Southern SUV: 1985 Ford Bronco II XLT 5-speed

Scotty GilbertsonBy Scotty Gilbertson

In a world… (in my best overly-dramatic movie announcer voice).. of gigantic, posh, coddling SUVs, this 1985 Ford Bronco II XLT is a breath of fresh air, or it is in my world. This right-sized 4×4 is listed on eBay with less than a day left and an unmet opening bid of $3,750. It’s located in Opelika, Alabama.

Other than some peeling silver paint and slightly dull and/or faded red paint, the body on this Bronco II looks good. the seller says that it’s “RUST FREE and never been on salty roads! Very sound body and drive train.” This is a small vehicle at just over 13-feet long, so it helped the storage capacity to have the spare mounted outside rather in the back.

Ahh.. the 80s were such an awkward time, especially in regard to vehicle stance, or lack thereof. You can see why the Bronco II had a bit of a reputation as a roll-over hazard. The seller got this Bronco II from his dad who bought it new and he says that it has “cruise control and it is a 4 wheel drive, although my dad never put it in 4 wheel drive or took it off road.”

There are no engine photos but this l’il rig should have Ford’s 2.8L Cologne V6 with 115 hp. This example also has a 5-speed manual which is always nice. The interior looks great other than a little chunk missing from the driver’s seat. They say that it has “new tires, new starter, new fuel system including new fuel tank, new fuel pump and new carburetor!  This truck also has a NEW radiator and radiator hoses. Runs fine BUT as with many old fords, she is slow to wake up.” I really like the size of these old Bronco IIs, have any of you owned one?

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Comments

  1. Monte

    I had an ‘89 Eddie Bauer 2 wheel drive one, it was great!!

    3
  2. CanuckCarGuy

    A big fan of the Ranger, and its SUV brother the Bronco II; this one seems reasonable in both condition and price, and that red interior is awesome! If I recall correctly, there was an aftermarket kit available that made the rear side windows removable (?).

    5
  3. PaulG

    These filled a niche in the day, smaller, lighter, and supposedly more fuel efficient.
    The one thing that bothers me with this body style is the 3″ piece of rain gutter between the rear side window and rear hatch. Just looks strange…

    3
    • Glen Martin

      I believe that 3″ piece was there specifically so you could mount roof racks for a car top carrier or ski racks, such as what I used on mine. One of the best little vehicles that I have owned.

      1
    • zimme008

      Was handy to have if you wanted to put a set of rooftop carriers on though, as I did often with my ’88.

      1
  4. Jimmy

    My boss back in the 80’s had one 2 wheel drive and I used to needle him that when is that thing going to grow up and be a 4×4. He drove that everyday for years to work and back in northern Illinois until the rust ate it up but it still ran.

    4
  5. Sanity Factor

    I combined a rolled 4×4 w low miles w a solid 2wd body….ran good reliable 4wd was great…scary on the interstate tho

    1
  6. Coventrycat

    I love these things. They’re just the right size, like everything starts out as, then we demand to have them made bigger. If I wanted to drive a Peterbilt everyday, I’d buy one.

    7
  7. Ike Onick

    I drove one from 1985 to 1995. A couple of things: Severe carb icing issues on cool, damp days. It would stall at the worst possible times and the straight axle rear suspension would allow it to hop on a bumpy road to the point it could switch lanes without any input from the driver. Can’t believe I drove it 10 years in a cool, damp and lousy road area.

    6
  8. JP

    I had 2 Bronco II’s a 1985 like the one posted the 2 draw backs to that one was the solid lifters and it had a carburetor. I bought a brand new 2 year old left over 1988 XL Sport and it was one of the best vehicles I ever had , I actually still own it ! The 88 Bronco II has 238,000 miles and the valve covers have never been off of the engine . its had tune ups an couple exhaust systems, it still has the original clutch! No major issues Ford did a great job on it and i wish they would come back with a smaller version. I own a 2008 Escape its nice but its not 1/2 the vehicle its Bronco II predecessor was!!

    3
  9. Alex

    I love these Broncos I was planning to buy a 1986 Ford Bronco 2. But the tranny not caughting gear but I got full-size Bronco for the same prices. I would love to have this one.

    1
  10. Traner

    The Bronco II has a pretty good Wikipedia article, check out the “safety controversy” section. Gems like…”The safety record was “frightening” with “one in 500 Bronco II’s ever produced was involved in a fatal rollover.” Automobile insurer GEICO stopped writing insurance policies for the Bronco II.”

    2
  11. David

    I have never owned a better vehicle than the ranger

    6
  12. hatofpork

    Had one for ten years-bought it with 104k and sold it, still running fine with 225k on it. Good vehicles-a little twitchy if you’re not careful
    but reliable if maintained.

    3
  13. Jett

    I wish the manufacturers would go back on a large scale to smaller, more fuel-efficient SUV’s like this. The suburban, Yukon xl and expedition are practically pointless, considering most of them are driven with less than three people at any given time. A modern 3.0L V-6 would easily give you 300 hp and 400 lb/ft, tow anything but a 45 foot fifth wheel (don’t even get me started on those…), the 4×4 drivetrain would get you through any reasonable off road excursion (pardon the pun), and a six speed transmission would give you 30 mpg. Add in two more rear doors, and a vehicle the size of a mid-80’s Cherokee would more than suffice for 95% of drivers and driving.

    6
    • Miguel

      Does the Chevrolet Traxx fit the bill?

