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What Happened to the Ford Bronco OJ Simpson Was Riding In During His Infamous Car Chase?

Photo Credit: 1. Jean-Marc Giboux / Liaison / Getty Images 2. Kypros / Getty Images
Photo Credit: 1. Jean-Marc Giboux / Liaison / Getty Images 2. Kypros / Getty Images

On June 17, 1994, television viewers in the United States and across the world were transfixed by the broadcast of what had to be one of the strangest police pursuits and most memorable events in history.

Orenthal James “OJ” Simpson was supposed to turn himself into police for his alleged involvement in the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman. Instead, he went on the run – albeit slowly – on the freeways of California. His friend and teammate, Al Cowlings, was behind the wheel and Simpson was reportedly holding a gun. A large amount of cash; Simpson’s passport; and a fake goatee, mustache and makeup adhesive were subsequently found in the White Ford Bronco.

The low-speed chase covered miles and lasted for over an hour, involving 20 helicopters and numerous police vehicles. The car Simpson was riding in became notorious, but, afterward, it largely disappeared from public view. What became of it?

Someone wanted to make a tourist attraction out of the crime

Ford Bronco driving down a California freeway
Photo Credit: Vinnie Zuffante / Getty Images

The Ford Bronco actually belong to Al Cowlings, not OJ Simpson. Simpson did have a nearly identical vehicle, but it was seized for evidence and nearly destroyed in the process.

Cowlings was arrested for aiding and abetting a fugitive, with the charges against him ultimately being dropped. He wanted rid of the car as quickly as possible, as it had become a notorious symbol of what had transpired.

He was approached by memorabilia collector Michael Kronick, who offered him $75,000 for the Bronco and 250 autographed photos of Cowlings driving the vehicle. The day he and Kronick were supposed to complete the deal, Cowlings never showed up, and he eventually called things off entirely.

CBS Sports reported Cowlings had discovered Kronick’s intention was to rent the Bronco to a company, which would re-enact the chase and take tourists to Nicole Brown Simpson’s grave. Simpson’s trial hadn’t started yet and Cowlings was concerned about the tour encouraging people to think many people connected to Simpson were involved in the crime. Kronick sued Cowlings and the suit was settled for an undisclosed amount.

Relegated to a parking garage

OJ Simpson holding up his hands in the middle of a courtroom
Photo Credit: VINCE BUCCI / AFP / Getty Images

Al Cowlings was then approached by Mike Gilbert, OJ Simpson’s former agent, and two other men, who paid him $75,000 for the vehicle. The Ford Bronco spent the next 17 years sitting in a parking garage, where it was maintained, but rarely driven.

Gilbert told reporters the car had only been driven 20 additional miles since the low-speed chase that brought it into prominence back in 1994. He further said he’d received several offers from those interested in buying the Bronco (one was for $275,000), but he couldn’t justify selling what was arguably the most infamous car in history, after the one John F. Kennedy was riding in when he was assassinated.

In 2012, Gilbert was approached by a man connected to the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas, who expressed interest in leasing the car to be part of an extensive sports memorabilia exhibition at the hotel. Gilbert agreed, and the Bronco sat on display outside the hotel for a few months. The Luxor wanted to bring it into the hotel, but Gilbert didn’t want it dismantled. After a while, it was returned to its owner and went back into storage in California.

Returning to the public eye

Ford Bronco driving down a California freeway
Photo Credit: Ted Soqui / Sygma / Getty Images

In 2017, some 23 years after the Ford Bronco became a cultural reference, it was back on television. It appeared on an episode of Pawn Stars (2009-present). Gilbert asked host Rick Harrison for $1.3 million, followed by a counter price of $1.25 million. After some contemplation, Harrison decided to forgo the Bronco, even though he also said it could easily get that price, were it to go to auction.

Gilbert was apparently not very bothered by Harrison’s refusal and reportedly said he’d never sell it for under $1 million, since he knew that, even if the car might not get that price now, it certainly would later. After the Pawn Stars episode was filmed, but prior to its airing, Gilbert worked out an arrangement for the car with the Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

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The Bronco is currently on display at the museum, where it can be seen by a whole new generation of Americans and used as a tool to help teach them about this particular piece of history.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News