Bill Stroppe became involved with the Ford Bronco immediately after its release in 1966. The relationship resulted in an excellent racing record for Ford, Stroppe, and the Bronco. It also marked the beginning of many famous desert racers’ careers, not to mention playing a large part in the popularity of desert racing itself.
By 1971, Stroppe Broncos had won both the Baja 500 and 1000. Ford saw this as an opportunity to create a special Bronco for public sale that would bring off-road enthusiasts a capable vehicle and also promote the Stroppe team in honor of their success. On January 28, 1971 Ford announced the release of the Baja Bronco, a “limited production duplicate” of Stroppe’s team cars.
A Baja Bronco could be ordered from most any Ford dealer. The customer just had to complete the Baja Bronco order form and have the dealer put the order in. Ford would then build a semi-complete Baja Bronco and send it to Long Beach, California for completion by Stroppe. Once Stroppe was finished with the conversion, the completed Baja Bronco was sent to the ordering dealer for customer delivery.
The Baja Broncos all started life as Sport Broncos with special paint by Ford. The paint scheme was as follows: metallic blue on the roof, Wimbledon White from the driprail to the beltline, and Poppy Red from the beltline down. The hood was painted semi-gloss or flat black except for the leading edge of the hood which was painted Poppy Red to match the line where the grill and fenders meet. Additional Ford-supplied equipment consisted of the Extra Cooling Package, reduced sound exhaust, and the heavy duty suspension.
Ford left the rest of the conversion to Stroppe. Stroppe installed fender flares in the rear and trimmed the front fenders for clearance of the Gates Commando XT tires on either painted steel wheels or slot mags of 8.5×15″ size. Also included in the Baja Bronco conversion were dual shocks at each wheel, padded rollbar, rubberized steering wheel, front bumper braces, trailer hitch, and Baja Bronco tire cover and fender decals.
Baja Bronco Options
Perhaps the most important feature of the Baja Bronco was its powertrain options. In 1971 and 1972, the only way to buy a Bronco with automatic transmission and power steering was to order a Baja Bronco from Stroppe. If so ordered, Stroppe converted the early Baja Broncos to Saginaw power steering and installed a C4 automatic transmission and trans cooler. Contrary to popular belief, not all Baja Broncos were converted to automatic and power steering. However, the later Baja Broncos were all equipped by Ford with power steering and automatic.
The fact that most Baja Broncos were power steering and automatic transmission and some were manual is just the beginning of many of variations in the Baja Bronco production. There were many different options one could order in addition to the base Baja Bronco package, or “Phase I Package” as Stroppe referred to it. Stroppe offered a lot of aftermarket equipment in his Bronco Off Road Accessories catalog that could be ordered-from middle seats to air bags for your springs and from full cages to engine modification kits. The Bronco’s could have options such as competition seatbelts, shoulder harnesses, a middle seat, Cibie ’35’ off road lights, pushbars, winches, swaybars and air conditioning. In short, it is quite unlikely that any two Baja Broncos would be exactly alike.
Production, Prices & Originality
The Baja Broncos were produced from 1971-1975. An estimate for a production figure for these vehicles has always been said to be around 650. A better estimate is closer to 450 based on Ford records.
Telling an original from a fake could be difficult since Stroppe Motorsports claims they no longer have the invoices of the trucks they built.
Click the photos to enlarge.