      • Jett

        Personally, I’d say no. It’s not a legitimate SUV, being car-based, so it should be considered a crossover, or what some companies call a soft-roader. There’s no way it could be taken off-road like even a base Jeep 4×4, given that it has the ground clearance of a sedan, and limited suspension travel. Gravel or snowy roads are about the limit of what a vehicle like that is capable of. Jeep had a good idea with the Patriot for ten years, Ford’s coming out with the Bronco again, gm could expand on their Trailblazer model. Lighter, more nimble vehicles with a powerful engine just make more sense to me then the behemoths that suv’s morphed into in the 90’s. Hell, I’d take a Wrangler over a Hummer.

        1
  14. jdjonesdr

    I was no Ford lover in my younger days; I was GM all the way, mainly due to a couple of Ford lemons.

    I look at this little guy now, and honestly don’t know why I didn’t like them back then. This is a killer little honest 4 x 4 truck.

    As much as everyone goes nuts for the earlier Broncos, I don’t understand why there isn’t a bidding war on this one.

    3
  15. Howard A Member

    The newest Bronco collectible? Go ahead and laugh, but we never thought a 1st gen Bronco would bring 5 figures someday. These are actually really good trucks, and I read, only slightly bigger than the original, and a heck of a lot more civilized. The farm I lived on in Wis., the guy had one of these as his “bouncing through the woods” truck. It was in understandably in poor shape, and I don’t care for the V6, but it still slogged around the farm. 5 figures someday? We’ll see. In the meantime, for a 4×4, can’t go wrong here.

    3
  16. bobk

    Mine was an ’84. Same paint pattern but black and silver. 2.8l, 5 speed. 4×4 w/Warn lockout hubs. Loved that little SUV. Drove the heck out of it. I will always regret having the “highly regarded” local engine shop rebuild (half-assed would be generous) the engine. Never ran properly after that. And then a teenager t-boned me in his mom’s minivan and tried to blame it on me. Thank god for witnesses.

    5
  17. tasker

    Have a had a few of these…..302 powered in a small truck in the woods =fun!

    7
    • Jett

      A 302? Good call—a trashed Mustang or Crown Vic would be all you need for a daily drivable off-roader.

      1
  18. ICEMAN from Winnipeg

    My Dad had an 1984 Bronco 11. When in two wheel drive, very scary handling in snow or rain. But when the 4×4 was locked in, it was very capable on rough terrain or deep snow.

    2
  19. zimme008

    My ’88 Bronco II came with a 2.9L V-6 that was rated at 140 hp. More than enough to keep the little Bronco moving while going easy on the fuel; at least by ’80’s standards. Great little truck, especial with the Mazda 5-speed tranny.

    3
  20. Marathon06

    Already gone, looks like someone got this Bronco II

    1
  21. Andrew

    For that much money you could get an early 90s Ranger or explorer. Both were much more reliable vehicles…

    2
  22. TinCanSailor

    I loved my 88 Bronco II XLT 2WD. I put about 190,000 miles on it, and I never had an issue with it. That truck got 27 mpg for me – mostly highway driving. It had an amazing turning ratio, could fit where big trucks couldn’t, and was just a blast to drive.

    I traded it in on a 95 Dodge Intrepid that ended up being my wife’s car. And then I only had the wife 2 years after the trade in… I should have kept the Bronco II… go figure!

    1
  23. John

    I owned two of these little guys, both XLT trim and 5-speed trannies. I know one was an 85 but can’t recall the year of the other. Both were good little trucklets and even did OK pulling a small trailer when we went camping.

    The 85 got me safely home from work one night in the worst blizzard we had in years. I picked up two coworkers on my way in that day and got both of them home, and about an hour later got myself the 10 miles to my house. Didn’t get stuck till I was halfway down my own driveway!

    2
  24. Chebby Member

    I never cared for these back in the day but the styling looks really good now. Can’t recall the last time I saw one.

    2
    • Jett

      Depends where you live. I see them here all the time, but light trucks and SUV’s account for about half of the vehicles in this city, so it’s just a numbers game.

  25. Wrong Way

    If this little truck is as good as it looks someone got a great deal at $3750.00! Worth every penny of that all day long! They are great trucks

    2
  26. David Ulrey

    Didn’t really care for them when they were new but that certainly has changed! I absolutely love my 85. It’s just right for me and for my needs. Plus getting compliments on it 4 or 5 times a week doesn’t exactly offend me either. Lol

    1
  27. sluggo

    They filled a role at the time, and nostalgia for them now, But the later ones and 1990s Rangers were also a mechanics nightmare. Some powertrains and motors held up well, But go ahead and pull the manual trans w transfer case on one of these and THEN sing its praises! A nightmare to work on. Also, a STUPID Idea Ford had was making the hydraulic clutch non servicable. Most systems will last forever IF you bleed them once a year or even every 2. But the slave cyl is INSIDE the bell housing and no access. So hope like hell it doesnt go out or you get to pull the whole mess apart again. You can suck out the fluid with a mityvac but run the risk of screwing up the seals, We have a 4wd ranger sitting here with the hydraulics out, and not sure its worth the trouble to pull it apart. Thinking of selling it and let someone else take it on. I hate working on systems people make it impossible to service.

    1
  28. Ike Onick

    The other cool thing about our Bronco II was the amount of time spent “shopping”. At the time there were just three small SUV’s to consider: Bronco II, Chevy Blazer, and the Cherokee. We did our shopping in one evening on “Auto Row” (Delaware Ave.) in the suburbs of Buffalo. The Toyota and Nissan products were non-factors at the time.Obviously that changed over the years.

    1
  29. Brian

    Bought an 86 Bronco II new, put 229,000 miles on it before I sold it. Last I heard it was still being used regularly.

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