Fans of the Ford Bronco Sport, Ford’s subcompact SUV, and its little sibling, the off-road-ready Bronco Sport, might have noticed something new in the 2024 lineup: a colorful throwback to the 1970s.
For the 2024 model year, Ford announced the release of the retro-looking Free Wheeling trim. (Just so those looking for a Ford Bronco Sport for sale are aware, it is not actually capable of “free wheeling,” which involves disengaging the engine from the rear wheels, essentially letting the road determine the speed of the vehicle.) The trim name “Free Wheeling” refers more to the carefree feeling you’ll have when you get rolling in this spunky vessel.
The 2024 Ford Bronco Sport Free Wheeling gets red, orange, and yellow stripes running the full length of the sides of the vehicle that resemble that nostalgic 1970s sunset aesthetic, and you get similarly colorful inserts in the wheels. This trim exudes that groovy Carter-era look and, in fact, is a remake of a 1970s Ford offering.
During the age of disco and bell bottoms, Ford introduced a Free Wheeling package for their existing models at the time, including the F-150 and the since-discontinued Econoline, a commercial passenger van. At first glance, one might think that the new Free Wheeling Bronco Sport is meant to appeal to the generation that got their licenses back when the original Free Wheeling trim came out, but Ford states it’s actually made to appeal to young drivers who have taken an interest in all things retro. (In case you haven’t noticed Gen Z’s current obsession with velour tracksuits and polyester floral blouses, among other retro aesthetics.) To celebrate this fun new—or rather, old-made-new-again—trim, here’s a look at some of the most iconic 1970s Fords to which the Free Wheeling pays homage…
The Original Ford Bronco
Let’s kick things off with the original Ford Bronco itself—the big brother to the Ford Bronco Sport and the vehicle that really started Ford’s now long-standing history of making great off-road vehicles. The first Bronco was out in 1966. Ford called it an “all-purpose four-wheel drive vehicle” and advertised its excellent approach and departure angles, high ground clearance, and “tough underside.”
The first Bronco came with either what Ford described as a “spirited six” engine or a V8. It kicked out a maximum horsepower of 205—a measly figure by today’s standards but impressive power for its time.
Drivers of the current-day Bronco wouldn’t even recognize the interior of the first one. It had vinyl full-width seats, a padded instrument panel, and what Ford called “energy-absorbing sun visors.” Rubber cushions throughout the vehicle were said to help absorb shock and vibration in off-road environments.
While today’s Bronco is a full-size SUV, the first one was available as either a “Sport Wagon” or a “Sport Pickup.” The pickup had a very short bed that looked cut in half by today’s standards. Even back in 1966, the Bronco was capable of doing things like pulling a snow plow or forging moderate levels of water.
The Ford Torino
Ah, the Torino… You might have first fallen in love with it when you spotted it in the iconic 1970s cop show Starsky & Hutch. First out in 1968, the Torino was actually an upscale trim of the midsize Fairlane. Eventually, that formula was turned on its head, and the Torino became its own model, with the Fairlane as a trim. (What a twist!)
You can’t mistake the Torino for anything else. It has a long nose, an angular and muscle-car-esque grille, and an airy sports roof. In Starsky & Hutch, the car had a bright red paint job with a white stripe along the side; in recent years, Ford released a limited number of heritage models with the same paint job.
You have to understand that, at the time, there wasn’t the same focus today on reducing pollution; as such, the “lighter” engine option started at a hefty 3.3L six-cylinder. The upper engine was a massive 7.5L V8.
By 1972, there was a full line of Torinos: the original Torino, the Gran Torino, and the Gran Torino Sport. Throughout its generations, the Torino has had many identities, available as a sedan, station wagon, and muscle car, respectively, at different points. Ford even made Talladega and Cobra versions, meant to be racetrack-ready. Today, if you can snag a Torino, you’ve found yourself a collector’s item.
The Ford Country Squire
If you were to step back in time to the American suburbs of the 1970s and the driveways of busy families, you’d be hard-pressed not to find a station wagon with wood grain along the side. It seemed just about every parent back in the day drove one of these, which Ford referred to as their “woodies.”
The Ford Country Squire survived eight generations from the 1950s through 1991, making it one of the longest-running trims from this manufacturer. Where there was a school dropoff or grocery mart parking lot, there were plenty of these wood-paneled wagons.
The Ford Country Squire was a top trim package for several models at the time. It had that iconic woodgrain train that ran the full length of the side, an extremely long frame, and what seemed like endless feet of uninterrupted windows from front to back.
Perhaps one of the most unique features was the rear bench seats that had their backs against the walls and faced each other—toward the center of the vehicle—like the seats of a limousine. If you grew up riding around in these, you probably remember hours of backseat shenanigans with friends in these funky seats—probably playing with Hot Wheels or GI Joes.
Another signature feature was the “Magic Doorgate,” which could swing down like a tailgate and out like a door. If you ever rode in one, you probably remember trying to crawl out the back—and then having your parents scold you for it.
What Else to Expect From the 2024 Bronco Sport Free Wheeling
There’s more to the new Free Wheeling Bronco Sport than sunset stripes on the sidewall. Ford says it will have all of the standard equipment and the drivetrain of the Big Bend trim; that means a standard 1.5L EcoBoost engine with start/stop technology, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and electric power-assisted steering.
As for additional style details, there are silver graphics on the bodyside, liftgate, and hood. On the front, you’ll find a silver-painted grille boasting two-tone Bronco badging. The roof is a striking Shadow Black hue, and the 17-inch high-gloss black wheels get red inserts. Inside, the seat upholstery is dark, but it’s accented with more sunset stripes and ombre stitching for pops of color.
If you’re looking to take a drive down memory lane in a vehicle with throwback style and modern-day capabilities, you’ll love getting behind the wheel of the 2024 Ford Bronco Sport Free Wheeling.
Today’s public craves a combination of two things: nods to a simpler time and a little escape from day-to-day life. The Ford Bronco Sport Free Wheeling gives drivers both, with its looks making you think for a moment that you’ve gone back in time and its rugged abilities helping you explore the great outdoors.