No-nonsense race-spec SUV previews the upcoming 2021 Bronco

The 2020 Ford Bronco R is a concept vehicle that Ford created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first-gen Bronco’s historic Baja 1000 win from 1969. Unveiled ahead of the 2019 SEMA Show, it’s the first real life incarnation of the modern Bronco and it previews a production crossover that will arrive in 2020.

The 2020 Bronco R was unveiled alongside the first-gen Bronco that Rod Hall and Larry Minor drove to an overall win 50 years ago at the 1969 Baja 1000. It features a similar livery, so it makes it easier to draw a design parallel between the two. The concept is fully functional and will be used as a test bed for the Bronco’s production drivetrain. The 2020 Bronco R will also be raced by Shelby Hall, the granddaughter of the late Rod Hall, at the 2019 Baja 1000.

Exterior

  • Previews the production Bronco
  • Boxy design
  • LED light bars for the headlamps
  • Massive race-spec wheels
  • Two-door design
  • Ready for Baja 1000
2020 Ford Bronco R Race Prototype Exterior
- image 869463
The Bronco R concept is a typical Baja vehicle, basically just a shell mounted on a high-riding chassis with oversized wheels

The Bronco R concept may carry the same name as the production crossover that Ford will release in 2020, but it doesn’t offer massive hints when it comes to design. Ford claims that this study offers clues about the production model’s overall shape and size and we can learn two things from this. The modern Bronco will be bigger than the iconic first-gen model, but it will be just as boxy as the original SUV.

As far as details go, the Bronco R concept is a typical Baja vehicle, basically just a shell mounted on a high-riding chassis with oversized wheels. The body itself is probably similar to the production model, but the Bronco R is a radical approach in other areas. Up front, the traditional fascia was replaced by a thin grille with the "Bronco" lettering flanked by thin LED light bars above and below.

The bumper looks as if it was taken of a Raptor model. It’s rock-solid, prepared for serious off-roading, and it even features blue accents that are typical of Ford Raptor trucks. Like all Baja SUVs, the hood is secured in place with quick-release pins.

2020 Ford Bronco R Race Prototype Exterior
- image 869461
The red, black, white, and gray livery is inspired by the winning 1969 Baja 1000 Bronco SUV

The profile reminds me of the first-generation Bronco. The shape of the front and rear fascia, as well as the roof, are as boxy as they get and a tribute to SUVs from the 1960s. The side panels are almost featureless save for the beefed-up wheel arches. The side skirts are obviously missing here, as are the side mirrors and windows. Like any Baja-spec trunk, it rides on massive wheels wrapped in race-ready tires.

The rear fascia is missing completely. Again, this is a familiar thing for Baja trucks, which are stripped out in the rear to make room for the roll cage and a spare wheel. There are small lights on the sides though, as well as a vertical opening on the right side of the tailgate.

The red, black, white, and gray livery is inspired by the winning 1969 Baja 1000 Bronco SUV. The front section combines white and gray details, the center section is black, while the rear body is painted red. The number 2069 combines 20 for the class in which it will race, while 69 honors the year when the first-gen Bronco scored its famous win.

left right

Interior

  • Stripped-off cabin
  • Roll-cage
  • Recaro seats
  • Simple dashboard
  • Alcantara steering wheel
  • No comfort features
2020 Ford Bronco R Race Prototype Exterior
- image 869460

There are no detailed photos of the interior to talk about so far, but it’s pretty obvious that the Bronco R concept is a stripped out vehicle under the roof. It features a pair of race-spec Recaro seats with six-point harnesses, and a thick, solid roll cage. We can also spot an Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel. According to Ford it also features "simple surfaces of the instrument panel that nod to the first-generation Bronco" and a MoTeC data acquisition system that enables real-time monitoring and measurement of the vehicle’s performance.

Drivetrain

  • Ford T6 platform
  • Turbo four-cylinder engine
  • Shares powertrain with production Bronco
  • Used as a test bed
  • 10-speed automatic transmission
  • No official details available
2020 Ford Bronco R Race Prototype Exterior
- image 869462
It's safe to say that the concept is powered by a four-cylinder unit

The racing prototype rides on Ford’s T6 platform, which underpins the Ranger truck and will also support the production version of the Bronco. Ford says that the concept will be used in the Baja Peninsula to test the production’s Bronco powertrain and architecture, so it’s safe to assume that it’s equipped with an engine that will eventually make it in the road version of the SUV. Unfortunately, Ford doesn’t provide actual information.

But given that it shares underpinnings with the Ford Ranger, it’s safe to say that the concept is powered by a four-cylinder unit. Since it’s also a race-ready SUV, it probably features the 2.3-liter EcoBoost mill that cranks out 270 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. The engine mates to a 10-speed automatic transmission.

2019 Ford Ranger specifications
Engine 2.3-liter EcoBoost 2.7-liter EcoBoost
Horsepower 270 HP 335 HP
Torque 310 LB-FT 380 LB-FT
Fuel economy city/highway/combined 21/26/26 combined 19/26/21
Transmission 10-speed automatic 8-speed automatic

Conclusion

2020 Ford Bronco R Race Prototype Exterior
- image 869459

Because this race-spec concept was unveiled before the production model, it’s pretty obvious that its main purpose is to create some hype for the upcoming Bronco. However, the Bronco R is a radical departure from what we’ll find in dealerships for the 2021 model year, so it’s not much of a preview. But it shows that Ford cares a lot about heritage since it decided to launch it in time for its 1969 Baja win celebrations and will also race it in the modern version of the off-road event. It doesn’t tell us much about the production Bronco, but it’s a cool concept to look at. And you’ll be able to do that at the 2019 SEMA Show.

  • Leave it
    • Doesn’t say much about the production Bronco
    • Most details in the vault
Ciprian Florea
Senior Editor and Supercar Expert - ciprian@topspeed.com
Ciprian's passion for everything with four wheels (and more) started back when he was just a little boy, and the Lamborghini Countach was still the coolest car poster you could hang on your wall. Ciprian's career as a journalist began long before earning a Bachelor's degree, but it was only after graduating that his love for cars became a profession.  Read More
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