Skip to main content

Limited Edition Bronco DR (Desert Racer) Sets Up Competition Level SUV For Lucky Buyers

If you remember last year's rendition of the Baja 1000, there was a specially designed Ford Bronco running in it. Very retro, the Bronco R did well in the race -- unlike the year before when breakdowns hindered it. Now, Ford is offering a limited-edition model to those who can afford the $200,000 price tag. The Bronco DR (Desert Racer) is ready to step up to the starting line and run with the big dogs.

Innovating the off-road landscape for the hardest-core enthusiasts, Bronco is taking its desert racing expertise to a new level with the all-new Ford Bronco DR – a first-of-its-kind limited-production Baja 1000 desert race SUV based on the Bronco four-door SUV.

Purpose-built and turnkey, Bronco DR – Desert Racer – is intended for off-road use only. It builds upon the already impressive capability of the production Bronco, bolstering that with a third-generation Ford Coyote 5.0-liter V8 engine that aims to generate more than 400 horsepower, Multimatic Positional Selective DSSV™ Dampers, and Multimatic safety cage, plus a host of other racing hardware upgrades.

"Bronco D.R. is our ultimate turnkey off-road racing S.U.V., engineered to put enthusiasts behind the wheel of a desert racing force," said Mark Rushbrook, Ford Performance Motorsports global director. "This collaboration between Ford Performance and Multimatic continues the Bronco desert racing legacy that dates back to Rod Hall and Larry Minor's never-repeated overall Baja 1000 win in a stock Bronco in 1969."

The Bronco DR prototype will make its race debut in 2022 and is targeting entry in the 2022 SCORE Baja 1000, wearing Ford Performance red, white, black and blue livery honoring the Baja 1000 victory. The first 50 units of 2023 Bronco D.R. will be available for sale in late 2022, starting in the mid-$200,000 range. There is lots more information available at Ford's Bronco website.

Baja-focused Built Wild capability and durability

With the Bronco brand's Built Wild™ capability and durability at its core, the Ford Performance team designed and engineered every facet of the Bronco DR to help endure multiple days of torture over grueling terrain in the high temperatures of the SCORE Baja 1000 in Baja California, Mexico.

"Bronco DR exists to give hardcore off-road enthusiasts a Built Wild, turnkey 4x4 to compete in desert racing events, including the unforgiving Baja 1000," said Rushbrook. "It started with the Bronco four-door – the platform and chassis are production true, and then we modified and optimized every aspect and built the vehicle hardcore off-road enthusiasts want."

While final specifications will be shared closer to the on-sale date, Bronco DR packs a long list of hardware specifically for off-road desert racing. Longtime Ford Performance collaborator Multimatic has enhanced the Bronco brand-exclusive High-Performance Off-Road Stability Suspension (H.O.S.S.) system, adding Positional Selective DSSV Dampers with 80-millimeter bodies with finned fluid cooling channels, as well as Multimatic-designed billet aluminum lower control arms. Compared to a four-door Badlands™ series Bronco, Bronco DR targets 55.1 percent more front suspension travel, at 15.8 inches, and 58.6% more at the rear, 17.4 inches, for remarkable capability over nearly any other terrain.

The vehicle – with a race weight of about 6,200 pounds – features an approach angle of 47 degrees, a departure angle of 37 degrees, and a breakover angle of 33 degrees to give it the capability to take on the nastiest routes. A 73.7-inch front track and 73.3-inch rear track provide firm footing.

Bronco DR rides on 37-inch BFGoodrich® Mud-Terrain T/A® KM3 all-season tires (37x12.5R17) and beadlock wheels. The Baja-winning tires feature an advanced Krawl-TEK compound for improved grip on rock and slick surfaces, while a Linear Flex Zone provides better grip in aired-down driving situations.

A Multimatic FEA-optimized, full safety cage with integrated OE ACCRA® tubes encases the two-passenger cockpit, which features a pair of race seats, Motec C187 display, and CAN data acquisition system, with optional cloud-based data access.

