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1973 Ford Bronco - Locked & Loaded

Posted in Features on October 1, 2002
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We've all heard the phrase locked and loaded. it usually refers to being ready for any situation that one is likely to encounter, regardless of when, where, or how. For those of us who take the road less traveled, we've all entered a trail or two at one time in our lives, believing that we were locked and loaded, only to learn that we were not even close to being prepared. This realization usually occurs after something catastrophic has already occurred. For Steve Williams of Sebastopol, California, catastrophe struck while on the way out to the famed rockcrawler Mecca known as the Rubicon. Tucked away for the long journey, locked and loaded, literally, into an enclosed trailer was his trusty '73 Ford Bronco. As luck, or lack thereof, would have it, Steve had an accident with the trailer, causing severe damage to the trailer and the precious cargo enclosed. Needless to say, Steve and his Bronco never reached the Rubicon. Having attended such highly acclaimed events as Easter In Moab for 12 straight years and running, the Chili Challenge for the past two years, and the Superlift/Montrose Jamboree, there was no chance that an accident would demolish his off-road interest and enthusiasm. So back to the drawing board he went, with his work cut out for him.

Getting the rebuild underway was a daunting task. After many days and nights of calculating where to begin, Steve decided to start with the suspension and work his way up. The factory frame was modified to accept a transfer case skidplate, and the mounting locations for the radius arms were repositioned. Four-inch, squared steel tubing mounts were attached to the frame so that the rocker panels would be bulletproof while traversing the canyons throughout the Rubicon and Moab. The factory rear axle was replaced with a custom-made extra-heavy-duty Currie Enterprises 9-inch Ford unit. Seated neatly in the shafts are 31-spline Currie Enterprises custom axles and a Detroit Locker matched with 5.43 gears. The front setup includes an air-locked Dana 44 with 5.38 gearing and Warn axles. Allowing for the much-needed wheel clearance that rockcrawling requires, Steve raised the Bronco by installing custom-packed 14-leaf 3-1/2-inch National Spring rear leaf springs with four Ranch RS 9000 remote-controlled shocks to absorb the rough spots. Rancho Suspension rear traction bars were mounted to reduce axle wrap upon take off. When the 3-1/2-inch Wild Horse front coil springs are paired up with the double Rancho RS 9000s, the Bronco can move through whatever terrain there is and then some. James Duff radius rods add to the smooth ride, too. Knowing that the Bronco would be commissioned for voyages through some of the toughest terrain in the U.S., Steve opted to replace the steering box with one from a Ford F-250 for the added durability. Upon completion of the suspension rebuild, 15x10-inch Center Line H/T wheels with bead locks were bolted onto the rig with the 35x14.50x15 SSR Swampers filling the wheelwells just right. The braking distance of the rig was improved by the addition of four-wheel disc brakes that are connected to the Ford power-booster and Mopar proportioning valve by stainless steel brake lines.

Of course, no self-respecting four-wheeler is complete without a substantial amount of horsepower. Sparing no expense in his rebuild, Steve made a few calls to acquire a brand-new '96 Ford Lightning V-8 GT-40 crate motor. Just looking at it did something for everyone involved. Once out of the crate, the new motor was upgraded with a Ford SVO camshaft with a 276 duration and a 464 lift, Ford SVO heads with matching valve covers, and K&N breathers. For technical assistance in the conversion, Ford Motorsports Special Vehicles Team was only a phone call away. The Lightning motor was paired to an automatic Overdrive transmission specially built by Bruce of Calwest Transmissions in nearby Santa Rosa, California. Knowing the type of activities the truck would be involved in, Bruce added Low planetary gears to the transmission and matched a custom-built Atlas II 3.7 transfer case. As if the engine didn't already sound sweet, the headers and exhaust system were fabricated by Franklin Muffler of Santa Rosa.

Modifications to the exterior were somewhat extensive as a result of the accident. Working closely with the crew of Dave's Auto Body in Petaluma, California, Steve substituted the factory steel hood with a High Country fiberglass unit along with custom-shaped front and rear fiberglass fenders. The grille shell of the Bronco was cut 4 inches to make it fit seamlessly with the front Hanson Enterprises bumper. Prior to the bumper being installed, Dave's Auto Body applied the custom-mixed DuPont Imron Dark Toreador Red paint. A few gallons of paint and clearcoat later, the truck was delivered to Eric Sedletsky of Petaluma for the application of the red and orange pinstriping and the custom airbrushed blue and white lightning bolts that run down the side of the Bronco.

Open the two-piece soft doors that were custom-made by John Bundy and you'll find a plethora of gadgets and goodies inside, including a custom-made dashboard by Steve, custom switches to control every item on the rig, and Auto Meter gauges. If you sit in the Cerullo bucket seats covered in black fabric to match the carpet and strap yourself in with the Deist Safety five-point harnesses, you'll notice the custom billet aluminum Grant steering wheel and rollbar that were fabricated by G&B Iron Works of Petaluma. The custom 700-watt Alpine/Boston Acoustic/Zapco sound system sounds incredible, especially when the four 8-inch JL Audio subs hit those deep bass notes. Kozy Auto Upholstery of Cotati, California, made a bikini top to keep the vital components protected from the elements.

Do you remember we were saying something about being locked and loaded? As additional insurance while out on the trail, Steve installed a 160-amp Link-Arc alternator and dual Red Top Optima Battery system with a Good Samaritan charging system to act as support components to his onboard welder. He then added an air-conditioning compressor and an air tank to assist with his air-locking differential and the airing up of his tires once his day is complete. The air compressor also drives all of his air tools as well.

Proof that Steve's Bronco is in fact locked and loaded is his receipt of the award for Best Equipped Four-Wheel Drive by the California Association of Four Wheel Drives. Upon the completion of this project, Steve will more than likely be back on track heading at full speed for the Rubicon. Just remember, Steve, there's always something or someone up ahead to be prepared for, so if you see us standing at the side of the road with our rig broken down, at least give us a hand as you blow by in your lightning-struck Bronco.

Owner/hometown Steve Williams/Sebastopol, California
Year/make/model '73 Ford Bronco 4x4
Suspension 3-1/2-inch National Spring (rear); Rancho traction
bars; 3-1/2-inch Wild Horse coil (front)
Wheels/tires 15x10-inch Center Line H/T with bead
locks/35x14.50x15 SSR Swampers
Shocks Double Rancho RS 9000 (front & rear)
Engine Ford Lightning 351ci V-8; Ford SVO Camshaft
Additional features Alpine/Boston Acoustic/Zapco sound system;
Cerullo bucket seats; Deist harnesses; Link-Arc
onboard welder; 160-amp alternator; custom
header and exhaust system; four-wheel disc
brakes; Auto Meter gauges; custom paint
and graphics

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