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1970 Ford Bronco - Built to Rock

Posted in Features on January 30, 2016
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Mud, rock or sand, Jim Shrum isn’t the least bit concerned that his fabrication skills and off-road driving experience will let him down when he’s behind the wheel of his beloved Bronco. He loves the challenge of tackling whatever Mother Nature throws in the path of the purpose-built blue-and-black vintage bobtail.

Shrum, who hails from Roseburg, Oregon, and works as a plant maintenance manager for Umpqua Dairy, bought his vintage ride back in 1987 and used it as an everyday driver for a decade. Then he started tinkering with it to make it better suited for his first love: rock crawlin’.

“It’s gone through many changes and modifications over the years,’ says Shrum. “Now it’s mainly a purpose-built trail rig that shares the stable with several other early Broncos in the family shop.”

This Bronco aficionado relishes doing hands-on custom mods, and his rig shows it off well. The list of off-road “kills” on the inside of the ’70 softtop’s doors is proof of that; there’re 20 of Moab’s toughest trails on the inner passenger door, and on the driver’s side the Rubicon, Brown’s Camp, Quack Attack and other infamous West Coast trail names are noted.

The suspension and drivetrain reflect Shrum’s mechanical prowess, sporting a custom 4-link rear setup fabricated using Ruff Stuff hardware incorporating 3.5-inch Bronco front coils and single Rancho 9000s to control it all. Up front, Shrum setup 5.5-inch BC Bronco coils with his own design of extended radius arms mated to dual Rancho 9000s on each corner handling the massive travel.

The Ford 9-inch in the rear has been rotated and the bottom of the housing shaved 1.5-inches, then plated-and-trussed to take the stresses rock crawling and dune jumping puts on it. The front axles out of the ARB-locked, 4.56-ratio Dana 44 are chrome molly with Yukon Super Joints while the rears are 31-spline Dutchman’s through a Detroit Locker.

The former brake technician favors 37-inch BFG Krawler KXs on bead-locked 17x9 Trail Ready wheels, so for stopping power he chose a ’69 Lincoln Continental master cylinder to deliver fluid to ½-ton Ford pickup discs front and rear.

To maximize ground clearance, Shrum modified a 23-gallon fuel tank from Tom’s Bronco Parts then raised it so it now sits halfway through the cargo area floor so the bottom of the tank now sits flush with the frame. But that was just the start.

But Shrum went easy on the engine side, relying on dependability instead of brute force by going with a basically stock 5.0L out of a ’96 Explorer. His only real mods: ’93 HO Mustang ECU, SEFI intake/manifold and a 4G alternator. It breathes out ceramic-coated long-tube headers sourced from Tom’s Bronco Parts and a Shrum-built three-inch exhaust with a MagnaFlow muffler.

He likes the combination of an Atlas II 3.8:1 transfer case mated with a C4 tricked out with a reverse-pattern manual valve body controlled via a Winters Brothers’ desert-race-truck-style shifter. Of course, he utilized Drive Line Services in Klamath Falls (OR) to build a bulletproof driveshaft.

Very little of the original steel Bronco body remains, as only the tub and windhshield are original. Other pieces have been replaced with a lot of fiberglass and customizing. Shrum built the tube-style half-doors, used an early Bronco (’66-’68) grille, shaved the bottom of the grille, rockers and rear corners, filled in the side marker and trim holes, and relocated the fuel filler, and added his own rock “skis.”

Wild Horses flares keep the mud and sand off the majority of friend Mike Crider’s ’70 Ford Acapulco Blue urethane paint job, while Shrum’s custom roll cage is topped by a custom safari top worked up by Diamond Auto Upholstery in his hometown.

“I ditched the carpet and used spray-in Speedliner,” Shrum notes of the interior. Then I put in a pair of the Swag Offroad Baja boxes to keep our food and gear locked in place. The dash, well, it’s functional. After all, this is a trail rig, not a show piece.

“But I did splurge on the [Beard Enduro] seats and a nice steering wheel from TBPS,” Shrum adds, patting the top of the driver’s-side highback. “I like being comfortable on the trail. So does my wife.”

No doubt this is one trail-ready bobtail Ford Bronco that’s just as comfortable rolling along over sandstone, sand or mud no matter where its nose is pointed.

Jim Shrum has owned this Bronco for 18 years and he has spent the last eight of those making a lot changes and modifications to where it’s at today. It’s now purpose-built for rock crawling, although he takes it to Oregon’s dune complexes once a year just for fun.

A ’96 Explorer gave up its engine to sit in the bay of Shrum’s ’70 bobtail. Must EFI intake, distributor and long-tube headers give it better performance on steep inclines.

A lot of thought and fabrication work went into Shrum’s design of the suspension and steering used with the Dana 44 front axle housing. Axle is set up with 4.56 gearing and an ARB Air Locker.

The Ford 9-inch rear axle has had 1.5-inches shaved off the bottom and heavily trussed. A Detroit locker handles the power delivery to the Dutchman axle shafts. Shrum fabricated the 4-link suspension, as well.

Pro Flow fiberglass hood from Wild Horses helps keep the EFI 5.0L H.O. Mustang engine under it cool.

A short wheelbase and good power makes this Bronco a blast to drive in the dunes.

Shrum fabricated his own front bumper hoop out of .125 steel tube to keep the winch cable end and shackles handy when rock crawling.

Shrum modified the 23-gallon fuel tank (from Tom’s Bronco parts) so the bottom was level with the frame rails, protecting it from rock damage. He then mounted Swag Offroad’s Baja Boxes on top to keep food and gear rock steady. The blue paint against the near white of the sand makes this Bronco appear almost 3D in this picture.

Although the rear quarter panels and panel guards are from PNW Broncos, Shrum built his own bumpers and swing-down tire carrier to keep make heavy spare tire (and Hi-Lift jack) easy to access.

Dash is stock sans the Summit gauges and custom steering wheel. Power steering box is out of a Lincoln Continental.

Four-point harnesses and Beard Enduro seats, upholstered in blue/black tween and black vinyl, keep the occupants secure. Shrum’s hand-built roll cage is added insurance should things go sideways.

Trail “kills” are proudly displayed on inside of the steel half-doors Shrum built. He’s adding to the lists every year.

The Kicking Bronco emblem is as iconic as any European sportscar’s logo.

An ARB Air Locker in the front axle and a Detroit Locker in the rear are handy when the owner hits the Oregon Dunes once a year for a week of dune running. The 12.50x37x17 BFG Krawler KXs, aired down to 15psi, also help.

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