Innovating the off-road landscape for the hardest-core enthusiasts, the Bronco brand is taking its desert racing expertise to a new level with the 2023 Ford Bronco DR – a first-of-its-kind limited-production Baja 1000 desert race SUV based on the Bronco four-door.
While the 2021 Ford Bronco we recently tested proved itself to be more than capable off-road, this Bronco DR is on a whole other level, a turnkey desert racer that hang with the best of them in one of the world’s most punishing races. This is seriously cool!
Purpose-built and turnkey, Bronco DR (Desert Racer) is intended for off-road use only. It builds upon the already impressive capability of the production Bronco, bolstering that with a third-generation Ford Coyote 5.0-liter V8 engine that aims to generate more than 400 horsepower, Multimatic Positional Selective DSSV Dampers and Multimatic safety cage, plus a host of other racing hardware upgrades.
“Bronco DR is our ultimate turnkey off-road racing SUV, engineered to put enthusiasts behind the wheel of a desert racing force,” said Mark Rushbrook, Ford Performance Motorsports global director. “This collaboration between Ford Performance and Multimatic continues the Bronco desert racing legacy that dates back to Rod Hall and Larry Minor’s never-repeated overall Baja 1000 win in a stock Bronco in 1969.”
The Bronco DR prototype will make its race debut in 2022 and is targeting entry in the 2022 SCORE Baja 1000, wearing Ford Performance red, white, black and blue livery to honor their historic 1969 Baja victory. Ford will have an initial run of 50 vehicles available for sale in late 2022, with a starting price in the mid-$200,000 range.
Baja-focused Built Wild capability and durability
With Bronco brand’s Built Wild capability and durability at its core, the Ford Performance team designed and engineered every facet of the Bronco DR to help endure multiple days of torture over grueling terrain in the high temperatures of the SCORE Baja 1000 in Baja California, Mexico.
“Bronco DR exists to give hardcore off-road enthusiasts a Built Wild, turnkey 4×4 to compete in desert racing events, including the unforgiving Baja 1000,” said Rushbrook. “It started with the Bronco four-door – the platform and chassis are production true, and then we modified and optimized every aspect and built the vehicle hardcore off-road enthusiasts want.”
While final specifications will be shared closer to the on-sale date, Bronco DR packs a long list of hardware specifically for off-road desert racing. Longtime Ford Performance collaborator Multimatic has enhanced the Bronco brand-exclusive High-Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension (H.O.S.S.) system, adding Positional Selective DSSV Dampers with 80-millimeter bodies with finned fluid cooling channels, as well as Multimatic-designed billet aluminum lower control arms. Compared to a four-door Badlands™ series Bronco, Bronco DR is targeting 55.1% more front suspension travel, at 15.8 inches, and 58.6% more at the rear, 17.4 inches, for remarkable capability over nearly any terrain.
The vehicle – with a race weight of about 6,200 pounds – features an approach angle of 47 degrees, departure angle of 37 degrees and breakover angle of 33 degrees to give it the capability to take on the nastiest routes. A 73.7-inch front track and 73.3-inch rear track provide firm footing.
The Bronco DR rides on 37-inch BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM3 all-season tires (37×12.5R17) and beadlock wheels. The Baja-winning tires feature an advanced Krawl-TEK compound for improved grip on rock and slick surfaces, while a Linear Flex Zone provides better grip in aired-down driving situations.
A Multimatic FEA-optimized full safety cage with integrated OE ACCRA tubes encases the two-passenger cockpit, which features a pair of race seats and Motec C187 display and CAN data acquisition system, with optional cloud-based data access.
Bronco DR is fit with the tested and proven 10R80 transmission and electric shift on the fly transfer case from the Built Ford Tough F-150. Torque is transmitted via independent electronically locking front and rear differential with 4.70:1 final drive ratios. Front half-shafts are unique RCV designs to ensure robustness for added torque capacity and suspension travel.
Large air intakes on the upper sides and another on the roof provide additional cooling air to the rear-mounted radiator. A 65-gallon fuel tank rides below the cargo area. Bronco DR carries over the four-wheel disc brakes from the production Bronco and adds upgraded pads, while the electric power-assisted steering system with upgraded inner tie rod joints makes for increased articulation.
Race-focused Built Wild innovative design
More than a muscular fiberglass race body that builds on the heritage-inspired style of the sixth-generation Bronco, the first-ever Bronco DR helps to ensure maximum off-road performance while nodding to the brand’s rich competition history.
“It’s not just a Bronco with some stripes on it,” said Paul Wraith, Bronco chief designer. “We were inspired by extreme rally cars, and then went all in. For this skunk works project, the Bronco team quickly found a theme and developed CAD with heavy use of virtual tools. This is an off-road racing vehicle built out of a production vehicle. We’re so happy to have been involved.”
Behind the resin transfer molded (RTM) fiberglass body panels, the Bronco DR retains the four-door model’s frame and body structure. For desert racing optimization and weight saving, the air conditioning system, other interior amenities and all glass have been removed. The side panels, which take the place of standard doors, are influenced by Bronco R. The tubular metal front bumper, as well as a host of other features, draws a connection with the current production model. Bronco DR wears a single-piece grille, production round headlamps, taillamps and trail sights.
Its purpose-built and race-focused cockpit features the Bronco four-door’s instrument panel with signature grab handles and power dome. Furthering its competition-ready mission, cooling air intakes dominate the upper body, and Bronco DR is finished in the distinctive Bronco race livery of red, white, black and blue.
Growing the Bronco motorsports legacy
The Bronco desert racing portfolio that dates back to the Hall-Minor 1969 Baja win has grown over the years, as the first-generation Bronco went on to claim Baja 1000 class wins in 1967, 1969 (the only-ever 4×4 outright win ever), 1971 and 1972, plus two overall Baja 500 victories in 1970 and 1973. Later model year Broncos, 1978 to 1995, continued the legendary winning streak with nine Baja 500 Class 3 wins from 2004 to 2015 and 15 Baja 1000 Class 3 wins between 2002 and 2019.
The portfolio grew again last fall when Shelby Hall, Rod Hall’s granddaughter, and Penny Dale drove a Bronco Sport to win the 2020 Rebelle Rally X-Cross class, then again a month later when the Bronco R prototype competed at the 53rd SCORE-International Baja 1000.
Whereas the purpose of Bronco R was to prove out the 2021 Bronco powertrain, chassis and suspension design, Bronco DR arrives with a completely different mission – offering a turnkey racing solution for serious off-road competitors. Its entire purpose is to compete in world-class off-road competitions.
“This is a ground-up build, which is a bit unique in itself,” said Rushbrook. “At the heart of what we did here was capture the enthusiasm surrounding Bronco, and then build on it by creating a desert racer that is competition-ready coming out of the factory – something Ford has never done before.”
What do you think of the Ford Bronco DR?