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Lurking about the rolling slabs of rock in Moab, Utah, we found Jeff Grahams Bronco clawing through crevices and bounding up steep inclines with the elegance of a mountain lionwell, not quite. The impressive display of capability, however, reminded us how bulletproof 78-79 Broncos are right off the factory floor. By performing some simple mods, Jeff has turned an already competent truck into something downright burly.
Jeff, of Farmington, New Mexico, bought the 79 Bronco from the parents of former owner Chris Hull after Chris who died in 1993. Chris, who was Jeffs best friend, had just started fixing up the truck, so Jeff and his wife decided to finish the buildup in his memory. With the help of Jeffs brother-in-law Ron Woods, the beefing began.
The Bronco was in rough shape with about six different colors adorning the sheetmetal, and it sported 33-inch street meats. Chris had almost finished the interior, so Jeff first concentrated on the body, which he had massaged and painted Victory Red by Fidel Lobato at Valley Auto Body.
The 33-inch tires were replaced by 35x12.50-15 BFGoodrich Mud-Terrains, which came courtesy of a Rancho 3 ½-inch coil-spring lift up front and 3½-inch leaf springs in the rear. Some fender trimming was also necessary to clear the larger meats. The tires are mounted on 15x10-inch Alcoa wheels. He also replaced the shocks with Rancho RS5000s and a steering stabilizer to steady the ride.
What makes these Broncos so capable right out of the box is the beefy hardware supplied: A reverse-cut Dana 44 up front and a 9-inch rear, which are linked to a NP205 transfer case and a T-18 transmission, make for an impressive lineup for a factory ½-ton. They also sport coil-spring front suspensions, which most people prefer because these suspensions offer very good axle-control and allow you to build awesome wheel travel into them.
The drivetrain components are well-known for their durability. The T-18 and the NP205 have been used for many years in a variety of 4x4s. They are respected for their sturdy construction, low gearing and low failure rate. The axler on the 9-inches (later models, such as those in the 78-79 trucks) and Dana 44s have larger diameters than most ½-ton stock axles. The larger ring-gear diameter also adds to the stronger construction. While owners of other stock vehicles spend countless dollars swapping these exact parts into their trucks, owners of 78-79 Broncos are ready to go with the stock trim.
Jeff, however, still found room for modification. Realizing that the stock 3.50:1 gearsets that came in the Bronco were inadequate for the 35-inch tires, he swapped 4.56s in both ends. The open differentials were tossed in favor of Lock-Right lockers at both ends. New Warn hubs round out the axle upgrades. Jeffs Bronco is an excellent example of turning a good stocker into a great wheeler with just a handful of upgrades.