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Bradley's Bronco - 1977 Ford Bronco

Front Drivers Side View On Rocks
Mark Werkmeister | Writer
Posted February 19, 2004

An Excellent Example of Equestrian Iron

When Karl Bradley is asked about his earliest memories of four-wheeling, he recounts a story of the family's old Bronco. Sitting on his father's lap, Karl grasped the oversized steering wheel and cranked it with all his strength to make the turn into the family driveway. When Karl could finally reach the pedals on his own and was ready to get his own rig, the natural choice was a vintage Bronco. That began a long-running love affair with the wild horses of off-road. In the years since, Karl has built many vintage Broncos to varying levels of trail-worthiness. We met Karl at the Easter Jeep Safari and couldn't help but notice the attention to detail evident in his latest creation.

As an eighth-grade teacher in Gerton, North Carolina, Karl teaches his students the importance of starting with a solid platform. Karl is also a strong advocate of learning from both his experiences and those of others. His latest Bronco combines the cumulative knowledge of more than two decades and seven previous projects. On this one, Bradley took it right over the top.

Practicing what he teaches, Karl wanted to start with a solid platform. The choice was a custom frame from Advanced Frame Works. Fabricated from 0.250-inch rectangular tubing, the frame was stretched 12 inches under the door for improved trail stability. Once the rear axle had been moved back an additional 2 inches to enhance the departure angle, the resulting wheelbase came to 106 inches. To maintain the original body lines, one of Karl's earlier Broncos was scavenged to provide the 12-inch section of tub and some additional sheetmetal. The stretched body was then taken to House of Kolor and treated to Snow White paint color and Euro Red flames. For truly all-weather durability, the interior was treated to a coat of Rhino Lining.

As with any ground-up project, a heart transplant, or major bypass, is usually in order. The mill of choice was a Papaw Motorsports '95 351 Windsor. Papaw went deep to bring the 351 to life. A Comp Cams dual-pattern roller cam inspires Ford Racing roller rockers that rest atop reworked GT40-style cast-iron heads. The block was milled 0.030 over and fitted with 9.5:1 pistons.

A Ford Racing wiring loom and computer monitor engine vitals, while aspiration flows through a 65mm Ford Racing TBI, a 70mm mass air meter, and 24-pound FR injectors. Spent gases are efficiently channeled rearward via a pair of Wild Horses shorty headers, a two-into-one 3-inch exhaust, and a Flowmaster Delta-series muffler. Keeping this high-performance mill running cool is a Ron Davis double-pass radiator and tranny cooler. The original C4 transmission was given a heavy-duty rebuild that included new bands and a valvebody, and was then fitted with a Lokar shifter and mated to a 4.3:1 Advance Adapters Atlas II transfer case. Transferring the estimated 400 ponies fore and aft is a pair of Tom Wood's drivelines, the rear one incorporating a 1350 CV joint.

To handle the additional torque, horsepower, and foreseen trail action, the original 8.8-inch rear and Dana 44 front axles were discarded. The rear was replaced with a reverse-cut Tera 60 fitted with Moser 35-spline 'shafts, 4.88 gears, a Detroit Locker, and disc brakes. The front was treated to a reverse-cut Dana 60 from an F-350. It, too, was fitted with a Detroit Locker, 35-spline stub 'shafts, and disc brakes.

When designing the suspension for this Bronco buildup, Karl knew that it needed to be agile, capable of considerable articulation, and beefy enough to handle the increased horsepower and unsprung weight. The chosen components up front were a set of James Duff extended radius arms and 5-1/2-inch-lift coil springs. James Duff shocks and shock hoops at each corner manage damping duties, while an AGR Rock Ram assists a high-steer setup with directional control. National leaf springs were used out back to complement the supple front setup, and a custom center-mounted traction bar was implemented to control axle wrap. Keeping this ensemble in touch with terra firma is a set of massive Goodyear 40x13.50R17 Wrangler MT/Rs wrapped around Trail Ready bead locks. When Karl is kicking around the hills of Tellico, Paragon, or Monteagle, he goes for the big guns: a set of 42-inch Interco Swamper TSLs.

Jumping behind the wheel, the eye instantly catches a full set of Auto Meter Silver-series gauges conveniently laid out across the Euro Red dash. A pair of Beard Ultra seats and Simpson five-point harnesses keep occupants secure and comfortable. Other dash-mounted controls include toggles for an engine-mounted Kilby Enterprises air compressor, KC driving lights, a Warn HS9500i winch, an AccuFab heater, and electric wipers from Tom's Bronco. Other trick items include a frame-mounted rollcage, rock rails, and custom front and rear bumpers, all of which feature the Euro Red finish. A custom Better Built cargo box fits neatly behind the rear seat and holds an extensive assortment of tools and spare parts.

The early-Bronco body style was only produced for 12 years. However, its short wheelbase, durable chassis, drivetrain, and open-air ride make it a natural platform for a great trail rig. We have always had a soft spot for the classic Bronco and couldn't help noticing Bradley's rig out on Moab's Helldorado Canyon. The attention to detail and pride in ownership go far beyond a cool set of meats and a bright paintjob. After 26 years and eight Bronco buildups, Bradley is still hitting the trail in classic equestrian iron.

SPECIFICATIONS
Owner/hometown:Karl Bradley/ Gerton, North Carolina
Year/make/model:'77 {{{Ford Bronco}}}
Engine: '95 351 Windsor
Transmission:C4
Transfer case: AA Atlas II 4.3
Frontend: Reverse-cut Tera 60 with Detroit Locker
Rearend:Reverse-cut Dana 60 with Detroit Locker
Ring-and-pinion:4.88
Suspension:Front: James Duff coil springs and radius arms; Rear: National springs
Wheels/tires:Trail Ready bead locks/ Goodyear 40x13.50R17 Wrangler MT/Rs

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  • A Papaw Motorsports EFI 351 mill sits beneath the hood. Bored 0.030 over and fitted with 9.5:1 pistons, a Comp Cams cam, a Ford Racing throttle body, fuel injection, and rocker arms, this intimidating equestrian puts out an estimated 400 ponies.

  • The original Dana 44 front axle was swapped out for a reverse-cut Dana 60 out of an F-350. The differential was fitted with a Detroit Locker, which turns 35-spline stub 'shafts and 5-on-5-1/2-bolt-pattern disc brakes. Assisting in directional control is an AGR Rock Ram.

  • To handle the horsepower, the rear axle was replaced with a reverse-cut Tera 60 stuffed with Moser 35-spline 'shafts, 4.88 gears, a Detroit Locker, and disc brakes.

  • James Duff shock hoops, dual shocks, and 5-1/2-inch-lift coil springs at each corner manage damping duties for the Goodyear 40x13.50R17 Wrangler MT/Rs on Trail Ready bead locks.

  • The clean lines of the front clip are accentuated by a Warn HS9500i and a pair of KC driving lights mounted on a Euro Red custom bumper.

  • The rear suspension flexes on National springs and dual Wild Horses shocks. Tucked between the framerails out of harm's way are a 3-inch exhaust, a Flowmaster muffler, and a Viair air tank.

  • The foundation for Bradley's Bronco is an Advanced Frame Works custom mandrel-bent frame. An additional 12 inches in length added under the door produced a wheelbase of 106 inches. An Atlas II transfer case distributes power fore and aft via a pair of Tom Wood's drivelines.

  • Stretching the body created room for a rear seat and a Better Built cargo box. A fire extinguisher and Hi-Lift jack mount conveniently to a frame-mounted six-point rollcage.

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