The Ford Bronco and the Jeep Wrangler are two of the most storied names in off-roading. With more than 140 combined years and counting of taking people over rocky hills, dunes, muddy trails, and other terrain, they’re recognized well beyond the off-roading communities to which they cater. In a way, they’re what Harley-Davidson is to motorcycles. People who have never been on a motorcycle know Harley-Davidson, and people who have never seen a dirt road know the Bronco and the Wrangler.
It can be tricky paying homage to one’s automotive past while also blazing into the future—but Ford and Jeep are striving to do so. The 2024 Ford Bronco Heritage Edition and 2024 Jeep Wrangler Willys take the latest models of these iconic vehicles and attempt to give them a makeover that’s simultaneously retro and oh-so-modern. Did these famed automakers succeed? We wanted to find out. Here’s how the Ford Bronco Heritage and Jeep Wrangler Willys keep the legacies of their predecessors alive all these years later.
A History of Getting Off the Beaten Path
First, we need to take a quick look at what these vehicles are a tribute to. Let’s start with the Jeep Wrangler Willys—not just because it’s the older of the two, but because the history of it and the Bronco are directly intertwined. The story of the Jeep brand began in June 1940 when the United States Army announced it was taking bids for the development of a light reconnaissance vehicle. Of the 135 automakers the Army approached, three were up for the challenge: Willys-Overland, Ford, and Bantam.
By November 1940, the trio had together developed a prototype now known as the Willy Quad, so named for its four-wheel drive system. From there, each manufacturer came up with its own advanced production version, with the Willys MB and the Ford GPW emerging as the prominent Jeeps. Throughout World War II, nearly 650,000 combined MBs and GPWs were produced and used by the Allies for battlefield combat, plowing snow, pumping water, and many more tasks.
When the war ended, Willys-Overland converted the Willys MB into the Jeep CJ and other civilian Jeep vehicles, even dropping its existing passenger cars. Meanwhile, Ford initially returned to regular vehicle production. But two decades later, Ford decided to put its Jeep knowledge to use by developing a new all-purpose vehicle—one that could go off-road while also being comfortable to drive on main roads. They even went so far in the early 1960s as to poll existing Jeep owners as to what they liked and what they thought could be improved on.
The result was the Ford Bronco, which was officially introduced in August 1965. Sharing a naming convention with the Ford Mustang that debuted the previous year, the Bronco was meant to have the best features of a car and a truck. Its variants included the open-air Roadster, the full-top Wagon, and the pickup bed Sports Utility––this final version is considered the birth of the term “sport utility vehicle”—and the Bronco became an instant hit as everything from a family vehicle to an off-road racing machine.
The Tradition Lives On
Today, we have the Ford Bronco Heritage Edition and the Jeep Wrangler Willys that hearken back to the origins of these fabled SUVs. Both models include plenty of retro call-outs on top of modern performance and convenience features. Having set the stage, let’s dig into the newest vehicles bearing the classic nameplates.
2024 Ford Bronco Heritage Edition
First introduced for the 2023 model year, the Bronco Heritage Edition comes with two-door or four-door options. Like its ancestors, this SUV is made to take you anywhere. It’s even in the name of the built-in terrain management system officially known as “Goes Over Any Type of Terrain,” or GOAT for short. There are six GOAT modes in the Heritage Edition:
- Mud and Ruts
In addition, you get the Sasquatch Package that features a HOSS 2.0 suspension, 35-inch all-terrain tires, fender flares, and electronic-locking axles. Like the original Bronco, you’re getting the most advanced Ford setup of its time for going over roads and trails or making your own.
This next-level design is paired with shout-outs to the Bronco’s glorious history. Plaid was hugely popular in the 1960s, and with the 2024 Bronco Heritage Edition, what’s old is new again. The seats are upholstered in blue plaid cloth that is cozy in all seasons. It’s like sitting on grandma’s snuggly sofa whenever you go for a drive. The Heritage Edition also has Oxford white wheels and a matching hardtop and grille in honor of the first Broncos made—you even get red Ford grille lettering and classic Bronco fender script.
There’s also a Heritage Limited Edition that pairs the white hardtop and grille with “dog dish” wheels that have a black center and whitewall accents. Other cool added features include a powder-coated steel front bumper to protect that beautiful grille, bash panels to shield the underbody from debris, and bolt-on front and rear fenders for easy removal. The standard convenience features include options like remote start and heated front seats. As you can see, it’s a vehicle that looks old-school while being at the forefront of all-terrain performance.
2024 Jeep Wrangler Willys
Like its Ford counterpart, the Jeep Wrangler Willys takes its visual cues from the original Willys-Overland military vehicles and its driving cues from present-day Jeeps. It’s built with off-roading in mind first and foremost, with several upgrades to this end. Among the ways the Wrangler Willys takes you over rough terrain like its predecessors are:
- Standard 33-inch mud terrain tires for tackling the toughest slope.
- Higher fender flares to accommodate the bigger tires.
- A Trac-Lok locking rear differential that reduces wheel spin and increases grip.
- Steel rock rails to catch flying rocks and branches before they damage the finish.
- Auxiliary switches for adding winches, light bars, trailers, and more.
True to the tradition of modifying and customizing Jeeps, you can get other add-ons like the Xtreme 35 tire packages and a push-button power top to enjoy nice weather. As for the appearance, the grille and front bumper are painted gloss black and stylized like the Willys MB. You also get “Willys” decals on the hood—in the same place where identification markings were placed on the Willys MB—and a “4 Wheel Drive” decal on the rear.
Modern SUVs With a Vintage Vibe
Sport utility and off-road vehicles literally wouldn’t be what they are today without the Ford Bronco and Willys-Overland Jeep. In some ways, nothing has changed since the mid-20th century—the Ford Bronco Heritage Edition is still designed for doing anything and everything, while the Jeep Wrangler Willys is still the vehicle for when you want to be off-road and nowhere else.
Even as they continue to set the bar higher, these iconic models haven’t forgotten their roots. We’re excited to see the 2024 Bronco Heritage Edition and 2024 Wrangler Willys putting their legacy front and center rather than shunning it like others might. Through a combination of classic styling and features to do more of what the originals were made to do, these machines are a satisfying link to yesteryear.