The accepted hagiography of the Ford empire involves the firesale of all of Ford’s various brands in the aftermath of the financial crisis, with only the Blue Oval and the Lincoln Motor Company sticking around for the ride. But that’s not quite accurate.
Ford actually has another brand that it’s not-quite-affiliated with, called Troller. To understand the connection, we need a little context. Brazil has a long tradition of small independent car makers. Some have made sport cars (Puma, Dardo, Santa Matilde, Lobini), other have made regular cars and SUVs (Gurgel being the longest lived and most successful, though there are countless others). In 1995, a small company called Troller started producing jipes in the northeastern state of Ceará and many imagined it would be another short-lived effort. But Troller has survived long enough to launch an all-new jipe (as Brazilians call this type of car, in honor of Jeep), which will use some of the global Ranger’s hardware while maintaining the robustness that make it in Brazil’s off-road circles.
Started by Rogério Farias on a ham-string budget, the small factory nonetheless made a name for itself in off road circles that enabled its growth. It gained attention to itself by participating in the Paris-Dakar Rally and even winning some phases of Brazil’s most famed off road competition, the Rali dos Sertões. In 1997, it was bought by Mário Araripe, a well heeled entrepreneur who subsequently increased production and hired more employees, eventually building a military jeep, special vehicles for use in underground mines and even a pickup that badly flopped. The T4, “loosely” inspired by the Jeep Wrangler was a success. Never cheap, it was the cheapest alternative in Brazil for real off-roading and with its combination of a diesel engine and a hearty 4×4 system, the company always turned a profit and continued growing.
In 2007, Ford bought out the company for an undisclosed sum. And now, 7 years later, the first real results of this deal appear. The new T4 will use the same 5 cylinder, 3.2 L, good for 163 horses (at least in the pickup). It will also be equipped with the Ranger’s 6-speed manual gearbox. According to Ford executives present at the launch, the new T4 will be more civilized without losing the characteristics that so endeared the model to hardcore off-roaders. A much improved interior is an example of this. Ford also said that they have improved manufacturing processes and that the special composite material of fiberglass and steel that makes the T4’s outer shell has been substantially strengthened.
Now, with a resurgent Ford, more confident and with more money in the bank, the possibility that Troller could gain overseas markets is once again ventilated. Some see it in the front of the vehicles new design. Could a Troller Bronco eventually ride the prairies again?