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The Bronc Ness Monster - 1991 Ford Bronco

Posted in Features on March 1, 2012
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It must have been three years ago when my friend Jake Povey showed me a photo of a fullsize Bronco being hucked through the air. Photos usually make jumps look smaller, and this looked huge. The usual gamut of questions followed: Whose Bronco is that? Do you know him? Does he live around here? Is it feature worthy? The answers to all of my questions came from Twisted Metal Works in Reno, Nevada, where Ryan Brown has worked as a fabricator for the last nine years.

To end up with a vehicle this nice you either need deep pockets or mad skills. The days of getting a home equity loan and buying a six-figure prerunner are a distant memory, so Ryan had to build his ‘91 Bronco the old fashioned way. In fact, he is so meticulous and it took him so long to complete his labor of love that I started to wonder if the Bronc Ness Monster really existed, or if that original photo I had seen was just a Photoshopped ruse. Looking up “Ryan Brown Bronco” on Snopes didn’t yield any results, and one day I finally got a phone call from Ryan. “The Bronco is ready” was all he said. After many long nights at Twisted Metal Works it was finally ready for the camera.

When I hopped in to the Bronco to scout out photo locations Ryan already had his five-point harnesses cinched down, so I knew he was ready for business. I secured my camera bag to the third MasterCraft 3G seat in the back and then tightened my own Crow harnesses as the 351W roared to life. The sweet “clack, clack” of bypass tubes filled my ears as we floated over whoops like they weren’t even there. The test loop we were on is like Ryan’s backyard; he tunes his shocks here and knows every turn. Ryan stomped the gas and hucked the truck through the air, just like in that blurry photo I had seen years before. “Mind letting me out and doing that again?” I asked into the PCI headset. Ryan obliged, and we had ourselves a feature shot!

The Bronco is a perfect example of what you can achieve with some hard work on an average guy’s budget. The factory 351W was left relatively stock for reliability, and feeds power to an E40D that Ryan rows with an Art Carr shifter. From there the factory BW1356 transfer case splits power to the Dana 44 Twin Traction Beam (TTB) front end and swapped in rear Ford 9-inch. The front uses Ryan-built 4.5-inch extended beams filled with CTM chromoly axles, an open differential, and 4.88 gears while the rear has been fortified with Schreiner Enterprises full floating hubs and 35-spline axle shafts connected to a Detroit Locker and 4.86 gears. Lubelocker gaskets front and rear make for easy maintenance, and Ryan laid down miles of TIG welds on both housings to add enough trussing to ensure that they never bend when the 35-inch BFGoodrich Baja T/As return from orbit. The tires are steered by a complete Lee Manufacturing steering system that includes a reworked Ford box, custom stroke ram, and modified Saginaw pump plumbed with hydraulic lines sourced right down the street from Twisted Metal Works at Reno Hydraulic and Rebuild.

The front suspension uses 4.5-inch extended beams that Ryan crafted himself and filled with CTM chromoly axle shafts. The 2.5 diameter coilovers use a tender spring on top of a 400-pound-per-inch spring on a 550-pound-per-inch main spring. Doubled up MasterCraft straps limit the wheel travel to 18 inches. Also note the safety wires keeping the Grade 8 bolts tight on the steering box.

While the drivetrain is stout, the suspension is the real star of the show. Fox 2.5 14-inch-stroke Fox coilovers were sourced from Samco Fabrication, who provided many of the parts and assisted with shock tuning to dial in the ride. The front coilovers use light valving and Eibach coil springs in the front while 3.0 16-inch-stroke four-tube Fox bypass shocks do the bulk of the damping. Out back Giant Motorsports helped Ryan devise a suspension that could keep up with the TTB without breaking the bank. A pair of 64-inch Deaver leaf springs are used with Giant Motorsports shackles, hangers, and U-bolt plates. Another pair of 3-inch diameter four-tube Fox bypass shocks in the rear smooth out the bumps. Fox hydraulic bumpstops compliment the bypass shocks at all four corners and prevent harsh bottoming while FiberwerX glass fenders and bedsides make room for the ample suspension travel.

Inside, the Bronco looks more like a six-figure prerunner than something Ford built two decades ago. Ryan made a full rollcage from 1.75-inch 0.120 wall 4130 tubing and TIG-welded it to the frame for safety and increased chassis stiffness. Ryan’s dad, Jim, is a contractor and did an admirable job on the interior carpeting. There is tweed and aluminum everywhere you look; the sort of details that most fabricators don’t have the patience for and a clue about what was keeping Ryan busy during all of those long nights of work. The front two MasterCraft Safety 3G seats sit in the factory locations behind the FiberwerX carbon fiber dash that has a Lowrance 5200C GPS and a host of Auto Meter Ultra Lite gauges that monitor temps for the engine oil, coolant, and transmission as well as oil pressure, fuel level, and voltage. The aluminum center console holds the controls for the PCI intercom, Kenwood race radio, Art Carr shifter, and various toggle switches complete with race-quality circuit breakers.

In the end the Bronc Ness Monster ended up being more than an urban legend, and well worth the wait. Crawling over and under the Bronco quickly revealed why it took so long to complete. He must have attended charm school in addition to fab school, because Ryan was quick to thank all of the people who have helped him along the way. Amongst the shout-outs are Jeremy Nordine for putting his own project on the back burner to help Ryan, Mark Leverett for building the trick fire extinguisher mounts, and Jake Povey for laying down some of the beautiful TIG welds. OR

Giant Motorsports should hire Ryan to take potential customers for rides, it will make them a believer in Giant’s “Link Killer” leaf spring suspension. The Deaver springs work with Giant Motorsports shackles, hangers and bash plates alongside big Fox 3-inch, four-tube bypass shocks. The 18-inch-travel shocks allow 19.5 inches of wheel travel and go up into the cab, forcing the interior remodel.

A FiberwerX carbon fiber dash replaced the stock dash and gauge cluster. Instead, the real estate is filled with a Lowrance 5200C GPS and a host of Auto Meter Ultra Lite gauges monitoring the vitals. Behind the dash you can see the custom aluminum console that holes the intercom, race radio, switches with circuit breakers, and the Art Carr shifter. It even has cup holders!

Here you can see the custom storage that Ryan built for his Bronco. A spare rear driveshaft, alternator, and an aluminum jack are properly secured in the rear cargo area where they are easy to reach. Little details like this are abundant throughout the Bronco and an indication of just how much time Ryan has spent in the garage working on the Bronc Ness Monster. This was a labor of love and he has hundreds of hours of fabrication time in the interior alone. If you had to pay someone to do this work it would cost a fortune, but Ryan is a stickler for details and wanted everything to be perfect.

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