How Ford Bronco designers screwed up this SUV in the best possible way
The chief designer for Ford's 2021 Bronco says his favorite feature about the SUV is a modest piece of hardware.
Chris PaukertFormer executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015.
Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
One of the most interesting and impressive things about the new 2021 Ford Bronco is how thoughtfully and thorougly the Blue Oval's designers and engineers have considered the way the model's typical customers will want to personalize and reconfigure their vehicles. During a Friday conversation with Paul Wraith, Bronco chief designer, ahead of the Bronco's reveal, I asked him what his favorite feature of the new truck was, and he gave an unexpectedly simple response: a bolt.
More precisely, a custom-designed Torx-head screw that's been strategically deployed around the vehicle, inside and out. "I think we can all take a great deal of pride, actually, in a bolt," he said. "We have these little Bronco bolts and they're fitted all over the interior and the exterior. And each one has got 'Bronco' bashed into the head of it."
It's a simple surprise-and-delight detail, but not a merely ornamental one. Wherever you find one of these special screws, it's a subtle call to action. According to Wraith, "Each one of these little Bronco bolts is an invitation to do something with the vehicle. This is a little bit of a giveaway. Where they exist, we've set the vehicle up to have things attached to it. Whether they're lights, or racks or mounts for all sorts of things.... we have those on the grab handles, on the instrument panel, and on the console, as well. It's an invitation to add things, take things off, play, invent, create things."
This little mechanical detail actually required a surprising amount of effort to execute, the nearly 20-year Blue Oval veteran noted. "We spent a lot of time dealing with people who are not used to designers being concerned about the appearance of bolts and the accuracy of the fonts that are knocked into the heads of them, which was fun in itself," said Wraith.
In an earlier part of our interview, while conversing about a different subject, Wraith said, "We don't want people to be intimidated about doing the things they hope to do with the vehicle because it's complicated." A simple screw head that flags itself as a point of interaction and personalization would certainly seems to fit that mold, too.
"I love the bolt," he said.
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