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1980 Ford Bronco - Bustin' Bronco - Off-Road

Posted in Features on March 1, 2005
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The term Bustin' Bronco originated in the freestyle motocross arena. To pull a Bustin' Bronco, a rider executed a no-footer, while kicking his feet as if spurring a rebellious wild mustang. In the off-road truck world, Herman Motorsports uses its '80 Bronco to bust some serious airtime over the desert floor beneath.

Ford's '80 to '96 Bronco is coming on strong with race teams and enthusiasts alike. The popularity stems from the Bronco's ability to negotiate the roughest of racecourses while carrying a payload of passengers, tools, and other essentials. Team Off-Road caught up with the Herman Motorsports team just before it left for the Baja 1000. Team owner Rob Herman has enlisted brothers Damen and Casey Jeffries to capture Class 1 victories from the five-point harnesses inside the team's Porter-built Unlimited-class Buggy.

When it's time for prerunning, the team enlists the 450hp 5,000-pound brute seen flying across these pages. Damen and Casey undertook the majority of the Bronc's buildup. As with most truck projects, this particular Bronco started out as a trail-worn beast tattered by years of off- and on-road duty. The original idea was to build a mild prerunner, but then the project took on a life of its own. After the grinders, welders, tube notchers, and tube benders were put away, the Bronco had indeed become an off-road-worthy steed. This truck sports first-rate attention to detail.

As with any solid prerunner, the chassis is the foundation. Without a structurally sound chassis, the truck would rapidly expire once the off-road pounding commenced. Chassis fabrication was done by both M&T Racecars and brothers Damen and Casey.

One of the Bronco's drawbacks in the desert is its relatively short wheelbase. Putting a few more inches between the front and rear wheels makes a more stable off-road platform, with better bump-swallowing ability. To gain the desired inches, the body was stretched a full foot at the B-pillars. The wheelbase gained new length via custom front and rear suspension systems. When the body stretching was completed, the vehicle was taken to Mike Callaway, who prepped and painted both the sheetmetal and Hannemann fiberglass that contained the Bronco's 88-inch track width. The bright red is a photo-friendly hue and serves notice to gawkers and competitors alike that there's much to see and appreciate about this truck.

Although Ford's twin-traction-beam four-wheel-drive system is capable of impressive wheel travel, the race team wanted even more travel than could be achieved using a functioning four-wheel-drive system. The traction beams were removed, with custom equal-length I-beams taking their place. Since it was no longer needed, the transfer case was also removed. Coilover and bypass shocks span the expanse between the mounts on the engine cage above and I-beams below. Suspension travel is about 22 inches in the front. To keep the front wheels pointed in the correct direction during suspension cycling, a custom swing-set steering linkage complements the equal-length 'beams. Rounding out the frontend's beef is a Saginaw steering box and a set of custom Pro Am hubs.

A three-link suspension does dampening duty on the Bronco's rear. Coilover and bypass shocks bolted to the lower trailing arms net 30 inches of desert-smoothing suspension travel. The length of the trailing arms and upper wishbone were designed specifically to extend the desert pony's wheelbase. The trailing arms and wishbone meet at a CNC axlehousing. CNC also supplied the rear hubs, to which 17x8-inch Robby Gordon Wheels wrapped with BFGoodrich 37-inch Project T/As are mounted.

Under the Hannemann fiberglass hood rests a Ford 351 Windsor V-8. The Windsor has been punched out to 400 cid and has a 10:1 compression ratio. The potent powerplant feeds into a C-6 three-speed automatic transmission. Although the C-6 is a strong unit as issued from the factory, Herman Motorsports chose to upgrade some of the internals in the name of reliability and performance. A TCS torque convertor was installed by Rancho Transmissions, along with shafts made of ultra-trick 300mm steel.

A look inside the stretched long-leg prerunner reveals an interior that's a mix of plush and function. MasterCraft seats cradle the occupants, who communicate with chase crews using PCI Race Radios while taking in the tunes imported by an XM Satellite Radio. Satellite radio is a luxury if you live in the boonies and want a big-city selection of radio programs. A Vintage air unit keeps things cool while watching the Lowrance GPS display screen and rowing the Art Carr shifter.

When all was said, done, fabricated, and spent, Herman Motorsports had an ultra-capable 'runner on its hands, although the company's wallet was $75,000 lighter. Yes, it's a big chunk of change. No, it's not outrageous in today's world of $500,000 Trophy Trucks and the $250,000 prerunners that often chase them.

The final assembly had just been completed when we arrived for our photo shoot. Sans testing or set up, Damen laid his heavy right foot into the skinny pedal and the Bustin' Bronco flew high and far, right out of the gate.

Owner/hometown Herman Motorsports
Year/make/model '80 {{{Ford Bronco}}}
Engine Ford 351 Windsor bored to 400 ci; 10:1 compression ratio
Transmission Ford C-6 built by Rancho Transmissions; TCS torque convertor; 300mm shafts; Art Carr shifter; manual valvebody
Front suspension Equal-length twin I-beams; swing-set steering system; Saginaw steering box; coilover and bypass shocks; 22 inches of travel
Rear suspension Three-link consisting of boxed lower trailing arms and upper wishbone; coilover and bypass shocks; 30 inches of travel
Miscellaneous Body stretched 12 inches; wheelbase stretched to a final length of 118 inches

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