You have to hand it to Ford. When the company brought the Bronco back to life, not only did Ford retain the feel of the 2004 Bronco concept, but Ford also debuted a gnarly (if less-boxy) off-roader by applying what it learned after making the F-150 Raptor. This culminated in the Bronco Raptor, which will sadly never be sold as a two-door SUV that resembles a pickup. And, yet, the Bronco Raptor isn’t the gnarliest compound animal from the Ford stable. That honor goes to the Bronco Lobo concept, which was an early ’80s fever dream.
First of all, this thing has the name LOBO in its name, which automatically makes it cool. We’ve seen pseudo-pickup styling with classic Broncos, which can be made to look like a snub-nosed pickup, à la International Harvester Scout. There’s a wild horse out there known as the Bronco Lobo that favored truck design and merged the look of a midsize pickup truck and SUV — sort of like the new Bronco would come to do so in 2021, albeit underneath its exterior design.
Today’s Bronco Raptor is based on the base model Bronco, which is based on the Ranger. Some 40-odd years ago, the Bronco Lobo concept also borrowed from Ford’s smaller truck at the time, the Ford Courier, predecessor to the Ford Ranger, which would not be released until 1983.
The Bronco Lobo debuted at the 1981 Chicago Auto Show but it had little in common with early Ford Bronco models. It was reportedly built atop the frame of a first-generation Bronco, a 1977 model, per Motor Trend. Different sources call it either the Bronco Lobo or Bronco Montana Lobo, making it the “Horse Wolf” or “Horse Mountain Wolf,” which is nonsense. But it sure sounds cool!
Both Ford and Ford Performance call it simply the Bronco Lobo, but the truck is labeled Montana Lobo in promo, down at its license plate. The Bronco Lobo was an overbuilt machine powered by a 5.0-liter V8 with a solid Dana 44 front axle. There are side-mounted exhaust pipes and louvres and a roll-bar with off-road auxiliary lights. Well, more of a roll-plank.
There’s not much on the Bronco Lobo that looks easily recognizable as a Bronco or F-150, or Courier, for that matter. The concept was not a full-size nor compact truck, and neither was it an SUV. It was somewhere in between, although the concept has more in common with a truck. When we look at it closer, we can see that it aspires to be more than a two- or three-seater. There are two rows of bench seats in the bed, tucked inside of its sail pillars.
Other trail toys on the Bronco Lobo include its heavy-duty bumper, winch, and all-terrain tires. The sealed beam headlights were tucked under a protective grille. And the white wheels are particularly good. Oh, did I mention it has bubble doors? I suspect the real reason the Bronco Lobo never came out wasn’t that the concept would have been hard to repeat on an assembly line, but that other carmakers pleaded with Ford, asking it to refrain from dominating the SUV and truck space for the next decade or so with the radical Bronco Lobo.