Could a Shelby-fettled Ford Bronco be in the works?
Shelby American, Inc., the tuning company founded by the late race car driver Carroll Shelby, seems to be suggesting just that.
The company’s president, Gary Patterson, appeared in a video by The Bronco Nation, an American enthusiast site for the off-roader.
In it, he races a Shelby GT500 against a Bronco driven by Shelby Hall. She beats him to the finish line via some off-track shortcuts.
At the end, he points at the Bronco and says, “I think Shelby should do something with that.”
While that isn’t an official confirmation, it suggests the company is keen to get its hands on the Bronco.
Shelby is best known for its fettled Mustangs and the iconic Shelby Cobra, an AC Cobra given the Shelby treatment which included a Ford V8 engine transplant.
While Shelby’s identity is inextricably entwined with these Mustang and Cobra models, it’s dabbled in other segments before.
During the 1980s, Carroll Shelby worked with the Chrysler Corporation and developed fettled versions of the front-wheel drive Dodge Omni and Charger, including the turbocharged Omni GLH (“Goes Like Hell”).
The company also introduced a tuned version of the Dodge Dakota, a mid-sized pickup truck that employed body-on-frame construction much like the Bronco.
The rear-wheel drive Shelby Dakota arrived as the high-performance pickup truck segment was becoming more competitive, and was followed by the likes of the turbocharged V6-powered GMC Syclone.
Fast forward to the 21st century and high-performance, body-on-frame vehicles are still in vogue, though four-wheel drive is now a prerequisite.
Ford is introducing its third-generation of F-150 Raptor, while the Bronco is off to a strong start commercially and the next-generation Ranger Raptor is making its way to North America.
That could bode well for a Shelby Bronco or, for that matter, a Bronco Raptor. The latter could already be in the works as we learned from a LinkedIn posting.
Another American tuner, Hennessey, has already announced it’s introducing a V8-powered version of the Bronco called the VelociRaptor.
It uses a supercharged 5.0-litre Ford V8 engine with 559kW of power, mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission.
The company will produce just 24 units, priced at an eye-watering US$225,000 (A$301,000).
The regular Ford Bronco offers a choice of two powertrains: a turbocharged 2.3-litre four-cylinder producing 201kW of power and 420Nm of torque, and a turbocharged 2.7-litre V6 making 231kW and 540Nm.
Unlike the Jeep Wrangler, there’s been no V8 version announced.
As for off-road ability, even the base model offers four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case, a Dana 44 solid rear axle, heavy-duty bash plates, and an available seven-speed manual transmission with an ultra-low 94.75:1 crawler gear.
A more advanced four-wheel drive system with an automatic mode is also available, as well as Spicer Performa-TraK electronic differential locks, beefy 35-inch off-road tyres, a suite of electronic off-road aids called the Trail Toolbox, and a sway bar disconnect function.
A Shelby Bronco would likely take quite a different approach to the Shelby Dakota, and we’d expect off-road ability to remain high while performance is turned up a notch.
Shelby’s current flagship is the GT500, which is powered by a hand-built, cross-plane crank version of the Mustang’s 5.0-litre ‘Coyote’ V8 that’s been bored, stroked and supercharged.
It has a displacement of 5.2 litres and produces 567kW of power and 847Nm of torque.
In contrast, the fieriest Mustang that Ford sells in Australia – the Mach 1 – produces ‘just’ 345kW and 556Nm.
The Mach 1 also ditches Ford’s 10-speed automatic for a Tremec-sourced seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.