By day, Jack Covert is a software engineer. By night, he crafts his '71 Bronco. You'd think after writing computer code all day, Covert would be too tired to hole up in his garage and turn wrenches, but that's not the case. As a matter of fact, he says, "I built my Bronco in my garage by hand. I did everything from assembling the motor from a short-block to bending the tubing, to applying paint, to building all the brackets for the suspension. I built everything from scratch, including the gas tank." Covert helped fund the project by fabbing parts for other Bronco owners. Interestingly, increasing demand for his Bronco parts was the catalyst for him to open a part-time business called IronBender Design & Fabrication.
The rig you see here is the result of three years of hard work and a lot of good ideas. The finished product is as much at home on rocks as it is on the trail, and it looks absolutely awesome to boot. Clearly, this is one Covert mission accomplished.
If you're thinking that a lot of work went into the exterior of the Bronco, you're right. Covert narrowed the front end by 13 inches to improve visibility and approach angle; he fabbed the front and rear bumpers from 1.75-inch, 0.120-wall DOM tubing, and the frame-mounted Rock Skis from 2x4-inch, 0.250-wall steel. The body sits on a 2-inch lift and is painted 3M Orange. The aluminum roof is 0.088 inch thick and is lined with a special flame-retardant foam. At night, Covert can light the trail with a pair of Light Force 170 Striker lights and eight orange L.E.D. rock lights from Roundeyes.com. Up front is a Warn HS9500i winch with Amsteel Blue winch rope. There are chucks mounted on the front and rear of the truck, and they convey air from the York underhood compressor. In addition to standard trail equipment like a chain, strap, jack, and shovel, Covert also has a place for an ARB refrigerator because "you gotta have ice cream on the Rubicon Trail in July," he says.
A '98 Ford Explorer 5.0L V-8 engine provides more than adequate propulsion for the Bronco. It features a number of go-fast upgrades, including Edelbrock heads, a custom-ground Crane camshaft, Crane 1.7:1 roller rockers, an MSD coil and distributor, and a Ford Racing high-volume low-pressure oil pump. Covert had Fordfuelinjection.com create a custom wiring harness made to his specs so he could install a fuel-injection system from a Mustang. Knowing that a cool engine is a happy engine, he installed a Griffin aluminum radiator, an electric fan and modified shroud from a Ford Taurus, and a DC Controls fan controller. An underseat-mounted Optima Red Top battery provides juice to the engine. A York engine-driven air compressor is mounted underhood via an IronBender Explorer-to-York conversion bracket. Behind the 302ci engine is a trusty NP435 transmission with Centerforce Dual Friction clutch. Power is split to the axles via a Dana 20 transfer case with BC Broncos rear 300M output shaft. Both driveshafts feature 1350 U-joints at the axle and 1310 U-joints at the transfer case. The front 'shaft is from Driveline Service of Sacramento and the rear 'shaft is from High Angle Driveline.
A good ol' tried-and-true high-pinion Dana 60 axle resides up front, and it features a number of bulletproof upgrades including Yukon inner 35-spline axleshafts, Black Max outer 35-spline axleshafts, and an ARB Air Locker. To ensure exceptional durability, Covert had Performance Cryogenics in Sacramento, California, treat the inner and outer axleshafts as well as the axleshaft U-joints and Warn hubs. The axle also has 5.13:1 gears and custom brackets holding Ford 3/4-ton brake rotors and Chevy calipers. The steering system is heavily upgraded to handle the big 40-inch Goodyear MT/R tires on 17x9 Walker Evans aluminum bead-lock wheels. The fully hydraulic and self-centering system includes a Howe pump, a remote reservoir, and a Derale cooler with fan. Aeroquip hoses and fittings were used throughout the system. The steering ram is a dual-ended unit with an 8-inch stroke and 2.5-inch bore. Both the ram and the self-centering orbital valve are from Performance Off-Road Systems. Because the system is completely hydraulic, there is no drag link. The custom two-piece tie rod is made from 1.25-inch-diameter, 1/8-inch-wall 4130 chromoly with 3/4-inch chromoly spherical rod ends. The flexy custom suspension is comprised of a triangulated four-link setup with 175 lb/in Sway-A-Way 2.5-inch Race Runner remote-reservoir coilovers and King hydraulic bumpstops.
A high-pinion Dana 60 axle resides under the rear of the Bronco. It's built to endure a pounding and features Dana 61 hubs and spindles, Yukon 35-spline chromoly axleshafts, and an ARB Air Locker. It has also been fitted with 5.13:1 gears and Chevy 3/4-ton disc brakes via AA-Manufacturing weld-on brackets. The rear suspension is simple and flexy. It is comprised of custom 3.5-inch-lift National Spring leaf springs (12 leaves to a pack), a pair of Bilstein 7100-Series remote-reservoir shocks, custom traction bars, and Radflow nitrogen bumpstops.
The entire cockpit is encased in a well-crafted 10-point custom rollcage made from 1.75-inch, 0.120-wall DOM and HREW tubing. The cockpit itself retains a number of Bronco design cues but has been upgraded with PRP seats, a custom aluminum console, Auto Meter gauges, and a number of switches. Further, the entire body tub has been lined with Rhino Lining to improve durability. The unique GearBanger shifter is CNC-machined from 6061 billet aluminum and it is part of Covert's IronBender line of products. The GearBanger relocates the shifter behind the transfer case and effectively shortens the throw by up to one-third. Further, instead of having upward throw like a stock shifter, the GearBanger has a forward and backward throw.
The tube work on Covert's Bronco is exceptional. Here you can see how he designed a junction of tubing that resides in the front passenger side of the rig. One section supports the front fender, one is a tubular core support, and one is a chassis brace. All are mounted to the upper coilover mount and all are flanged so that they can be removed easily.
Owner: Jack Covert, Elk Grove, California
Vehicle/Model: '71 Ford Bronco
Estimated Value: $45,000
Type: 5.0L Ford V-8
Aspiration: Mustang fuel injection, JBA headers, Flowmaster 80 Series muffler
Output: hp/torque @ rpm (estimated): 350 @ 3,500/375 lb-ft @ 3,500
Transmission: NP435, Centerforce Dual Friction clutch
Transfer Case: Dana 20, BC Broncos 300M output shaft and NP435 adapter
Front: Triangulated four-link, 175 lb/in spring rate Sway-A-Way Race Runner remote-reservoir coilover shocks, King hydraulic bumpstops
Rear: Custom National Spring 3.5-inch leaf springs, Bilstein 7100 remote-reservoir shocks, Radflow nitrogen bumpstops
Front: High-pinion Dana 60, cryogenically treated 35-spline axleshafts, U-joints, and hubs, self-centering hydraulic steering/ARB Air Locker
Rear: High-pinion Dana 60, Dana 61 spindles and hubs, 35-spline axleshafts/ARB Air Locker
Ring and pinion: 5.13:1
Wheels: 17x9 Walker Evans aluminum bead locks
Tires: 40x13.50/17 Goodyear MT/Rs