On June 17, 1994 at around 6:45 PST, a white 1992 Ford Bronco, owned and driven by a former football player named Al Cowlings, became the reality TV star nobody ever asked for.
As it trudged gingerly up the 5 from Orange County and onto the 405 toward Brentwood at 35 miles per hour, an estimated 95 million Americans watched. (That’s more people than saw Peyton Manning’s Colts beat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI).
Inside the vehicle during that 60-mile crawl was a passport, $8,750 in cash and travelers checks, and a costume goatee and mustache. In the back seat was O.J. Simpson, holding a gun.
Whether you were a fan of ABC’s The Commish or the New York Knicks (whose beleaguered center Patrick Ewing had perhaps his finest finals game ever that night), you had no choice but witness the Bronco, the phalanx cop of cars that followed in silence in its wake, and the drama unfolding in the backseat.
The 20 years since then have been kinder to that Bronco than to Broncos in general. Within two years of the chase, Ford had announced the discontinuation of the model and hasn’t resurrected it since beyond some concept cars. A few years later, following O.J. Simpson’s civil trial, the Bronco from the slow speed chase was reportedly sold to Michael Pulwer, a collector friend of Cowlings’, for $75,000.
Despite repeated attempts, Pulwer didn’t get back to us to confirm his ongoing ownership of the car. But whoever holds the title, the SUV has reportedly spent the bulk of the last two decades in storage, while still enjoying the occasional social outing. (The inhabitant of its backseat, of course, spent the last six years in minimum security Lovelock Correctional Center outside of Reno, where he is serving a robbery conviction.)
In the summer of 2012, you could have found the Bronco in the lobby of the Luxor Hotel outside a sports memorabilia shop called Score! alongside Marcus Allen’s Heisman, and the 1999 women's World Cup.
In November of that year, if you were fortunate enough to score an invite to the opening of a Nate Lowman art show at Peter Brant’s place in Greenwich, Connecticut, you would have encountered the Bronco parked on the newspaper tycoon’s front lawn. Apparently the artist who had rented it was looking to make a statement about tragic blondes.
Much of the 20th anniversary O.J. coverage has been a Bronco-free zone, however, filled instead with where-are-they-now recaps or a focus on the trial’s ongoing effect on the current state of reality television. (Yes, we can thank Robert Kardashian’s place on O.J.’s defense team for most of the E! Network’s programming, as well as the appearance of Nicole Brown Simpson’s friend Faye Resnick on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.)
Kato Kaelin, for one, could not help but use the opportunity to sound off about his tumultuous relationship with the media in an L.A. Times Op-Ed. Mark Fuhrman, the police detective who’s recorded use of racial slurs helped knock the prosecution’s case sideways, chose to mark the anniversary by deriding tabloid culture and explaining how he, now a Fox News contributor, had his life ruined.
Maybe the white Bronco deserves a little respect for sitting this anniversary out.