Before January even began, we christened 2019 “the year of the Bronco.” After the declaration, we proceeded to digitally drool all over our favorite variant at the time: Ford-approved first-gen models from Gateway.
But to err is human, and we must retract that award. The new recipient: Zero Labs, a company making “the world’s first 100% electric classic Ford Bronco.”
We can understand electric Bronco and we understand classic Bronco, but what does “electric classic” mean?
Here, Zero Labs “starts with an original Bronco chassis, then restores it and rebuilds from there,” as Autoblog writes. That means we’re in restomod territory, as Gateway was before they got Ford’s blessing. But while some restomods are authentic and others are fugly, this is in a whole other class entirely.
The straight-six engine of yesteryear has been exchanged for a BorgWarner electric motor and an unspecified 70 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. We could home in on the potential 369 ponies or 190-mile range, but the beauty of this particular EV isn’t in the specs.
The reason people are going to shell out for this potentially blasphemous, definitely anachronistic Bronco that looks like the runner-up to the DeLorean for Doc’s Back to the Future time machine is much simpler: it’s got a manual transmission. Car snobs of the world, unite!
Specifically, we’re talking a five-speed manual transmission paired with an Atlas two-speed transfer case, and according to Zero Labs it can be configured as a part-time or full-time four-wheel drive vehicle.
But the real manual diehards out there aren’t falling for the bait that easily. Anyone who’s double-clutched knows that manual transmissions are not in any way necessary in EVs. But what people may not know, until now, is that they’re 100% possible.
That leads to the elephant in the room: Why?
Is a classic Ford Bronco a practical vehicle? No, that’s partly why the 2020 comeback won’t look anything like the ‘65 original. Are manual transmissions relevant? Barely, and getting less relevant every year, with just 2% of vehicles sold with them in 2018. But there is huge subjective sentimental value and at least a little objective historical value to reviving a dead or decaying classic car while keeping its soul intact: even if the mechanics of powering this Bronco are different, the mechanics of driving it remain unchanged (the Bronco was exclusively manual from 1965 to 1972).
The other obvious criticism is that, for the prices that these cost, couldn’t they just do authentic restorations instead of electric restomods? Maybe. But responsible companies like Zero Labs and Gateway aren’t starting with driveable Broncos. The chassis they build these new cars from are taken from junkers, and the point is to both future-proof them and get them out on the road instead of sitting in some investor’s automotive portfolio.
Plus, only 150 first-edition premium Broncos are being planned by Zero Labs at the moment, so it’s not like they’re drastically depleting the supply.
If you’re a classic Bronco lover, EV enthusiast and one-percenter (as these will likely sell for $250-$300K), you can reserve one here. And if you’re only the first two out of three, you can still head over to read more and watch the rest of Zero Labs’ glorious videos before calling your accountant to try and move some things around.
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