A new patent application filed by Ford could be the best hint yet as to how the upcoming Bronco’s roof will come off.

The speculation has long been that the upcoming Ford Bronco will have a removable top to compete with the Jeep Wrangler. Although the Jeep’s roof can be removed, its roll cage does not.

This new patent, though, shows a vehicle with both a roof and a cage that can be removed “to provide an open-air driving experience,” as the patent puts it.

Effectively, the B- and C-pillars are both bolted to the car at the window line. Remove the bolts and the pillars slide out of the body.

While this patent allows for some excitingly ‘60s, wide-open driving, it’s still 2019, so three-point belts are a requirement. To solve that issue, Ford has essentially given the car stubby B- and C-pillars that can be slid back into the body and bolted back on.

These shorter pillars would hold the third point for the seat belt: a removable belt post, as Ford calls it. Ford is allowing for belt posts that attach to both the vertical, side of the body alone and for posts that attach to the vertical side and the floor—which would presumably afford the posts more strength.

Although the idea of driving a truly open-air SUV is appealing in the best circumstances, this patent does leave us with a few questions. First and foremost, what happens in a rollover?

Not only does Ford have to comply with federal standards, it seems like anything that goes toe-to-toe with the Jeep would have to be able to handle a rollover because of all the off-roading people like to do in it.

Granted, there are systems that don’t require a traditional roll hoop, like the Germans’ extend-a-hoop systems, but that could be an expensive solution.

Having an ace up its sleeve, though, could be exactly what allows the Bronco to challenge the Jeep's dominance in the segment.

Unfortunately, it’s still too early to be making conclusions about the Bronco’s design but with all these patent applications, whatever ends up making it onto the final product should at least be interesting.

additional reporting by Dennis Chung