What To Look For When Buying An Early Bronco

Early Broncos have shown to be one of America’s favorite classic vehicles. As each year goes by, the worth of early Broncos slowly increases. It can be an intimidating process if you’re in the market of buying one and it can easily get stressful and overwhelming when you see all the options that are available out there. You’ll probably be asking yourself exactly what you need to look for when buying an early Bronco.

So, what should you look for when buying an early Bronco? Some specific things you should look for when buying an early Bronco are:

  • Title issues
  • Engine and transmission issues
  • Rust
  • Top and doors included
  • Dents
  • Running condition
  • Updated brake system
  • Leaks
  • Suspension issues

I currently own a 1966 Bronco that I am restoring. I bought one in poor condition because I knew I was capable to doing the restoration myself and that I could save money that way. But you may not be looking for a project at all, rather you may want something to instantly enjoy once you purchase it. Either way, this list of suggestions will be a helpful way for you to measure if a certain early Bronco you’re looking at is right for you. I can explain in detail each point and why it’s important to consider them before buying.

Title Issues

One of the first things you should look at before purchasing an early Bronco is the title. The title of a car can really tell you a lot of history about the vehicle itself.

One of the first things you should look at is making sure the VIN (vehicle identification number) matches between the title and the Bronco. The frame has the VIN stamped on it on the passenger side. The body will either have the VIN listed in the glove box or on the drive side kick panel. If the VIN number does not match between the title and the Bronco, that will give you a world of problems when you’re trying to register your classic car. People try to give false or wrong titles usually because they’re hiding something.

Unfortunately, places like Carfax didn’t start doing VIN inspections on cars until cars were produced with 17 digit VINs which was in the early 80’s. So if you’re looking at an early Bronco, chances are there won’t be any record of it, especially any possible records of it being in any sort of accident. This is something you’ll need to ask the seller about and visually inspect yourself.

Another issue you may run into with early Bronco titles is that the seller may claim they don’t have a title because the state didn’t require it to have a title when it was manufactured. While this holds some truth, there’s a good chance the seller is being a little lazy. Unless they have literally been the only owner of this Bronco and bought it straight off the lot, they should have a title from whenever they bought it.

If they claim they don’t have the title, ask if they’d be willing to get one since it would be a lot easier for them than it would be for you to do it; the owner should have registration records that would make it easier for them.

Engine and Transmission Issues

When looking at an early Bronco to buy, it’s always a good idea to look at what engine and transmission it has. There are a few purests out there that claim an early Bronco should remain original and should not have a new engine or transmission. Others say they’d rather have it all switched out so they can drive faster and have more power.

The answer to this all depends on you and what you feel like it’s worth it. Keep in mind that if it does have the stock engine and transmission, you’ll only be able to drive no faster than 50 – 55 miles per hour.

If the early Bronco does have a transplant engine and transmission, ask the owner who did it and what kind of engine and transmission was put into it. This will be able to give you a good idea of how the Bronco will run.


Looking and inspecting for rust on an early Bronco is the most important thing you can do while you’re actually looking at the body of the car. Unless it has fully been restored, chances are there will be rust somewhere on the Bronco.

Aside from outside obvious places you may find rust, there are other places that you can check for rust that’s fairly common to develop in early Broncos. The first place is to check the metal plates under the battery. With a vehicle this old, it’s probably been through a lot of batteries through it’s lifetime and the battery probably occasionally leaked some battery acid.

Battery acid can eat away at metal quickly, and the first place to get hit will be the metal plates underneath the battery holding it in place. Luckily that is a fairly easy fix if you know how to do a little bit of body work.

Some other common places to check are the floorboards, rocker panels, and upper cowl panels. If the early Bronco you’re looking at has carpet in it, it may be a little difficult to check the floorboards for rust. Ask the owner if you can look under the carpet. You can also inspect it by looking underneath the Bronco, though that’s a lot less convenient for you.

Rust isn’t necessarily a factor that should make you say no to the vehicle, but being aware of how much rust the early Bronco has can help you get an idea of what you’ll need to fix. If it is something you do know how to fix, try using the rust as a way to negotiate the price down so you get a better deal.

Top And Doors Included

One of the many reasons the early Bronco is so popular among society is because of it’s many uses. Off-roading, hauling loads, family driving, etc., you can pretty much turn it into what you want. Ford intended for the early Broncos to be this way, so they made the top and doors portable.

When you’re looking at an early Bronco to buy, make sure you understand whether or not the top and/or doors are included. There are some sellers out there who will not include these items simply because they don’t have them anymore or they got damaged and are unusable. It’s always a plus when the door and top come with it, however if they don’t, decide whether or not that’s something you’d prefer having.

