Some trail rigs are exactly what they seem. With a single glance you can get a decent idea of how capable they are and just how much time and effort their owners have poured into them. Some rigs, though, are deceptively simple. And it usually takes a bit of digging to discover they are more than the sum of their parts.
This is exactly the case with Richard Ward's '71 Ford Bronco. At first glance, what you see is an early Bronco that appears to be in relatively good shape for a 30-year-old trail rig. But crawl underneath, climb inside, or open the hood, and the full story begins to emerge.
As the owner of Hy-Tech Powder Coating, Richard wanted to build a rig that would not only cater to his love of four-wheeling but one that would also serve as a vehicle to promote his business. The old Bronco seemed the perfect starting point.
The 302 purring beneath the hood has been equipped with a variety of aftermarket parts to make it more trailworthy, including a Holley Pro-Jection EFI system, a Mallory ignition, a Brass Works water pump, a four-row radiator, 10mm plug wires, an Optima battery, and a K&N air filter. For better breathing, Richard also bolted on a set of Hooker headers and a Flowmaster exhaust.
With the newly equipped motor running much better, especially at an altitude and on off-camber trails, Richard broke from the Ford pack and decided to install an NP435 transmission and NP205 transfer case in his old steed. Ford purists might be appalled, but the combination gives Richard good Low range gears and excellent off-road reliability.
With a Ford 9-inch axle and a Dana 44 already sitting beneath the Bronco, Richard knew all he really needed to do was rebuild these venerable housings and he'd have a very stout rig on his hands. Consequently, he had both the front and rear equipped with new axle shafts and 4.56 gears, while the rearend got a Detroit locker and the frontend got a PowerLok.
To provide a little more ground clearance and make room for the 33x12.50-inch Thornbirds he was planning to bolt up, Richard installed a Skyjacker 3-inch lift. For extra protection from rocks and other trail hazards, he then proceeded to have the oil pan, tranny, and T-case completely guarded with custom 3/16-inch steel skidplates. The rocker panels received similar treatment with custom 1/4-inch steel plating. Rounding off the custom protection is a set of front and rear bumpers and a very clean exterior rollcage.
Because the old Bronco interiors could be a little short on amenities, Richard set about making a few refinements. First, he replaced the front bucket seats with a nice set from a Porsche 911; the rear seat is a completely custom creation. He then pulled out the old column and swapped in one from a Cadillac, complete with tilt and a telescopic steering wheel. The only other addition to the dash was a full set of VDO gauges. With a custom center console, a Cobra CB, and a Pioneer stereo system, Richard called it quits.
After more than 30 years, this old Bronco is still soldiering on. And with the many modifications and upgrades Richard has performed, we have no doubt this is one trail rig that still has many years of service left in it.
|Owner/Hometown:||Richard Ward/Salinas, California|
|Year/make/model:||'71 Ford Bronco|
|Frontend:||Dana 44 with Power Lok|
|Rearend:||Ford 9-inch with Detroit locker|
|Suspension:||Skyjacker 3-inch lift|
|Wheels/tires:||15x10-inch steel wheels/33x12.50-inch Thornbirds|