Saleen wants to turn the 2021 Ford Bronco into a desert racer

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It was only a matter of time before tuners made plans for the 2021 Ford Bronco, and Saleen Automotive is one of the first out of the gate. Two days after the SUV’s unveiling, the California-based company   announced plans to build a Bronco inspired by a legendary off-road racer.

The Saleen Bronco will be a modern reincarnation of Big Oly, a first-generation Bronco raced by Parnelli Jones in the Mexican 1000 (now known as the Baja 1000), the company said Wednesday. Jones won the race in 1971 and 1972 with that Bronco. Recall that a Bronco first won the Mexican race in 1969, something Ford tried to repeat 50 years later without success.

Saleen didn’t offer many other details. Renderings show a livery inspired by Big Oly, plus fender flares, light bars, and a beefy spare-tire carrier. The company said its Bronco would be a “very capable, high-performance, off-road machine,” but declined to dive into specifications.

Saleen Ford Bronco rendering

Saleen Ford Bronco rendering

While it’s known largely for modified Mustangs, Saleen has dabbled in off-road vehicles before. The Saleen Sportruck XR is a tuned Ford F-150 with beefed-up suspension and upgraded engines. The most potent is a supercharged version of the factory 5.0-liter V-8, good for 700 horsepower.

Saleen has plenty of other projects underway. In 2019, the company announced the return of its S7 supercar with 1,500 hp, and unveiled a GT4 racer concept. It’s also looking to start production in China with local manufacturer Jiangsu Secco.

Meanwhile, Ford may be planning its own high-performance Bronco variant. Possibly wearing the Raptor name, expect it to pack upgraded suspension and a more powerful engine, likely a 3.0-liter turbo-6 with about 400 hp.

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