Workers at Ford's Michigan Assembly plant see the Bronco they'll build up close

John Tracy, 63, has Tuesdays off at Ford Motor's Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne, where he assembles the Ranger midsize pickup. 
But this Tuesday, Tracy came to the factory anyway. The hulking 6-foot-1 general assembly line worker, brought his petite 4-foot-9 wife, Lorrie, 63, with him. The couple stood in the blazing sun for a half-hour just for a glimpse of the 2021 Bronco SUVs he will build next spring.
Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne employee and team leader Eric Robinson poses with the new 2021 2 and 4-door Broncos Tuesday, July 21, 2020 outside of the plant.
Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press
Lorrie wants the four-door model if the seat rises high enough for her small frame. As for John, "I've never had one, but my friends have. Look at that grille, that's aggressive design, wouldn't that look great driving down a beach? We plan to move to Florida when we retire and take this with us."
On Tuesday, Ford displayed a two-door version of the 2021 Bronco in Cyber Orange and a four-door model in Cactus Gray, in front of the plant. The automaker wanted the 2,900 workers there who will build those models to see them live and up close for the first time. 
Johnny Hubbard, a quality inspector at Michigan Assembly, saw them and simply said, "Let's build it!"

'An honor to build ...'

The small Bronco Sport SUV, which Ford will build at its Hermosillo Assembly Plant in Mexico, will be in showrooms later this year.
But the two-door and four-door Bronco will be assembled at Michigan Assembly. The Broncos go on sale in the spring of 2021. 
"We have some more tooling in the plant that will be going on the last two weeks of August and the first week of September when we're on shutdown," said Erik Williams, plant manager. "Then we'll be ready to start making trial vehicles in November."
The workers' anticipation is mounting, he said. Even his daughter, who Williams said works for "a competitor," has asked him when she can get her Bronco.
The two-door 2021 Bronco begins at $29,995, including destination fees. The four-door model starts at $34,695 including fees. 
"It's in a class all its own with the styling and so many other attributes. It's what people want," Williams said, admiring the SUVs in the sunlight. "It's an honor to build one of the most iconic brands in our legacy."

Pretty, but tough

Indeed, the Bronco does have a cult following. Ford made it from 1966 to 1996 and it has become so legendary that vintage models command high prices from collectors. Used models are nearly nonexistent.
"My son and I have been looking for a used one to buy, but they are really hard to find," said Kristin Fitch, 49, a key programmer at Michigan Assembly. 
Ford Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne assembler Kristin Fitch, of Ottawa Lake got an opportunity to check out the new 2 and 4-door 2021 Ford Broncos Tuesday, July 21, 2020 they will be building later this year at the plant.
Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press
But when Fitch eyed the two new models in front of Michigan Assembly, where she has worked 20 years, she said she and her son will buy a new one if they can agree on a color: She likes gray and her son prefers orange.
Ryan Vetter of Ford communications from Taylor, left, looks on as his son Carson-Ryan Vetter, 9, checks out the new 2-door 2021Ford Bronco Tuesday, July 21, 2020. Ford employees got an opportunity to check out the new 2 and 4-door Ford Broncos they will be building later this year at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.
Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press
The trucks aren't just pretty faces though, they are tough too, designed for off-roading. They offer 35-inch off-road tires, standard all-wheel drive, 270-hp four-cylinder, or 310-hp V6 turbocharged engine and a 10-speed automatic transmission or seven-speed manual with first gear crawl ratio.

Bringing a dream to life

Overseeing the display Tuesday was Ford's Ryan Olsson, lead interior designer on the Bronco. He wanted to meet the workers who'll bring his drawings to life. 
"Once a design leaves my hands, it's just a sketch," Olsson said. "This is a chance to meet some of the people who will make my dream a reality."
Interior of the new 2-door 2021Ford Bronco. Ford employees get an opportunity to check out the new 2 and 4-door Ford Broncos they will be building later this year at the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne Tuesday, July 21, 2020.
Mandi Wright, Detroit Free Press
At age 36, Olsson remembers the Bronco of the 1990s. He said some of his childhood associations of it influenced his interior touches, especially those around the nostalgia of camping and the outdoors. 
Here are his five favorite features he designed for the interior:
  • Modular grab handles on the center console and instrument panel. These help people get in and out of the vehicle. And, Olsson said, "If you're going over heavy terrain, they're gold."
  • Hero switches: A row of buttons on top of the instrument panel accessible to both the driver and passenger or "co-pilot" of sorts when off-roading, Olsson said. 
  • Accessory rail on the top of the instrument panel to plug-in items.
  • Removable top and doors: "I really like the open-air experience," he said. 
  • Bronco bolts: "BRONCO" is stamped on the head of all the bolts in the vehicle.
The Bronco bolts are a nod to the truck's heritage, Olsson said, when in the past the word was stamped on some of the bolt heads. 
"I had a sketch on the wall, a zoomed-in shot of this area," Olsson said, pointing to the corner grab handle on the dashboard. "I drew BRONCO on the sketch of the bolt just to add texture. Now it's proliferated across the vehicle. It'll delight the customer when they find it."

Contact Jamie L. LaReau: 313-222-2149 or jlareau@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @jlareauan. Sign up for our autos newsletter.