Zach Oberlander works with cars all day at his business, Autobahn Automotive. So understandably, the last thing that he wants to do in his free time is spin wrenches. Instead Zach keeps an eye out for good deals on cars, boats, and 4x4s that someone else has already put the time and money into. His latest purchase was this ’71 Bronco, which was originally built by Nick Vona. When the racing bug bit Nick, he traded the Bronco to Travis Carpenter for Carpenter’s Ultra4 buggy. However, Travis was looking to start a business and didn’t have the Bronco long before Zach scooped it up. “He handed me a stack of receipts that totaled over $10,000 for the engine alone!” Zach recalls.
The money was used to build a stout 347ci stroker engine. Tony Hews of Hews Performance built the small-block Ford with a Scat forged rotating assembling, AFR 185 aluminum heads, and a Comp Cam camshaft and roller rockers to produce an estimated 450 hp. The engine is topped by a FAST fuel-injection system that allows it to operate at any elevation and any angle on the trail. Of course, there is more to this Bronco than just the engine, and the rest of the drivetrain is just as impressive. A bulletproof NP435 transmission routes power to the dual T-cases, consisting of an NP203 range box mated to the factory Dana 20 using components from Advance Adapters. The axles are still a high-pinion Dana 44 in front and a Ford 9-inch in the rear, but they have been upgraded in every way imaginable. The front uses a larger Dana 50 ring gear from Jantz Engineering around an ARB Air Locker with RCV chromoly axleshafts tossed into the mix. Out back, 35-spline chromoly axleshafts from Moser and a Detroit Locker are more than enough to reliably handle the 38-inch-tall Goodyear MT/Rs.
While his friends are in the garage throwing wrenches, Zach is enjoying his ‘bought Bronco.
The Goodyears stay in contact with the ground in nearly all conditions thanks to the custom suspension from Silly Fab Service (SFS) in Rancho Cordova, California. Phil Licciardi of SFS extended the front radius arms with DOM tubing and rod ends to allow for more wheeltravel, less camber change as the suspension cycles, and less binding with the Wild Horses coil springs and Fox 2.0 shocks. Out back, the leaf springs were ditched in favor of a coil suspension that uses very similar components to the front for balanced articulation on the trail. The same coil springs and Fox shocks are used in the rear, but without steering to worry about, SFS was able to build a triangulated four-link to locate the 9-inch axle. Using a triangulated suspension in front was not an option with the traditional steering box and crossover steering, as the suspension would cycle in a different plane than the drag link, resulting in massive bumpsteer. That was not recommended on the trail, and it definitely would not work on a rig like this that sees the pavement as well. There is an old adage that “real rigs are built, not bought,” but if you want to hit the trails tomorrow and can save money over buying parts new, it is hard to argue against buying a built rig. While his friends are in the garage throwing wrenches, Zach is out enjoying his “bought” Bronco.
At A Glance
Vehicle: 1971 Ford Bronco
Owner: Zach Oberlander
Stomping grounds: Northern California
Build time: Four years
Engine: 347ci Ford V-8
Transmission: NP435 four-speed manual
Transfer case(s): NP203/Dana 20 doubler
Low range ratio(s): 1.96:1; 2:46:1: 4.82:1
Crawl ratio(s): 59.7:1; 74.9:1; 146.9:1
Front axle/differential: High-pinion Dana 44 with Jantz Dana 50 4.56 gears, ARB Air Locker, RCV axleshafts, and Warn Premium hubs
Rear axle/differential: Ford 9-inch with 4.56 gears, Detroit Locker, 35-spline Moser chromoly axleshafts
Front: Extended radius arms with Wild Horses progressive-rate coils and Fox 2.0 shocks
Rear: Triangulated four-link with Wild Horses progressive-rate coils and Fox 2.0 shocks
Steering: PSC steering box, pump, reservoir, and hydraulic-assist ram, SFS steering links with rod ends
Tires: 38x14.5R17 Goodyear Wrangler MT/R
Wheels: 17x9.5 Raceline Monster beadlock
Cool stuff: Smittybilt XRC10 winch with wireless remote, custom tubular bumpers front and rear, Wild Horses rock skis, CRAB ‘cage, Auto Meter gauges, MasterCraft Safety suspension seats, half-door inserts, hydroboost brakes, satellite radio, ARB dual air compressor, dual Optima RedTop batteries, Truck-Lite LED headlights, Tuffy console