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1976 Ford Bronco - Pony Express

Front Right
Joel Mollis | Writer
Posted November 1, 2000
Photographers: Randall Jachmann

A Thoroughbred Bronco That's Stylish And Stout

In the year 1966, Ford Motor Company, responding to an internal corporate challenge to develop a consumer-friendly, go-anywhere, do-anything, on and off-road vehicle, introduced America to the Bronco. The first year of Bronco production saw three models offered: the Sports Utility model, which was an open-bed pickup with a half roof; a Roadster, which had neither roof nor formal doors, and a four-passenger Wagon with a removable roof.

The Bronco was - and is - unique in the 4x4 world for a couple of reasons. First, the Bronco was cool because Ford saw fit to offer the Bronco with an optional 289ci V-8 engine, which, when combined with the Bronco's 92-inch wheelbase and 3,025-pound overall weight, made for a nimble 4x4 with an impressive power-to-weight ratio. Additionally, Ford engineered a smooth-riding, yet off-road capable coil spring and radius arm suspension system for the Bronco's solid front axle, a design that was the first of its kind and way ahead of its time.

Throughout the Bronco's production run, which lasted from '66 to '77, minor changes were made, such as an increase in engine size from 289 ci to 302 ci, and slight interior and exterior trim and styling upgrades, but the Bronco stayed true to its original design. Now, fast forward to the year 2000. In this day and age, vintage Broncos remain highly prized vehicles because of their original attributes. Lightweight, an overall wheelbase that makes for snappy handling, torque-y V-8 power, and classic styling is still in vogue, even decades after the first Bronco rolled off the assembly line.

With so many good things going for it, some would say the Bronco doesn't have much room for improvement. However, that philosophy isn't shared by Mike Shetler, owner and builder of this screamin' yellow Bronco. It's not often we find ourselves totally stoked over a 24-year-old SUV, but Shetler's Shetland is one trick pony.

The suspension setup isn't wildly radical, just functional and near bulletproof. K Bar S in Las Vegas supplied the lifted coil springs, the longer, stronger radius arms and track rod, and the upgraded steering linkage. Dual K Bar S front shocks damp the suspension travel and produce a sure-footed ride. The rear suspension also makes use of K Bar S components, including lifted spring packs, dual shocks and a traction link to limit axlehousing wrap. A K Bar S 2-inch body lift was also installed; it was required to clear the 35x12.50R15 BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/As mounted to 15x10 American Racing AR-136 polished alloy wheels.

The engine powering this thoroughbred is a Ford SVO 351ci V-8. The Blue Oval powerplant is quite healthy, sporting high-performance GT-40 aluminum cylinder heads, an MSD ignition system, an SVO Lightning intake plenum, upgraded fuel injectors, and a K&N Filtercharger residing within a custom aluminum housing. An SVO computer rides herd on the engine's ignition and fuel circuits, Hooker headers send exhaust gases on their way, and stainless braided lines from Earl's keep the fluids in check, while adding a stout look to the engine bay. Norman Kelly and the crew at J&B Conversions get credit for the engine assembly and installation; Kelly also fabbed the fan shroud on the B-Cool radiator.

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