MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of Ford Motor Company Archives
Published 9.02.2020

McKinley Thompson working at Ford 1950s Ford Motor Company Archives 1McKinley Thompson working at Ford, 1950s (Ford Motor Company Archives) 

McKinley Thompson Jr. was born on November 8, 1922 in New York City. After receiving his Bachelor of Professional Arts degree in industrial design in 1956 from Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, he joined the Ford Motor Company’s design staff. He was hired by Alex Tremulis, who designed the famous Tucker automobile before moving to Ford.

Pencil drawing of the original Ford Bronco design Ford Motor Company Archives RESIZED 2Pencil drawing of the original Ford Bronco design (Ford Motor Company Archives)

At Ford, Thompson worked as a designer and later a senior designer in the car, truck and tractor design studios. Later, his great talent landed him a management position. His hard work and determination created a style and enabled him to become the first African American designer to create many iconic vehicles that Americans would thoroughly enjoy.

Pencil drawing of 3 views of the original Ford Bronco design Ford Motor Company Archives RESIZED 3Pencil drawing of 3 views of the original Ford Bronco design (Ford Motor Company Archives)

One of the most iconic vehicles designed by Thompson was the Ford Bronco, originally manufactured during the 1960s. The model was introduced to the public with great publicity and particularly good advertising in August 1965. The first Ford Bronco was a four-wheel-drive utility vehicle that was manufactured in roadster, sport utility and wagon models. One of the most popular body styles for the Bronco was the wagon series, which came equipped with a longer removable top than the sport utility model. It also incorporated side windows and a liftgate. Many consumers thoroughly enjoyed the Bronco styling.

1963 proposal design for the Ford Bronco Ford Motor Company Archives RESIZED 41963 proposal design for the Ford Bronco (Ford Motor Company Archives)

By 1967, the Bronco was becoming more popular with the service community, like gas stations and other businesses. There was also a high demand for them as snow removal vehicles. The 1968 Bronco offered extraordinarily little change in design. The models were distinguished by their front side marker lights and rear quarter panel reflectors. The Bronco’s basic design stayed mostly the same all the way through the 1977 model year. For 1978, the larger Ranger XLT was introduced.

1966 Ford Bronco exterior Ford Motor Company Archives 51966 Ford Bronco exterior (Ford Motor Company Archives)

Today, the Ford is making history again by bringing back the iconic Bronco. “The first edition Bronco is built for those who waited patiently for the legend’s return to the wilderness,” the company stated in a press release.

1973 Ford Bronco exterior Ford Motor Company Archives RESIZED 61973 Ford Bronco exterior (Ford Motor Company Archives)

The new Bronco offers a great design, and I know people are going to buy it because of the huge buzz surrounding its styling and appeal. Ford wanted extreme performance for its new Bronco. It offers a high mounted air intake and best in class ground clearance for the driver and passengers for great riding pleasure. Also, there is a sasquatch package offered on every Ford Bronco series, which includes 35-inch tires with 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels, and front and rear-locking differential trail control. There is also a high-clearance suspension and high-clearance fender flares on the new models as well.

The 2021 Ford Bronco Ford Motor Company 7The 2021 Ford Bronco (Ford Motor Company)

In conclusion, as the new Ford Bronco launches with an exciting design for 2021, a lot of credit has been given to the talented African American designer Chris Young for the vehicle’s design, following in the footsteps of McKinley Thompson.

2021 Ford Bronco under the stars Ford Motor Company RESIZED 82021 Ford Bronco under the stars (Ford Motor Company)

Two 2021 Ford Broncos Ford Motor Company RESIZED 9Two 2021 Ford Broncos (Ford Motor Company)
Two 2021 Ford Broncos Ford Motor Company RESIZED 10Two 2021 Ford Broncos (Ford Motor Company)
Bibliography   

Wagner, James K.  “Ford Trucks Since 1905.” Crestline Publishing, 1978.

2021 Ford Bronco website.

McKinley W. Thompson Jr. Bibliography History.