as I once gave manual-transmission driving lessons in my Eddie Bauer, now I am again in the Black Diamond—this time to my nephew, so he can drive it. I should be jealous, but I’m just happy to have a rig like this around again. Old or new, Broncos might be a little bit like boats: The best kind is the one your friend owns. And now I have two of those.

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