Now in its third year of production, the sixth-generation Ford Bronco offers all the configurations you could dream of—two or four doors and several trims up to the 418 hp, 440 lb-ft Bronco Raptor. All but one, as there’s almost no way of buying the sixth-gen Bronco with eight cylinders. The exception is the Coyote V8-powered Bronco DR (Desert Racer), which has now been delivered to its first customers, one of which is customizing the non-street-legal model for the upcoming SEMA 2023 show.
It’s been around two years since Ford announced the Bronco DR, a customer race truck designed to tackle desert races like the Baja 1000. And even though you can’t drive it on public roads, the DR is no tubular frame racer, being based on the four-door production Bronco. And, back in late 2021, Ford said power would come from the Gen 3 Coyote 5.0L V8 borrowed from the S550 Mustang of the time. This means the Bronco DR offers well over 400 hp.
This Bronco DR, which is reportedly one of the first to be set free, was recently delivered to Arizona-based Doetsch Off-Road, which apparently sees the flared bodywork for the white canvas that it is. To be more precise, the specialist is having the vehicle “transformed” for SEMA. And while it didn’t mention any details, the Las Vegas show is just weeks away (October 31-November 3).
Ford’s Bronco DR costs about as much as a Mustang GTD
Only 50 units of the Bronco DR are being hand-built by Multimatic, the Canadian specialist whose recent efforts for Ford range from the GT supercar to race cars like its Le Mans-winning version and the sixth-gen Mustang GT4. Pricing for the Desert Racer starts at $295,000 (Mustang GTD money), as stated by Car & Driver‘s James Lipman, who took the vehicle for a spin out in the desert. Of course, there are also optional extras that could cost tens of thousands of dollars, such as the Baja Kit on this example.
The DR features many components from the stock Bronco, from most of the four-door chassis to the ten-speed automatic and the electronically-controlled transfer case to the upper front suspension A-arms. However, the said source mentions bespoke bits like a rear rollover frame part added between the front wheel wells for extra torsional rigidity. Plus, the Bronco DR borrows the F-150’s rear axle and brakes, albeit with race-compound pads and an optional Alcon upgrade for the entire system.
Multimatic has fitted the vehicle with its famous DSSV dampers, a roll cage, and lower control arms. Running on 37-inch BF Goodrich mud/terrain tires, the Bronco DR offers an approach angle of 47 degrees, a departure angle of 37 degrees, and a 33-degree breakover angle. Of course, all that heavy-duty stuff means the Bronco DR tips the scales at a hefty 6,200 lbs.
Sixth-Generation Ford Bronco V8 swap aftermarket kits
Over the past few years, multiple aftermarket developers have made the news thanks to announcing V8 swap kits for the sixth-gen Bronco. Alas, up to the time of writing, none of them have followed through.
In the order of the respective companies’ size and reach, we’ll start with Hennessey Performance, which does offer multiple engine mods for the Bronco and Bronco Raptor, but has yet to deliver on its plan to offer a Bronco VelociRaptor V8 with a supercharged 5.0L unit making 750 hp—this was supposed to be a 24-unit run, with each vehicle costing $225,000.
Also based in Texas, Pax Power stated they would deliver both N/A (400+ hp) and a supercharged V8 upgrade (758 hp) for the Bronco. They added that the factory 10-speed automatic offered for the stock 2.3L EcoBoost four-cylinder and 2.7L EcoBoost twin-turbo V6 comes with programming that can’t integrate V8 engines and other vehicle systems. Thus, as shown in a TFLnow video, their conversions would have to include different transmissions (10-speed automatic and six-speed manual). This would explain why the N/A V8 Bronco update was supposed to cost $30,000. Oh, and the supercharged option would’ve added $15,000 to that.
Then there was NTF (No Traction Faction), an Instagram page and YouTube channel that showed pictures of a Bronco with a Coyote V8 stuffed in its engine bay. However, even with people asking about project updates in the comment sections of the Instagram video below earlier this year, it seems the project has been abandoned.
The electronics get in the way of giving the modern Bronco a V8 swap
Transmission aside, an important obstacle in giving the sixth-gen Bronco a V8 swap involves the electronics. Cue to actess/vlogger Emelia Hartford, whose impossible-possible twin-turbo C8 Corvette Stingray twin-turbo and supercharged Big Block S550 Mustang builds show she is a massive fan of such operations. Now, after considering a 2017 Coyote V8 for her 2021 Bronco, Emelia came to the conclusion that the swap would also mean changing the transmission, which supports Pax Power’s claim.
As she explained in a video from February last year, which you’ll find bellow, doing a V8 swap on the Bronco would probably involve standalone engine management, which would mean losing features like the intelligent AWD and all the modern features that make the sixth-gen Bronco so much nicer to drive than its predecessors, for which there are tons of modern V8 swaps on the market.
Emelia talked about rewiring the entire vehicle being simply too much work for the result. She also mentioned the Bronco DR with its Coyote, stating she would reach out to the Ford to see if they would help her get the BCM (Body Control Module) to work after the swap, so all the features mentioned above would remain functional. However, there have been no further updates.
Ford did put V8s in Bronco race trucks
Back in 2021, Jeff Ginter Racing Engines gave the Bronco 4400 Ultra4 Off-Road race trucks small block Ford EFI D3 V8s, with the driver line-up being led by Vaughn Gittin Jr. However, even with the King of Hammers victories it has brought, this effort is as far from a production Bronco as things get.
And with Ford having barely been convinced to give us a V8-animated F-150 Raptor R, we wouldn’t hold our breath for the Bronco officially gaining such an engine option, even though the Wrangler 392 has put some HEMI pressure on camp Blue Oval. So, unless the carmaker changes its mind once the sixth-gen Bronco ages, it’s up to the aftermarket to make a V8 Bronco happen.