Ford Bronco Dune Buster

Press photos featuring women? Par for the course in the 1960s.

Press photos featuring women? Par for the course in the 1960s.


OK, it's out of my system. Even though I hate getting dirty, I do have a very special place in my heart for off-roading. Thanks to press junkets, I've done Moab, the Hummer test track, and even co-drove in the Parker 425.

Back in 1966, however, the concept of "off-roading" your "SUV" for "fun" was almost exclusively limited to locations with nice weather and dunes. Unless you were one of those people who actually needed to off-road for work.

When Ford gave George Barris a new Bronco to customize, however, he chopped the roof and gave us the world's first convertible lifestyle SUV. 

From the Chicago Auto Show archives.

From the Chicago Auto Show archives.

Well, not quite. International Harvester, with the Scout 800 Sportop, launched in early 1966…to nearly no fanfare. Barris, however, was having quite the year. The Batmobile (yes, that one), the hero car for the racing-slash-beach party movie Fireball 500, and the Love Machine (later, Super Van) all came out in 1966.

Based on the open top—and unpopular—Bronco Roadster, the Barris version rocked an NHRA-approved roll bar, chrome side pipes, hood scoop, side step built into the cut-out door (a great detail), updated wheels, and a few other show car tricks.

What's that? Woodgrain? Rear stainless steel grab bars, like a yacht? (Was this shit ever cool?) Maybe Barris was trying to also please the quail hunting crowd.

Inside, it was brown suede, with walnut wood veneer. If they'd have fitted a glass block rear window, the interior would have resembled a bowling alley lounge.

According to the Chicago Auto Show archive, it was shown publicly until 1968…then fell off the radar. Where is the Dune Buster today? And what about those International Harvester trucks?

…but that's a story for another day.

Sources / Recommended Reading