Have you ever sold a vehicle and then instantly realized you made a big mistake? Chris Russell did, so he eventually tracked “his” rig down and bought it back. But there’s a lot more to the story.
Chris says, “Minty was purchased for $2,700 in May 2009. It was 100 percent bone-stock, with 120,000 miles, from its second owner. At the time, it was purchased as a daily driver, which would double as a work truck, being that I spend a lot of time working at tower sites on many Southern California mountaintops. The night we brought her home, we took the mother-in-law out to dinner. The moment she saw the truck, she blurted out, “Look! It’s minty fresh!” due to the Broncos mint green color. The name has stuck ever since.”
Right from the get-go, Chris had his own ideas about what the truck would be. “The first step was a set of extended 4x4 beams. I bought a set of Camburg cut-and-turned Dana 44 beams, which my brother and I extended 3 inches per side and then plated and trussed ourselves. We then took the stock axles, cut them in half, machined out a piece of solid stock chromoly for each side and burned them back together. The beams were mated up with a set of Camburg radius arms and a pair of Sway-A-Way coilovers and I was on the road. At the same time, I also installed the first set of Camburg extended shackles and Deaver leaf springs F53 pack, which are made for the F-150 but also compatible with the Bronco.
“The stock 3.55s weren’t enough, so my father and I purchased 4.56 gears for the differentials. With his help, I set up and installed them myself. These helped a ton with the 35-inch tires that I installed shortly after purchasing the truck. Once all of this was finished, I drove Minty for almost a year, logging about 25,000 miles.
“In March 2010, shortly after our son was born, I received an offer from someone who wanted to trade his Ford F-250 diesel truck for my Bronco. At the time, this seemed like the practical choice, as it had four doors and would likely be more fuel efficient, so I went ahead with the trade. He was from Arizona, so we met in Barstow, California, and I watched her drive away. I regretted letting her go from day one. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t think of my Bronco.
“About a year and half passed by (August 2011), and we found ourselves in a more stable financial position. I had already purchased a new ‘fixer upper’ Bronco, but I was missing my Bronco more than ever, so I set off to hunt her down. Facebook was my main tool for this. As it turned out, the individual who I traded the Bronco to had sold it nearly a year prior. A few more days of searching and I found her. She was owned by a guy in Lake Havasu, Arizona. I sent him a private message on Facebook, asking if he would be interested in selling the Bronco, and I explained that I was the original builder of the truck. After some negotiations and haggling, we agreed that I would come to Havasu with $5,000 cash and hopefully be bringing her home with me.
“From August 2011 to August 2012, the Bronco was barely driven due to everything being done. I ’caged the truck front to back (this was my Number One priority for the safety of my family). With the help of my good friend Mikey, we cut out the stock rear outer and inner fenders and ‘tubbed’ the truck. Mikey made custom plating on each side as the new wheelwells. The shocks are now in their own enclosure, right next to the rear passengers on either side. This allows for a 16-inch bypass shock and lots more wheel travel. I also upgraded to Deaver Spring Q80 leaf packs, which are specifically designed for Broncos. Fiberwerx fiberglass hooked me up with all of the fiberglass body panels (front and rear panels as well as hood). Twisted Stitch helped me out with a good deal on a set of custom matching seats, including a matching baby bucket to fit on the rear bench for our son,” Chris says.
More changes came along the way, and since then, the truck has logged over 10,000 miles, all of which have been “off-roading adventures.” Chris notes that the Bronco is driven to and from most every trip, and it’s not a trailer queen.
“Minty has been a reliable truck that has brought us to many beautiful and remote locations. The memories that she has given us are worth every penny of what has been spent. She now has 165,000 miles on the odometer and still kicking! These projects are never truly finished, but I feel like my original vision back in 2009 has definitely been met, and I’m proud to say that most of it has been by my own hands. It’s 100 percent garage-built with the help of a few friends,” Chris says.
We had a chance to see Minty in action, and it’s clear the Bronco is a well-designed, functional rig. The suspension is incredible and it worked very well, not only on the trail, but also during the numerous jumps it was subjected to.
At A Glance
Vehicle: 1996 Ford Bronco
Owner: Chris Russell
Stomping grounds: Dana Point, California
Build time: 2009-current
Engine: Ford 351ci Windsor V-8, Motorcraft oil
Transfer case(s): BorgWarner 1356 two-spd
Low range ratio(s): 2.69:1
Crawl ratio(s): 33.2:1
Front axle/differential: Dana 44/Yukon 4.56 gears, Detroit Truetrac
Rear axle/differential: Currie F9, disc brakes/Yukon 4.56 gears, Yukon spool
Front: TTB, Camburg cut-and-turned beams (extended 3 inches per side by the owner); Camburg Heim-jointed radius arms and mounts; Sway-A-Way 2.5-in-diameter 14-in-travel remote-reservoir coilovers; Sway-A-Way 2-in-diameter, 2-in-travel bumpstops
Rear: Deaver leaf springs; Camburg shackles; Sway-A-Way 2.5-in-diameter three-tube bypass shocks; Sway-A-Way 2-in-diameter, 2-in-travel bumpstops
Steering: Stock except for Borgeson steering shaft
Tires: 35x12.50R15LT Falken Rocky Mountain ATS
Wheels: 15x7 Method Standard
Lighting: 42-inch dual-row LED lightbar
Armor: Jubera Fab rear bumper
Cool stuff: UMP air filter, MSD ignition, Optima YellowTop battery, interior rollcage, Fiberwerx fenders and hood, secure cargo storage