By now the fact Ford finally brought back the Bronco 4×4 is old news. In case you were living under a rock, people like the new Bronco. A lot.
In large part, the all-new Bronco owes its early success to the original 1966-77 Bronco, which remains a highly-collectible design icon. As nice as the re-born Bronco looks, we’re still partial to the OG. You just can’t replace a classic.
Thankfully, the original Bronco is still very much alive and kicking, due to the meticulous work of Zero Labs Automotive.
This Hawthorne, California-based shop breathes new life into original Broncos, restoring and modifying them to better-than-new condition and boosting performance with a new, fully electric drivetrain.
Yes, the all-electric Bronco is already here, and it’s amazing.
Version 2.0 of the Bronco electrified by Zero Labs has around 380 km of driving range (a 24 per cent increase from the previous version). And, power is up to 600 (!!) horsepower, which is – wait for it – a 471 per cent improvement over the original Bronco.
Each restoration from Zero Labs is handmade and built to order, and retains the VIN number and classic status of the original Bronco on which it’s based. Prices start at approximately US$185,000.
We asked Adam Roe, founder and CEO of Zero Labs, to tell us more about the company and his electric vision.
Why choose to electrify the Bronco?
This was by no means intended to be a “Bronco only” company; that was what we started with because that was what inspired it. I started Zero Labs right after I sold my advertising and marketing agency at the end of 2015. Because I was a long-time collector of classic vehicles I, like many collectors back then, was caught in between a love of the past, but a growing responsibility to a better future.
Why Broncos? I remember a drive back from Mammoth Mountain in my last combustion Bronco and the motor cut out on the drive down and, for one glorious moment, I had full steering control but the only sound I heard was the wheels on the road and the wind coming off the mountains. It was magical – “this is it” I said to myself, and from that moment I dug in and read anything I could on the subject of batteries, conversion, and the entire history of electric cars. The plan for Zero Labs was to solve for that. To provide owners everything they love minus everything they hate: the silhouette and form of a classic with a fully modern and upgradable EV chassis. A way to love the past without impact to the future.
We are now engineering several models for release this month and next year.
For you, what’s at the core of the enduring appeal of older vehicles?
There is a lot to unpack here. Every generation has their vehicles they respond to. My parents loved the DB5, Mustangs, Corvettes. For my generation it was utility trucks. Defender 110/90’s, Toyota Land Cruisers, Scouts, and of course the Broncos.
The first generation Bronco was a competitor to the Scout and CJ-5 Jeep, adopting many of their features but without the reasons. The CJ-5 was influenced by the popularity of the Bantum and Willy’s M38A1 for the Army and Marines in the Korean War, complete with the fold-down windshield to make room for large caliber machine guns. Soldiers came back from the war and the fame of those Bantums and M38A1s spread. That set up the format’s appeal. Broncos never had big caliber machine guns but retained the same fold down windshield and removable top.
The Bronco created its own appeal, targeting farmers, fly fishermen, fathers, campers, outdoor enthusiasts. It was trying to be the Marlboro cigarette man of classic vehicles. Rugged, confident, simple, not afraid to get dirty and almost always seen away from paved roads. In fact if you look back at the old advertisements, a cigarette may be the only thing missing. The first generation Bronco seen today is interesting in that it lends itself to a variety of roles, as an overbuilt off-road rock crawler, or a California beach cruiser, or just a statement of understated elegance, an appeal to a simpler time. The same vehicle could be styled to say completely different things about the owner. They only made them for 11 years before this aesthetic was killed off, leaving them frozen in time like Bruce Lee, Hendrix, Cobain – their time just stopped and nothing in their aesthetic carried that forward into later generation Broncos. That’s why it remains special. Jeep as a brand are more like Paul McCartney; they kept going and, to their credit, still look like Jeeps. That’s great for Jeep, but it does not make the classics difficult to find.
So, can we get an electric Bronco up here in Canada?
They can be imported. We make them to order and are even making a right-hand drive Bronco for one of our European customers. That engineering will be bonkers, but why not?