Bronco DR uses the tested and proven 10R80 transmission and electric shift on the fly transfer case from the Built Ford Tough F-150. Torque moves through an independent electronically locking front and rear differential with 4.70:1 final drive ratios. Front half-shafts are unique RCV designs to ensure robustness for added torque capacity and suspension travel.

Large air intakes on the upper sides and others on the roof provide additional cooling air to the rear-mounted radiator. A 65-gallon fuel tank rides below the cargo area. Bronco DR carries over the four-wheel disc brakes from the production Bronco and adds upgraded pads. At the same time, the electric power-assisted steering system with upgraded inner tie rod joints makes for increased articulation.

Race-focused Built Wild innovative design

More than a muscular fiberglass race body that builds on the heritage-inspired style of the sixth-generation Bronco, the first-ever Bronco D.R. helps to ensure maximum off-road performance while nodding to the brand's rich competition history.

"It's not just a Bronco with some stripes on it," said Paul Wraith, Bronco chief designer. This is an off-road racing vehicle built out of a production vehicle. "We were inspired by extreme rally cars, and then went all in. For this skunkworks project, the Bronco team quickly found a theme and developed CAD with heavy use of virtual tools. We're so happy to have been involved."

Behind the resin transfer molded (RTM) fiberglass body panels, the Bronco DR retains the four-door model's frame and body structure. The air conditioning system, other interior amenities, and all-glass have been removed for desert racing optimization and weight saving. The side panels, which take the place of standard doors, are influenced by Bronco R. The tubular metal front bumper and a host of other features draw a connection with the current production model. Bronco DR wears a single-piece grille, production round headlamps, taillamps, and trail sights.

The Bronco DR's purpose-built and race-focused cockpit feature the Bronco four-door's familiar instrument panel with signature grab handles and power dome. Cool air intakes dominate the upper body to further its capabilities, and Bronco DR is finished in the distinctive Bronco race livery of red, white, black, and blue.

Growing the Bronco motorsports legacy

The Bronco desert racing portfolio that dates back to the Hall-Minor 1969 Baja win has grown over the years, as the first-generation Bronco went on to claim Baja 1000 class wins in 1967, 1969 (the only-ever 4x4 outright win ever), 1971, and 1972, plus two overall Baja 500 victories in 1970 and 1973. Later model year Broncos, 1978 to 1995, continued the legendary winning streak with nine Baja 500 Class 3 wins from 2004 to 2015 and 15 Baja 1000 Class 3 wins between 2002 and 2019.

Last fall, the portfolio grew when Shelby Hall, Rod Hall's granddaughter, and Penny Dale drove a Bronco Sport to win the 2020 Rebelle Rally X-Cross class. A month later, the Bronco R prototype competed at the 53rd SCORE-International Baja 1000.

Whereas the purpose of Bronco R was to prove out the 2021 Bronco powertrain, chassis, and suspension design, Bronco DR arrives with a completely different mission – offering a turnkey racing solution for severe off-road competitors. Its entire purpose is to compete in world-class off-road competitions.

"This is a ground-up build, which is a bit unique in itself," said Rushbrook. "At the heart of what we did here captured the enthusiasm surrounding Bronco, and then build on it by creating a desert racer that is competition-ready coming out of the factory – something Ford has never done before."

Marc Stern has been an automotive writer since 1971 when an otherwise normal news editor said, "You're our new car editor," and dumped about 27 pounds of auto stuff on my desk. I was in heaven as I have been a gearhead from my early days. As a teen, I spent the usual number of misspent hours hanging out at gas stations Shell and Texaco (a big thing in my youth) and working on cars. From there on, it was a straight line to my first column for the paper, "You Auto Know," an enterprise that I handled faithfully for 32 years. Not many people know that I also handled computer documentation for a good part of my living while writing YAN. My best writing, though, was always in cars. My work has appeared in Popular Mechanics, Mechanix Illustrated, AutoWeek, SuperStock, Trailer Life, Old Cars Weekly, Special Interest Autos, and others. You can follow me on: Twitter or Facebook.