Upon first purchasing his '72 Ford Bronco Sport more than 10 years ago, Kevin Heiss was simply looking for some wheels to take him around town. At the time, the classic rig sat on 31-inch tires and was in stock form aside from the trimmed-out rear fenders. Since those days of trekking to and from work and school and dirtying the Bronco on local trails around his native North Bend, Oregon, Kevin's Bronco has benefited from multiple modifications and experienced some spectacular excursions. But with his recent move to Fernley, Nevada, situated one hour from Cadillac Hill along the Rubicon Trail, Kevin and his lucky Bronco are just beginning their 'wheeling relationship.
Currently employed as a mountain search and rescue pilot and a naval aviator, Kevin finds plenty of kicks on the job, but he still turns to his Bronco for action when the H-1 helicopters or C-12 airplanes he operates don't satisfy his need for some thrills. Just so you know what kind of thrills we're speaking of, Kevin spent a good bit of time piloting an H-60 helicopter (the Navy's version of the Black Hawk) after being deployed to Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. So, as you can see, a mild-mannered 4x4 just wasn't going to do the job for such an adventurer as Kevin.
Initially, the buildup of Kevin's '72 Bronco was done in stages as time and money allowed, but Kevin eventually leapt in with both feet and decided it was time to finish the job. A trip to Dave's Off Road in Bend was Kevin's first and best resolution in the buildup. Once in the shop, the factory suspension components were removed, as was the stock driveline. The parts roundup ensued, with a custom Dana 60 coming from Currie Enterprises with 4.56 gears, an ARB Air Locker, Warn chrome-moly axleshafts and CTM U-joints, and power disc brakes from an F-150. A front Dana 44 was built to match, and the creation of the suspension configuration began. Drawn on AutoCad, the suspension design was to use a set of Warn/Fox coilover shocks left over from a Warn Black Diamond Jeep YJ XCL suspension system. Custom brackets, shock mounts, and a rear truss were designed by Dave's Off Road and built by Pneu-Con in Bend. The coilovers were positioned atop the axles and located by a four-link setup. Adding to the overall ingenuity of the design, the lower rear coilover brackets were made to free slide up and down the lower control arms and rotate a full 360 degrees. All told, the suspension setup allows for plenty of flex and droop, with more than enough area beneath the fenderwells to fully stuff the 38.5x14.5X15 Super Swamper TSL-SX meats mounted to 15x10-inch Allied bead locks.
Moving to the powertrain, Kevin sourced a '76 351W V-8 and had it rebuilt by ATK Engines in Danville, California. Tomahawk Enterprises in Bend outfit the mill with a multiport fuel-injection system from a '96 F-150 and mated it to a C-4 automatic transmission. Spent gas from the 351 was channeled through James Duff Headers and dual chamber Flowmasters, and exhaust exit ports were built into a custom rear bumper by Dave's Off Road. To the rear of the C-4 tranny, Kevin installed an Atlas 4.3:1 transfer case and had custom driveshafts constructed by New House Mfg. in Redmond, Oregon. Other underhood additions include an Optima deep-cycle battery and a Thomas air compressor to plumb the ARBs and provide on-board air.
With the Bronco finally off the rack and nearly ready to run, the next plan of attack was body armor. The custom rear bumper from Dave's Off Road was already installed, but shop owner Dave Chisolm wanted a few more signature items in place before Kevin's '72 was to leave the shop. A set of rock skids were constructed and built into the Bronco. The stock rocker panels were removed, and the floor was reinforced to make way for the hefty rock skids, which also serve as air storage tanks. Lastly, a bumper from Hansen Enterprises was installed up front and equipped with a Warn 9500i winch, and a custom rollcage was built by Dave's Off Road.
Beginning with the basics, Kevin Heiss took his '72 Bronco to the next level, and even a few levels past that. Kevin indicated that he couldn't have completed such a transformation had it not been for all the great assistance he received from good friends and family, namely his father Glenn Heiss, Dave Chisolm, and Mike Garoute and Tracy Huette of Pneu-Con. Staying true to his adventurous nature, Kevin put together a rig worthy of most any type of challenge. And though it may not fly in the same manner as the vehicles he's accustomed to, be certain that he'll pilot it as if it did.
Owner/hometown: Kevin Heiss/Fernley, Nevada
Year/make/model: '72 Ford Bronco
Engine: '76 351W
Transmission: '72 C-4
Transfer case: Atlas 4.3:1
Frontend: Dana 44, ARB
Rearend: Dana 60, ARB
Suspension: Custom Warn/Fox XCL coilover
Wheels/tires: 38.5x14.5x15 Super Swamper TSL-SX/15x10-inch Allied bead locks