The quest for off-road driving adventure, the one that the 1966-1977

Ford Bronco

would help bring to new markets, began shortly after World War II when returning GIs made ex-military Jeeps as much a part of the American scene as Coca-Colas and Lucky Strikes.

Throughout the 1950S, exploring in four-wheel-drive vehicles -- mostly by Jeep -- was pretty much an unorganized affair. By the early 1960S, its momentum spawned a support system of aftermarket industries, magazines, clubs, and well-organized events.

These factors brought more makes to compete with the Jeep, but none of the Big Three was tempted to take the plunge into this new market until Lee Iacocca and a few others at Ford saw its potential.

Early off-roading was limited primarily to weekend exploration in groups. Then, in 1965, one Brian Chuchua organized the first off-road races held on a dry riverbed near Riverside, California. His Riverside Grand Prix, which pitted two vehicles at a time against each other, was an instant success.

But now there was a two-pronged market for 4x4s emerging. Pure off-road use was already strong and growing. Spinning off from it was a new market that wanted four-wheelers more for suburban status than flying dust.

It was in this environment that Ford introduced the Bronco in August 1965 as a 1966 model. The Bronco came in part as an answer to the growing popularity of off-road vehicles and in part to tap the new market beyond the back country.