Beginning production development in 1977 (before its predecessor was released for sale) the 1980-1986 Ford Bronco was designed to address many concerns that held the 1978-1979 Bronco out of production. Nominally shorter and lighter, the 1980 Bronco was designed to adopt a more efficient powertrain while retaining its full-size dimensions.
In 1982, the Ford Bronco II made its debut; unrelated to the full-size Bronco, the Bronco II was a compact SUV based on a shortened Ranger pickup truck and sized similarly to the 1966-1977 Bronco.
Again based on the Ford F-Series, the 1980-1986 Bronco is based upon the Ford F-150 (1980-1986 seventh generation). Although based on an all-new chassis, the Ford Bronco retained its 104 in (2,642 mm) wheelbase. Both transfer cases were replaced with a New Process 208 version.
In front, the 1980-1986 Bronco is fitted with a Dana 44 front axle with Ford TTB (Twin Traction Beam) independent front suspension. As with the 1978-1979 Bronco, the rear axle is a leaf-sprung Ford 9-inch axle.
For the first time since 1977, the Ford Bronco came with an inline-six engine as standard; the 4.9L 300 I6 was available solely with a manual transmission. The 400 V8 was discontinued, with the 351M taking its place and the 302 V8 making its return as the base-equipment V8. The 351 Windsor made its debut in the Bronco as it replaced the 351M in 1982; gaining a 210 hp "high-output" version in 1984. In 1985, the 5.0L V8 (302) saw its carburetor replaced by a multiport electronic fuel-injection system, rising to 190 hp (the standard 156 hp 5.8L V8 was discontinued for 1986).
As with its 1978-1979 predecessor, the 1980-1986 Bronco shares much of its external sheetmetal with the F-Series pickup line, with the same parts from the doors forward. Based on a design proposal originally used in the development of the previous-generation Bronco, the B-pillar of the roofline was modified slightly to produce an improved seal for the hardtop. Prior to 1984, the hardtop included sliding window glass as an option.
For 1982, the Ford Bronco saw a slight facelift as it adopted Ford's blue oval emblem, taking the place of "F-O-R-D" lettering on the hood, and the bronco horse was removed from the fender emblems.
The 1980-1986 Bronco adopted the same trim levels as the Ford F-Series pickups. Following the introduction of the Ford Ranger compact pickup, the Bronco adopted Bronco (base, replacing Custom), Bronco XL, and Bronco XLT.
In 1985, Ford added an Eddie Bauer trim package for the Bronco. Featuring a color-keyed two-tone exterior, the trim package featured an outdoors-themed interior.