If you were planning on having them off anyway then it’s probably not a big deal. If you do want to eventually have them, understand that Bronco tops and doors are pretty expensive parts to buy. Perhaps you can use this as another way to negotiate down the price with the seller.


This may be an obvious suggestion, but dents can be an expensive fix eventually and a lot of people don’t really notice some of them until they’ve bought their vehicle and brought it home. Do a thorough inspect of the body and try to find any dents. Look in less obvious places such as where the top latches on to the Bronco body, under the hood, wheel wells, etc.

While dents don’t affect the early Bronco’s ability to run, it will be something that will really bug you down the road. Body work is the most expensive component to any vehicle, especially if you don’t know how to do it yourself. Granted, it is not something you HAVE to fix. Decide what works for you and what you feel like is worth it.

Running Condition

Once you’ve done a look-over the body and completed as thorough of an inspection as you can, you’ll want to see whether or not the Bronco runs. Some sellers are hesitant to let other people drive their classic car if it does run, so if the seller tells you no to a test-drive don’t take it too personally.

The seller should, however, let you turn on the Bronco if it does run. Try to get a feel of what it’s like turning it over and how it reacts to idling. If it does not run, try asking the seller more questions that can help you get to the bottom of why it’s not running. Best case scenario is that it could just be a matter of a few spark plugs, worst case scenario you’ll need to get a new engine.

If you were planning on getting a new engine anyway, it doesn’t matter whether or not the Bronco runs. If you prefer not to get an early Bronco as a project, simply stay away from any Broncos that don’t run and only buy one that runs well. You’d probably spend more money doing an engine transplant than you would just buying an early Bronco that runs.

Updated Brake System

Vehicles have come a very long with braking systems. The first braking systems created on early cars were revolutionary and they continue to improve over time with newer technology. It’s also very important to perform regular maintenance and updates on them.

Make sure you understand what kind of brake system the early Bronco has that you’re looking into buying. They came stock with drum brakes which are okay, but you have to really work them to be completely safe. A lot of people like to update their brake system to disc brakes because they work much better and are just all around a lot safer.

It’s not a bad thing if the Bronco does not have updated brakes, but it’s sure worth a lot if it does. That can save you a lot of money and time in the future. This is the only update I recommend on all classic cars because they’re much better to have and much easier to control.


Leaks can be an indicator of many things, some of them mild, some of them being a symptom of a bigger problem. But you shouldn’t be extremely worries about little leaks because early Broncos are pretty old cars, so there’s bound to be a leak here or there sometimes.

It may be hard to identify leaks during the brief time you’re there looking at the Bronco. Sometimes leaks are a little finicky and will only do so at certain times. The best time to look for leaks is after you’ve turned on the engine for a few minutes then turn it off. If you notice any leaks coming directly from the engine after doing that, that could be a sign of an engine problem, specifically gaskets.

If you do notice any leaks, try to make it a point to find out where the leak is coming from. Cars, even older ones, have a lot of different kinds of fluids that could be the culprit, so notice the color of the fluid and see where exactly the leak is coming from. Also check for large leak spots underneath the Bronco.

Suspension Issues

Suspension may be a more difficult system to check without actually driving the Bronco. If the seller lets you take the early Bronco out for a test drive, take advantage of that. While you’re out driving, notice how the Bronco handles little bumps, turns, and stops.

Obviously with it being an older vehicle, the suspension isn’t going to act like it’s brand new, but there are big signs you can look for that means it has bad suspension. Such symptoms include rough rides, even over small and minuscule bumps, loud cracking noises, and nose dives while braking.

If you’re unable to take the early Bronco out for a spin either because the seller won’t let you or because the Bronco doesn’t run, there are stationary symptoms you can also look for. Such symptoms include uneven tire treads, leaky shocks, and obvious breaks and cracks in the bushings, bearings, and joints.

Note that if you’ve noticed a certain early Bronco you’re looking at has bad suspension, this is something you will need to fix. Not only is it a comfort issues, it’s also a safety issue and it can cause a lot more damage if not addressed. Again, perhaps you can use this to negotiate down the price with the seller.

Related Questions

How much does it cost to restore an early Bronco? The cost to restore an early Bronco will range between $15,000 – $30,000 if you plan on doing the restoration yourself. If you have someone else restore it for you, your early Bronco restoration will cost between $35,000 – $50,000 if it’s in medium condition. Click here for more info.

How many generations of the Ford Bronco are there? There have been five generations of the Ford Bronco that has been released, with the first generation starting in 1966 and the fifth generation ending in 1996. Ford will soon be releasing the sixth generation.

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