Did you miss the Ford Bronco at this year’s Detroit Auto Show? So did we. As it turns out, quite a few of the heavy-hitting names expected to make a splash were absent from the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).
While the show lacked the world-shaking debuts that car enthusiasts crave, there was at least a glimmer of hope. Interviews with Big Three execs confirmed that several classic American nameplates would be making a comeback. Hopefully, upcoming auto shows will provide a glimpse of things to come, but for now, following are our top five classic nameplates returning to showrooms near you:
1. Ford Ranger
Ford’s plucky compact pickup will return, but this time it’s bulked up to compete in the mid-size segment against GM’s Colorado and Canyon. United Auto Workers (UAW) Union Chairman Bill Johnson initially hinted at the news in an interview with the Detroit Free Press and Ford recently confirmed it at the 2017 NAIAS. Ford’s President of The Americas Joe Hinrichs said, “We’ve heard our customers loud and clear. They want a new generation of vehicles that are incredibly capable yet fun to drive.” The new Ranger will debut in the U.S. as a 2019 model. Strangely enough, North America is one of the few markets where Ford’s small truck isn’t already available. The rest of the world enjoyed access even after it left our dealerships back in 2012.
Throughout its 28 year production run, over seven million pickups were produced, meaning that even the first-year 1983 models haven’t yet reached full collectable status. However, for many of us there is some nostalgia surrounding the Ranger. It sure seemed as though one fourth of my high school’s student body drove one of these little trucks. Regardless, another entry into the mid-size pickup fray is always welcome as options remain very limited in this market space.
2. Jeep Wrangler Pickup
It may seem like a short time ago, but the last time you could walk into a dealership and order a brand new Jeep-based pickup, George H.W. Bush was completing his single presidential term. Fiat-Chrysler aims to remedy this by investing $1 billion into its Warren, Mich., and Toledo, Ohio, plants. Confirmed by FCA at this year’s NAIAS, one of the vehicles produced at the upgraded facility will be a pickup truck version of the Jeep Wrangler. Company CEO Sergio Marchionne said, “The expansion of our Jeep lineup has been and continues to be the key pillar of our strategy.”
Although it’s unknown if it’ll wear the familiar Comanche badge, we’re still including it on our list because the idea alone is a classic one. And if the growing market for vintage Jeeps is any indication, this pickup could end up a collectible down the road as well. All that’s left at this point is developing a brand new 4.0-liter inline-6 and the Jeep faithful should line up in droves for the rebirth of this utility focused 4X4.
3. Chevy Corvette ZR1
In late December, a GM dealer bulletin containing options for Corvette’s 2018 model year was leaked to the internet. Besides the usual paint colors and trim levels, the document contained information hinting at the LT5 powerplant’s return. Additionally, it will also feature a double overhead-cam setup as opposed to the Chevy Small Block’s customary overhead valve setup, used since its inception.
For those not up to speed on Corvette history, the LT5 engine designation has traditionally been associated with Chevrolet’s King of the Hill, the fourth generation Corvette ZR-1. The Lotus-designed 1990s iteration of this engine shares the twin-cam bloodline, but measures in at 5.7 liters as opposed to the new version’s 6.2-liter displacement. Does this signal the return of ZR1 for the C7 generation? There is no official word from GM, but if this document – along with numerous spy shots of a camouflaged ‘Vette fitted with an ironing-board-sized wing – is any indication, the forecast appears positive.
4. Jeep Grand Wagoneer
This year’s Detroit show provided official confirmation of not only a Jeep pickup’s return, but also the Grand Wagoneer’s. When initially released in 1984, the Jeep Grand Wagoneer was positioned as the top-of-the-line trim package for those looking for power, style and rugged capability – think Hugh Jackman in a three piece suit.
This new model looks to mimic the original’s formula, but pricing will be considerably higher than its $30,000 MSRP when production ended in 1991. Fiat-Chrysler has big plans for this newly revived model, namely positioning it as a Cadillac Escalade rival. Reportedly, it could be priced as high as $100,000 to compete in the segment. This all makes sense in the grand scheme of things as company CEO Marchionne has discussed his desire to “internationalize the Jeep brand.” A high-end SUV such as this could give Jeep the momentum needed to break into foreign markets. Will it sell? Probably. But more importantly, will it have the requisite fake-wood body cladding? We’ll have to wait and see.
5. Ford Bronco
Broncos are big news right now. As the supply of clean, unmodified 4x4s dwindles, collectors are quickly snatching up examples with solid, rust-free bodies. Supply and demand obviously plays a role in the collector market and, accordingly, Hagerty has watched prices on “Good” condition first-generation Broncos increase by about 25 percent within the past three years. Ford is completely aware of this phenomenon, hence their goal of beginning production by 2020.
Company CTO Raj Nair also provided an idea of its dimensions: “This new Bronco will be based off the Ranger platform and so it’s going to be a similarly sized vehicle to what you see in the Ranger.” Die-hard fans have been begging the blue oval to release an updated version ever since its quiet demise in 1996. Here’s hoping that Ford delivers on its promise to provide a capable, body-on-frame off-roader. If engineers behind the recent Ford GT, Mustang GT350R and Raptor have anything to do with it, then the new Bronco should be in very capable hands.