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Ford debuts race-ready Bronco at King of the Hammers

The stock 4600 class is meant to be an easier entry point into the grueling world of rock crawling.

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Emme Hall Former editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
Emme Hall
3 min read
Ford Bronco 4600 race SUV
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Ford Bronco 4600 race SUV

Yep, that's considered a stock race rig.

Ford

Earlier this week we saw the Ford Bronco turned into an unlimited class 4400 King of the Hammers rock crawler. Today Ford debuted the stock class version, something that should be more easily accessible to your average Janes and Joes who want to take a stab at racing: It's the Bronco 4600 race SUV, and it's headed to King of the Hammers.

For those of you who aren't desert rats like I am, King of the Hammers may not mean anything to you. It's one of the meanest, ugliest, gnarliest races on the planet. What started as a group of friends racing through the car-size boulders of Johnson Valley, California, has evolved into a weeklong event complete with a pop-up city called Hammertown and no fewer than six individual races, all organized by the sanctioning body Ultra4 Racing.

This stock Bronco fits into the 4600 stock class. However, don't think that stock means unmodified. The rules state that while the stock frame, body, engine and transmission must be used, teams can install upgraded tires, transfer cases, axles and the like. Even upgrades to suspension components are allowed, provided they remain the same type. So leaf springs have to remain leaf springs, coilovers have to remain coilovers. You get the gist.

This stock Bronco 4600 race rig is ready for anything

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That brings us here. Ford will race the two-door with the Sasquatch package and the 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 pushing out 310 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. Curiously, Ford is using the 10-speed automatic, not the seven-speed manual. I say curiously because the automatic has a crawl ratio of 67.8:1. That's good but it pales in comparison with the manual's crawl ratio of 94.7:1, which is what drivers need when attempting to climb these ridiculously large rocks and boulders. Ford didn't immediately return a request for comment when asked about the decision.

Regardless, this race-ready Bronco looks pretty dope with the 35-inch BF Goodrich KM3 tires wrapped around Method beadlock wheels. And it should go pretty far into the rocks thanks to upgraded Triton Engineering control arms, RCV custom half shafts and a Dana e-locker. Upgraded Triton Engineering rear links and a Dynatrac XD60 rear axle are supplemented by an ARB Air Locker and Spidertrax Spider 9 axle shafts and hubs.

This rig not only has to conquer the rocks, it also has to be a high-speed whoop eater if it wants to win races. As such, it's wearing Fox coilovers with remote reservoirs and pneumatic bump stops. The Bronco 4600 also sports a full roll cage, a Warn winch, LED lights by Rigid and FIA off-road race-certified seats by Recaro.

Friday's Every Man Challenge would be the perfect racing debut for the Bronco 4600, but alas, the company has put all its efforts into getting the unlimited 4400-class Bronco ready to race on Saturday and hasn't even tested the 4600. Ford says it will begin racing as we get closer to Bronco production with a whole slew of excellent drivers including Vaughn Gittin Jr, Loren Healy, Jason Scherer, Bailey Cole, Brad Lovell and Roger Lovell.