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1974 Ford Bronco - Hobby Horse

Posted in Features on June 1, 2001
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Contributors: Mark Nobles

When Rob Smithson picked up this '74 Bronco four years ago, it was a basket case. The body panels were riddled with rust, the 351 Windsor had a serious knock, and after years of neglect, the entire thing was just about ready to collapse. According to Rob, the only parts still worth anything were the engine and the axles. A mere $400, and it was all his.

At one time or another, just about every four-wheeler has talked himself into a major project, with visions of a beautiful buildup dancing in his head. But with 30 years of 'wheeling under his belt, Rob knew what he was getting into, and he wasted no time tearing the old Bronco down. A genuine Ford man, Rob's previous rig was a Bronco II with a 9-inch in back and a custom-fit Twin I-beam Dana 44 up front. Suffice it to say, Rob knew his Fords and knew what it was going to take to make this rig trail-worthy.

Today, a completely rebuilt, blueprinted, and balanced 351 Windsor rumbles beneath the hood, its knocks and pings long forgotten. It takes in air through an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold, and exhales through a set of Jet-Hot-coated headers and a Flowmaster stainless steel exhaust. A Holley Pro-Jection system keeps the engine running smoothly on even the most off-camber terrain. To overcome the cooling problems that Broncos are famous for, Rob had Extreme Automotive in El Cajon, California, install its new serpentine system, which keeps the Windsor operating at a consistent 180 degrees.

Because Rob wanted a vehicle that would perform well off road and still be driveable around town, he swapped in an AOD four-speed auto tranny that's coupled to a Dana 20 transfer case with a 2.41 Low range. Combined with the 4.56 gearsets front and rear, this setup gives him the best of both worlds: good crawl ratio for the rocks and dirt, and a comfortable 1,900 rpm when doing 60 on the highway.

The stout 9-inch in back has been crowned with a nodular third member and is equipped with a Detroit Locker. Up front, a Dana 44 has been set up with a Warn 35-spline, full-floater kit with Dana 60 outer axles and a Lock-Right locker. All four corners of the hefty Bronco have been outfitted with disc brakes for excellent response time on the road and in the rocks.

For maximum clearance in all types of terrain, Rob went with a Superlift 5-1/2-inch lift with Rancho 9000 shocks. Then he had Extreme Automotive move the tie rod to the top of the knuckles, where it is better protected and works better due to the decreased angle of operation. Instead of opting for rocker guards, which he felt might hamper clearance, Rob had 4x4-inch steel beams welded behind the rocker panels where they are unobtrusive yet do the most good. Everything now rides on 36x14.50x15 Super Swampers wrapped around 15x10 American Racing wheels.

Rounding out this unique Bronco are custom front and rear bumpers, a Warn 9000i winch, and a Kayline soft top (the original hardtop was the unfortunate victim of a sunroof conversion). When the project was finally where he wanted it, Rob had JC&P Auto Body give his Bronco this unique paintjob.

Because no project is ever really, truly finished, Rob has further plans for his Bronco. The interior will soon be refurbished with new seats, gauges, and a variety of other components. So if you frequent Johnson Valley, Los Coyotes, or the Borrego Badlands, keep an eye out for Rob and his Hobby Horse.

SPECIFICATIONS
Make/model: '74 {{{Ford Bronco}}}
Owner/hometown: Rob Smithson/
Descanso, California
Engine: 351 Windsor V-8
Induction: Edelbrock Performer
intake
Transmission: Ford AOD
Transfer case: Dana 20 with
2.41 Low range
Frontend: Dana 44 with a Warn
35-spline full-floater,
Dana 60 outer axles,
Lock-Right locker
Rearend: Ford 9-inch with a
Detroit Locker
Ring-and-pinion: 4.56
Suspension: Superlift 5-1/2-inch
with Rancho 9000
Tires/wheels: 36x14.50x15 Super
Swampers/15x10
American Racing

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