After a long absence, the Ford Bronco returned to North America in 2020, and shortly after that it also returned to Europe, quickly establishing itself as one of the most desirable SUVs in the Old Continent.

And while the Bronco may not be as well known here, on the other side of the ocean it is a true legend. So much so that the return of Ford' s famous SUV could have happened as early as 2004, a few years after the retirement of the last generation.

In fact, at the Detroit Motor Show that year, the Bronco Concept was unveiled, a futuristic prototype that was intended to give continuity to the dynasty of the legendary SUV.

An old-school model

Extremely boxy in shape, the Bronco Concept featured brushed aluminium bodywork, a trend in early 2000s prototypes.

The design looks straight out of the early Broncos of the 1960s, with round headlights at the front and small taillights combined with large wheels and knobby tyres for improved off-road mobility.

Ford Bronco Concept (2004)

Ford Bronco Concept (2004)

The large 'Bronco' lettering on the front is as reminiscent of the past as it is of the more modern Bronco, which in some ways seems to have been inspired by this concept.

The interior is as spartan as any pure SUV tradition dictates, although there is no shortage of suede upholstery and aluminium trim. Among other things, like the current model, the roof can be removed for open-air travel.

A turbodiesel engine with an interesting 'secret'.

Ford's prototype was equipped with an 'intelligent' four-wheel drive system. In practice, the car always delivers power to the front wheels, but if sensors recognise a loss of grip, they can automatically distribute torque to all four drive wheels.

Ford Bronco Concept (2004)

Ford Bronco Concept (2004)

Unlike today's Bronco, which uses a 2.7-litre, turbocharged, six-cylinder, 335 bhp petrol engine, the Bronco Concept used a more economical 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel block, the same as those found in European models of the time such as the Mondeo, Galaxy and Focus. The engine produced 128 bhp and 331 Nm.

However, there is an "N2O" control on the dashboard to release nitrous oxide (made famous by the Fast & Furious saga of those years) on acceleration for an extra 50 bhp boost, for a few seconds.

Unfortunately, this Bronco did not see the light of day as a production model, at least in the years immediately following its introduction. As mentioned above, we had to wait until the summer of 2020 to see an SUV with 'Bronco' lettering on the front again.

Gallery: Ford Bronco Concept (2004)