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Custom Ford Bronco 4x4 Trucks Review - Saddle Up!

Posted in Features on October 30, 2006 Comment (0)
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Cool. Classic. Rugged. Fun. The boxy, short-wheelbase SUV Ford introduced to the off-roading public in 1966 turned 40 this year. During time's relentless march forward, the early Bronco has blazed through Baja, gone fishing and camping, conquered the rocks, appeared in films, and even scorched the dragstrip. Yes, it's been a commuter too. While the '66-'77 Bronco's cool factor won't diminish one iota with the commencement of its 41st year, we would've been remiss not to give one of the all-time off-road greats a tribute in the twilight of 2006.

With the generosity of their respective owners, we managed to corral (lame equine puns seem required in most Bronco stories, so we'll continue the tradition) two fine Blue Oval ponies that we think you'll like. The first bristles with high-zoot suspension and is powered by a fiery 351 Windsor. The second is a milder build but still boasts key upgrades that add up to a reliable, well-prepared trail machine capable of getting its lucky owner there and back, time after time.

Enough with the intro. It's time to cut to the roundup, er, chase.

What's in a Plate?
Todd Bennet is a lucky man, for his wife has a good sense of humor. Todd's lime-green Bronco's license plate reads "GRNDZ4DV," meaning "grounds for divorce." After spending way too many evenings and weekends sans Todd, Shelley Bennett devised a fitting phrase for the plate. GRNDZ4DV sits in its current state after a six-year building period. The buildup was anything but small potatoes: This machine is a step or two away from taking on SCORE's Class 3. A coilover front end and a healthy 351 under a two-pin fiberglass hood are just a few of the many upgrades. No true off-road machine is ever truly finished, but Todd's best bet is to treat Shelley to many dinner/movie nights and several rides in the lime-green dirt limo before diverting his attention back to the Bronc's to-do list. After all, the license plate is supposed to be a joke.

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Saddled but Not Tamed
If there's a Bronco that captures the essence of "cool, classic, rugged, and fun," it's Preston Panza's red '72. Most Broncos are well away from the hands of their original owners (and this one's no exception), but Preston is this 34-year-old's third owner instead of its seventh or tenth. As such, he found his Bronco in good shape: a great canvas to paint his ideas on. As built, it's a perfect all-arounder, capable of running all but the most extreme trails, and remains civilized enough for everyday use. Building the Bronco wasn't a solo effort: Preston is quick to thank his brother Keith Panza and his friend Steve Matthews for their help over the years.

(Almost) Required Reading
Want to brush up on your Bronco knowledge? Ford Bronco 4x4 Performance Portfolio 1966-1977 is a great way to do just that. Compiled by R.M. Clarke, the Performance Portfolio is a window to the past via a collection of articles appearing in various magazines over the years. From Doug Nash's fiberglass-bodied tube-chassis dragster to chronicles of Bill Stroppe running Baja, the Bronco's heritage is captured in the pages of Clarke's compilation. Some of the articles contained within make us long for what may have been the good old days, and other articles make us glad the past is behind us. This 140-page compilation is well worth a read.

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Weldtec Designs
Wild Horses 4x4 Club
King Off-Road Racing Shocks
Garden Grove, CA 92843
Brooklands Books
So Cal Big Dawgs


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