Here’s a blast from the past that was very unique but a bit too much to make it to production

At the 1981 Chicago Auto Show, Ford unveiled a rather unusual concept called the Montana Lobo. It seemed too radical for its time and felt as though it was taken straight out of a sci-fi movie. It broke all the perceptions associated with a rugged off-roader like the Bronco. The company came up with this unusual concept to get in the flow with the growing popularity of smaller pickup trucks and SUVs. Although it didn’t make it to production and none of the ideas or design elements were incorporated in the future models, the Bronco Montana Lobo goes down in the history books as one of the most interesting concepts Ford has ever built.

What’s Unique About The Ford Montana Lobo Concept?

1981 Ford Bronco Montana Lobo Concept Exterior
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The concept was based on the 1977 Ford Bronco, but there was barely any similarity between the two.

It featured all sorts of shapes on the outside and was featured in a pale yellow shade. The concept has a simple front fascia when compared to the rest of the body and featured an angled hood that ended with a bar grille and headlights in one rectangular frame. You’d expect a steel bumper or something on similar lines here, but it had a foam bumper, that too with an integrated winch.

When viewed from the side, this looks like the McLaren Speedtail of the truck/SUV world, courtesy of the heavy rear overhang. However, don’t expect this shape to offer any aerodynamic benefits to the Montana Lobo. The elongated rectangular wheel arches made even the BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires look puny on it. Period-specific white wheels look appropriate though.

1981 Ford Bronco Montana Lobo Concept Exterior
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The rear wheel arch doesn’t really ‘close’ and extends all the way to the rear end. Dual exhaust pipes ran the length between the wheels right below the doors on both sides. God bless the burned legs and feet of the drivers and passengers who got out of the concept after a drive. Speaking of the doors, the Montana Lobo concept featured dome-shaped Plexiglas doors that looked, well, odd (show this to people who call the Russian Soyuz Capsule a lemon-shaped spacecraft!).

1981 Ford Bronco Montana Lobo Concept Exterior
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The rear featured roll bars attached to the louvered B-pillars. A set of fog lights and support beams were placed on the roof as well. The truck bed featured a cloth bench seat that looked quite comfy, but certainly not safe. Although this wasn’t a conventional pickup bed used for hauling, it leaned towards adventure lifestyle, which interestingly, picked up pace in the coming years.

On the inside, the Ford Bronco Montana Lobo Concept came with ventilated seats and a digital instrument cluster. Imagine how hyped people would’ve gotten seeing this in 1981! Also, the bed featured a retractable ramp, further solidifying Ford’s idea of showcasing this as an adventure pickup truck of sorts.

What Powered This Concept?

1981 Ford Bronco Montana Lobo Concept Exterior
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The Bronco Montana Lobo Concept was based on the 1977 Ford Bronco and featured its drivetrain as well.

It was powered by a 5.0-liter, V-8 engine. In the standard form, this mill made 135 horses and 243 pound-feet of torque.

Power was sent to all the wheels via a three-speed manual gearbox, although a four-speed automatic was also available in the Bronco’s lineup. Since not a lot was revealed about this concept, there’s a lot of speculation. Some say it had a Borg-Warner T-18 manual transmission or a four-speed New Process NP435 manual, whereas we’ve even heard about the concept featuring a three-speed C6 automatic gearbox.

Engine 5.0-liter, V-8 engine
Horsepower 135 HP
Torque 243 LB-FT
Transmission three-speed manual

There’s no information on the suspension system or the other mechanical bits, but if it has the same setup as the 1977 Bronco, then it had with Dana 44 front axle and Ford’s nine-inch rear axle. With the same-length, 31-spline axle shafts, this was considered to be one of the most durable axles back then. It featured disc brakes in the front and drums in the rear.

Final Thoughts

1981 Ford Bronco Montana Lobo Concept Exterior
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This unique “thing” never made it to production. Although we would’ve liked to see it hit the road, it would’ve probably hurt the credibility of the Bronco moniker in the long run. Nevertheless, here we are, almost 30 years later, speaking about the Montana Lobo when the new Bronco has made its debut. Can we expect something like this from Ford again based on the 2021 Bronco? It would be fun and, with the design of the Tesla Cybertruck, it wouldn’t be all that unorthodox in this day and age.

What are your thoughts about the Ford Bronco Montana Lobo Concept? Share them with us in the comments section below.

Sidd Dhimaan
Associate Editor and Truck Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. He is currently our pickup truck expert and focuses his attention on heavy-duty and off-road vehicles.  Read More
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