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The Long History of Ford SUV Classics Grows

Sport utility vehicles (SUVs) have been around a lot longer than most people think. Just look to these Ford classics.

In the automotive world, there seems to be a misconception that the SUV is a new concept. While they are more popular today than ever before, SUVs are far from new. These versatile vehicles have been traversing American roads for generations, with no sign of slowing down any time soon.

For proof of the long heritage of SUVs in the automotive market, one needs to look no further than the list below. The five classic Ford Motor Company SUVs included in this list have all made a significant mark on SUV history.

First-Generation Ford Bronco

First available for the 1966 model year, the millions of small SUVs on the roads today can trace their roots largely to this popular vehicle. Interestingly, this initial Bronco was actually offered in three different body styles—a station wagon, a roadster, and even a pickup. There were also four engines available, two straight-6 options and two V8s.

Later generation Broncos would continue to build on the success of this first design, until the line was discontinued in 1996. The Bronco name will forever be etched in SUV history, for a couple reasons. First, Ford has announced that this line will return to production in 2019, so Bronco fans can look forward to an opportunity to own a new version of this classic. Also, it was a 1993 Ford Bronco which was featured in the infamous O.J. Simpson low-speed chase across Los Angeles.

1991 Ford Explorer

The 1991 model year was the first for the Explorer, a line which is still going strong to this day. The original Explorer which hit the market in '90, however, was nothing like the vehicles rolling off the production line today. Modern Explorers are considered 'crossovers' because of their unibody construction.

The original Explorer, though, true to its trucking roots, was built as a body-on-frame vehicle. While the Explorer was, and still is, hugely successful, the original version did suffer early setbacks stemming from a number of rollover accidents. Improved suspensions, lower profiles, safety features and sportier designs through the years have increased the popularity of the current fifth generation Explorers.

Ford Excursion

Although it did not enjoy a long life span like many of the other Ford SUV models, the Excursion will always hold a place in automotive history. Simply put, it was the sheer size of this SUV that caused it to stand out from the crowd. No mass-produced SUV has ever been as long or as heavy as the Excursion. Available engines for this massive model included a gas-powered 6.8L V10 and a turbodiesel 7.3L V8.

As you might imagine, fuel consumption was a big problem with the oversized Excursion. It was no coincidence that the decline in sales of the Excursion was mirrored by a rise in gas prices. Few vehicles in automotive history have had as quick rise and fall as the Excursion—it sold more than 50,000 units in 2000, and was already out of production after 2005.

Second-Generation Lincoln Navigator

This SUV didn't bear the Ford badge, but it certainly falls under the Big Blue umbrella. Lincoln is the luxury line with Ford, and the Navigator set the bar for luxury family cruising. The second-generation of the Navigator hit the market in 2003, and it featured a number of luxury touches. Two V8 engine options were available for this Navigator, which was related by platform to both the Ford Expedition and the popular F-150 pickup.

Ford Escape

Initially put into production in 2000, the Escape has led the way for what the modern SUV/crossover has become. This vehicle features comfortable seating for up to four adults, but it also has a relatively compact design and excellent fuel economy. Introduced around the same time as the Excursion, the light and nimble Escape proved to be the model that would remain relevant as the years went by.

The Escape underwent aerodynamic changes in 2009, including front and rear spoilers, and got top marks in front, side, and rear crash tests. Now selling around 300,000 units per year, this popular SUV continues to show signs of enduring sales.

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