With a famous car chase comes a famous vehicle and there may be no more famous (or infamous depending on how you look at things) vehicle than the Ford white Bronco from the O.J. Simpson freeway chase that riveted the nation on this day 26 years ago.
O.J. Simpson was once one of the most beloved figures in all of sports. He’d won the Heisman Trophy in 1968 at USC and gone on to a Hall of Fame career in the NFL, breaking records with the Buffalo Bills in his early days before finishing his career with his hometown San Francisco 49ers in 1979. He was handsome, charismatic, and extremely marketable, as evidenced by his wildly popular Hertz commercials. With his playing days behind him, he took a shot at the movie business and was successful there as well, hilariously starring in the Naked Gun franchise alongside Leslie Nielsen.
But June 17, 1994, and the white Bronco changed everything. There was a dark side to O.J. Simpson that had never truly been called into question, at least not to the general public. There was a history of abuse against his ex-wife, Nicole Brown, so when she and 25-year-old Ron Goldman were found brutally murdered on June 12, 1994, the police wanted to talk with Simpson about it. But O.J. wasn’t ready to talk, which led to one of the craziest nights in American history.
95 million people watched the O.J. Simpson chase
On June 17, 1994, O.J. Simpson was scheduled to surrender himself to police by 11:00 a.m. Pacific as he’d become a person of interest in the murders of his ex-wife and her friend. But he was a no-show. As the hours went by, nobody knew where he was. But soon enough, everyone knew where he was.
O.J. Simpson was now a fugitive of justice and a warrant was issued for his arrest. At approximately 6:45 p.m., a TV news chopper spotted a white Ford Bronco on a Los Angeles expressway and the chase was on. For the next few hours, more than 95 million people tuned in to watch the low-speed chase through Southern California that ended at Simpson’s home in Brentwood. Driven by its owner Al Cowlings, a longtime friend and teammate of O.J., the white Bronco became nearly as famous as the two people inside of it. So what exactly happened to the white Bronco?
Al Cowlings wanted to be rid of the white Bronco
Many initially believed that the white Bronco belonged to O.J. Simpson, as he had one exactly like it, but it belonged to Al Cowlings. Simpson’s was eventually seized as evidence and later destroyed. Cowlings had played football alongside Simpson at every level, from high school to two different colleges to the NFL. It was Cowlings who called 911 during the chase, telling authorities that O.J. had a gun to his own head and just wanted to get home before being taken into custody. Cowlings himself was arrested that famous night for aiding a fugitive but the charges were later dropped.
As for the white Bronco, Cowlings was desperate to be rid of it following the chase and the “Trial of the Century” that ensued. In 2014, a friend of Cowlings, Don Kreiss, who worked for a sports agent, told USA Today that Cowlings had told him to find a buyer for the white Bronco as he never wanted to drive it again. Kreiss found memorabilia collector Michael Kronick, who was set to pay $75,000 for it, but only if Cowlings threw in 250 autographed pictures of himself driving it.
Al Cowlings initially agreed to the deal but when the two were supposed to meet up on November 2, 1994, the day before the jury was selected in the O.J. Simpson criminal trial, Cowlings was a no-show. He first called Kreiss, who was also at the meeting, to tell him that he was running late but then called again to tell him the deal was off. Kronick then sued Cowlings and the dispute was settled for an undisclosed amount.
Apparently, Cowlings didn’t like the fact that Kronick was going to use the white Bronco to recreate the chase, which would then end at Nicole Brown’s grave, as a tourist attraction. At least that’s what O.J. Simpson’s former agent, Mike Gilbert, told ESPN. Gilbert, Cowlings’ attorney Stanley Stone, and a named Michael Pulwer, who had made his fortune in the porn industry, finally rid Al Cowlings of the white bronco in 1995, paying the same $75,000.
Where is the white Bronco from the O.J. Simpson chase today?
From 1995 to 2012, the story of the white Bronco is actually very boring as it just sat in an underground parking garage at Pulwer’s condo complex in LA. The battery would be changed every so often but it was rarely driven. In 17 years, less than 20 miles were put on the odometer.
All of a sudden, the white Bronco was on display at the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas as a man associated with the hotel had become aware of its whereabouts in LA. He got in contact with the owners and asked if he could use it for a few months to help with the opening of a new sports memorabilia museum, to which they agreed. But it was then taken away as it could only be displayed outside as it would have had to be taken apart to be taken inside, which Gilbert and the others didn’t like.
In 2017, right around the time O.J. Simpson was released from prison after serving nine years for armed robbery and kidnapping, Gilbert attempted to sell the white Bronco for $1.3 million on “Pawn Stars.” But host Rick Harrison chose to pass. Gilbert says he’ll never accept less than a million dollars for it, calling it the second-most-viewed vehicle in American history, right behind the car in which JFK was assassinated.
Before that episode aired, however, Gilbert had worked out a deal with the Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where the white Bronco remains on display to this day, although Gilbert and his two partners still own it. Nobody is in a rush to sell it until the right price comes along.