Earlier today out in the Nevada desert, Ford showed off its latest off-road creation: the Bronco R, a Baja-prepped prototype racing truck that also gives the best look yet at the boxy design of the much-anticipated 2021 Ford Bronco. If our suspicions are correct and the production model will use the flat beltline and boxy greenhouse seen here, we're all in for a treat.
The project is timed with the 50th anniversary of desert racing legend Rod Hall's 1969 overall win at the Baja 1000 in a first-generation Bronco, and Ford's made no secret about the new model's off-road ambitions. The Bronco R is based on a tweaked version of the same T6 platform that the production Bronco will use, and though its independent front suspension is unique, Ford calls the five-link rear setup providing 18 inches of wheel travel "production based."
Powertrain details are scarce, but tellingly the release claims the "twin turbos of the EcoBoost engine are representative of what the production Bronco will offer." In other words, Ford just confirmed the 2021 Bronco will offer an EcoBoost V6.
But back to the styling. Ford says straight up in the release that the Bronco R "drops heritage-inspired design and proportion hints" about the production model. The squared-off body carries the overall silhouette of the covered-up teaser we've seen for years, but in person it resembles the slightly more curvy 2020 Land Rover Defender. The roof is rather low on the Bronco R; Ford also references the "compressed body height," so expect the real Bronco to have a more upright posture.
Funny enough, the prototype also has a back seat—just one, a third Recaro shell, but still. Even though the composite body panels, ratted out aero work, and 37-inch tires won't see production, that big BRONCO logo emblazoned across the otherwise empty front surely will.
The Bronco R will be piloted by Cameron Steele in this year's SCORE Baja 1000 on November 22nd. That would've been Rod Hall's birthday, and Shelby Hall will be doing stints during the race as a tribute. Ford takes care to frame this as a move-fast project pulled together in the nick of time, but it's also clear this is part of a larger campaign to dole out hints as we get closer to the official reveal of the 2021 Ford Bronco next spring.