By Todd Zuercher:
Sharp-eyed enthusiasts may have noticed a few photos during the 2021 Bronco’s introduction showing some Torx bolts with the word ‘Bronco’ on them scattered around the Bronco’s body and interior. While they may seem like a whimsical novelty in the new Bronco, there is, in fact, a bit more to the story behind those bolts.
Looking back through the historical timeline of the Bronco, one finally arrives at the Ford GPW, commonly referred to as the “World War II jeep”. The first Army jeep was developed and built by the American Bantam Car Company. Ford and Willys responded to the first government contract with designs of their own. Testing and production of various models from the three manufacturers were conducted, and by the fall of 1941, the U.S. government had decided to go with the Willys design. Still several months away from Pearl Harbor, the government could see the war clouds gathering and decided to give contracts to multiple suppliers to keep up with the anticipated demand.
Ford and Willys built their first runs of jeeps with their respective company names embossed on the rear of their vehicles. The government decided this smacked too much of blatant advertising and told the companies to stop the practice. Willys complied and Ford went to a more subtle approach of signifying which trucks they built. They made special bolts with an ‘F’ script on the head and used them in many locations throughout their jeeps, along with many small parts like shock mounts. According to Jeep historian, Jim Allen, this was apparently done on the orders of Henry Ford to eliminate any warranty claims on Willys-made parts.
Bolts and other small parts are often replaced or moved to other vehicles (particularly in wartime motor pools) as repairs or modifications are made. Thus, as surplus jeeps were modified by the owners in the years following the war, many of those bolts disappeared as customizations were made.
It was in this spirit of customization that 2021 Bronco lead designer, Paul Wraith, added the Bronco bolts to the new vehicle. As he mentioned in a recent interview, the bolt is his favorite part of the new Broncos. The new bolts are located in places on the truck where items can be bolted on or customization added: lights, racks, mounts, and handles. As Wraith noted in the interview, “these little Bronco bolts are an invitation to do something to the vehicle…. it’s an invitation to add things, take things off, play, invent, create things.”
Just as bolts bind together the parts that make the complete vehicle, the unique bolts on the Ford-built jeeps and the 2021 Bronco hold together a 78-year legacy of incredibly capable, unique utility vehicles that have captured the hearts of enthusiasts worldwide.
Todd is an author, historian, and Baja racer. Todd is the author of the book, Ford Bronco: A History of Ford’s Legendary 4×4, which was released in 2019.
Classic 4x4s. Jim Allen. Motorbooks International. 1997.
“How Ford Bronco Designers screwed up this SUV in the best possible way”. Chris Paukert. C-Net. July 15, 2020.